Poland’s bright economic past and future

Curious and always eager to learn more about the economic standing of my home country, it was with intrigue and a positive attitude that I attended a breakfast presentation this past Friday, put on by the Calgary Economic Development and entitled “Poland – the Economic Miracle”.  The speaker, a Mr. Marcin Piatkowski, senior economist at the World Bank and based out of the WB’s office in Warsaw (incidentally, as an organization working to reduce poverty, Warsaw is WB’s highest-income country base).  He’s a friendly, relaxed guy and excited to share with us, a group of about 30 people – a mix of Polish-Calgarians and foreign investment opportunists – and we tuck into our scones and coffee and perk up our ears for the presentation a little after 8:00am.

There’s not much preamble before I learn that Poland has been Europe’s most successful economy in the last 25 years. Bam, there you have the fact. Statistics and historical data follow, showing Poland’s progression from our last Golden Age in the 1500s until today, the New Golden Age.  And it gets better – we’re set up to be one of the world’s top 20 economies by 2030, and according to the IMF we will be growing at double the rate of the EU’s star player, Germany, in the following decades.  Nice!

More graphs and facts helped to illustrate the following :

  • despite many recessions and the global crisis starting in 2008, over the last 25 years Poland’s economy has continued to grow
  • Poland is growing faster than many of Asia’s so-called ‘tiger’ economies such as Taiwan and South Korea
  • Poland’s success can be attributed to Poles’ knowing what they want – to be part of the West, to join the EU, to be more European
  • the list of current Polish billionaires is full of the self-made rich – proving that Poland provides equal educational and work opportunities for all Poles regardless of their social and economic background
  • the country has based their economic success on the Japanese model of ‘brain and muscles’ as opposed to exporting natural resources (of which Poland has relatively few); today one of the largest industries continues to be manufacturing (about 20% of GDP); mostly in home appliances. Poland has not de-industrialised like it’s Western neighbours.
  • Poland’s annual GDP is around the 500 billion mark – forecasted to break the 1 trillion mark by 2030
  • new infrastructure in the country (road, rail etc.) is facilitating business like never before

Mr. Piatkowski knows how to hit a chord… by poking light fun at his Canadian crowd’s flight and cellphone bills (ouch!).  He reminds us that the European Commission watches for monopolies in these and other industries and works to make sure free markets will continue providing Europeans with cheap flights, phones and WiFi.

Other fun facts ?

  • Poland’s economic and social successes are being synthesized into readable and book format – to what end? Perhaps other developing nations can learn from the Polish success and adapt Polish strategies in the south.
  • the country is working to decrease its reliance on non-renewable energy sources; sitting at 7% total national consumption coming from renewables with the aim being to go up to 15% by 2020
  • Poland is quite happy partaking in the economic freedoms that come with EU membership but is not keen to give up the Polish currency, the Zloty, for the Euro for at least another 5-6 years

My thoughts? I’m excited to get back to Poland in a week’s time ! If Poland’s Golden Age is now, then I want to be part of it.

(Feature image: Warsaw skyline at night)

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