Poland: A success story?

The story of Poland in the last years, despite the economic (and in many EU countries also political) crisis in the EU, is widely perceived as a success story. How much do you agree, what is this success based on?  Do you see also some weak spots and future challenges? Read few comments.

Tomasz Zarycki, Associate Professor and Director of Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw

If one is looking for weak spots of the last years it’s easy to find many of them, from social inequality to considerable economic dependence on the Western core. One can also argue that Polish successes are highly contextual, based on comparative advantage of low labor costs, in particular in relation to southern European periphery of the EU and these advantages can easily disappear once some other areas offering even cheaper labor force are included into EU (e.g. Ukraine). But what is crucial for me is that there is no objective way of balancing the positives and the negatives. Therefore, as I would argue, the overall assessment of the last period is strongly based on your political position. The more pro-European and liberal you are, the more you will tend to see only successes and dismissed “costs” and failures, or at least you will present them as unavoidable. The more conservative and Euro-skeptical you are, the more likely you will focus of weak spots and dismiss the successes as “liberal propaganda” or see them as transitory effects.

John Micgiel, Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

The Polish press provides ample reason to appreciate Poland’s economic performance over the seven years of Donald Tusk’s government.  Polish Gross Domestic Product grew in real terms by 36% to 22,200 USD according to Purchase Power Parity.   The Polish economy grew by an average of just over 3.3 percent, and Poland avoided the global recession of 2008.

But Mr. Tusk failed to make good on his electoral promises in 2005 and 2007 to undertake a reform of public finances, and has been criticized by many former supporters such as Leszek Balcerowicz.  Moreover Poland’s Central Statistics Office estimates that there are still 2.1 million Polish citizens living abroad, and the number of emigrants is rising again.

Poland’s next prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, will face these and other economic and political issues in the run-up to general elections next year.  And what happens in Ukraine may add to those challenges.

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