Poland Escapes Recession By Public InvestmentBy Gavin Rae
Prior to being elected Poland’s Prime Minister in 2007, Donald Tusk declared that he wanted to repeat the ‘Irish economic miracle’ in Poland. As Tusk comes to the end of his first term in office, he can claim that an ‘economic miracle’ of sorts has actually occurred. Poland has been the only EU country to have avoided an economic recession since the outbreak of the global financial crisis. However, this relative economic success has been made possible by carrying through policies that are diametrically opposed to those being implemented in Ireland. Furthermore this is now being threatened by attempts to carry through austerity policies similar to those currently being introduced by the Irish government.
It is not the case that Poland has not suffered an economic downturn during the international financial crisis. GDP growth slowed from 6.8% in 2007 to 1.2% in 2009, before growing by more than 4% in 2010. Unemployment has risen again above 13%, with around 25% of young people now jobless. The budget deficit has risen to nearly 8% of GDP and public debt is edging towards 55% of GDP. With social inequalities widening, inflation rising faster than wage growth and public services deteriorating, Poland is far from meeting the ideas of an island of economic stability propagated by Tusk and his Citizens’ Platform (PO) government.
Yet the fact that the Polish economy has continued to expand has lessened the negative effects of the economic crisis. Why has the Polish economy continued to grow? Poland was fortunate not to have experienced a banking crisis similar to that in many other countries and entered the crisis with a relatively low level of private debt. However, the major reason for Poland avoiding negative growth has been that it has managed to increase public investment at a time when private investment has slumped.