Poland has been forced to endure more than most other countries in its time. Its large land mass separating the East and West, has forced it to experience invasion, occupation and partition for centuries, particularly by 3 empires – the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian. However, having been destroyed and rebuilt so many times has left it a strong and resilient nation with a spirit for freedom and national pride. The essence of this spirit and experience, is described in its national anthem, “Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live. What the foreign force has taken from us, we shall retrieve with a sword.” The country officially overthrew communist occupation in 1989 through the Solidarity movement and has navigated their transition towards capitalism and democracy better than any other post-Soviet nation. It became a member of the European Union in 2004, as its most populous post-communist member, and has since pursued policies to increase its role in European and global affairs. Despite all the country has experienced in its past, Poles remain very warm and generous people. As quoted in the Lonely Plant, “even if you protest profusely, you will be forced to polish off a bottle of vodka or two, eat plate after plate of bigos (cabbage and meat stew), and join intense discussions on philosophy and politics, but it’s comforting to know that it’s all done with a love of life and an appreciation for the present, because no-one can be sure what tomorrow will bring.”
Poland has very strong and growing economy with a lot of future potential. It has developed a thriving export sector with its relatively high-skilled, low-wage workforce. I heard countless stories about companies that were relocating their manufacturing from countries like China to Poland because it was cheaper after you factored in China’s wage increases and Poland’s productivity. While Poland has been impacted by the Eurozone crisis, its growing economy, low private debt levels, flexible currency and strong domestic market left it less impacted than other countries. Poland was the only country in Europe to avoid a recession during the global financial crisis and continues to be one of the most successful post-Communist countries.
While it is performing relatively well and has significant potential, Poland’s needs to addresses some of the remaining deficiencies in its transportation infrastructure and business environment in order to achieve greater economic performance. While the business environment is significantly better than most other former Soviet nations, a still inefficient commercial court system, a rigid labor code, bureaucratic red tape, burdensome tax system and persistent low-level corruption keep the private sector from performing up to its full potential. Despite these setbacks, Poland is well positioned to be one of the few developing countries in the world that has successfully emerged from poverty and through the middle-income ranks to join the list of rich nations.