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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » March 5, 2008
The Real Estate Voice
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Removing Barriers to Investment
March 5, 2008   
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Tomasz Tatomir, legal adviser and director of the Wrocław branch of the Chałas & Partners Law Firm, talks to Beata Gołębiewska.

How important is investment in construction to the Polish economy?
Nobody should ever question the economic and public benefits of such projects. Domestic and foreign investment boosts Poland's production capacity, creates new jobs and causes an influx of new technologies. Investment that is carried out efficiently and swiftly can mobilize entire regions and frequently protects them from collapse.

It is important that state policies facilitate the investment process as much as possible, without discriminating against anybody. Officials must not delay when they make decisions in the investment process. Such decisions have to be comprehensible and predictable, to eradicate free interpretation of the regulations. When policies create favorable conditions and promote investment-friendly attitudes, new investment is very likely to start flowing.

What is the present situation for businesses that want to invest in construction projects?
To many foreign and Polish investors, Polish law seems unclear, incoherent and full of interpretation gaps. On many occasions, the absence of detailed norms becomes a considerable obstacle and the law allows for a lot of freedom in the interpretation of various regulations. Strangely, investors are often led to believe that the official they are dealing with is the most powerful party in the investment process - the person whose say determines an awful lot. What is more, the very same official could not care less about the fundamental rule in administrative law under which all proceedings should be swift and employ the simplest possible means to decide a given case. Such situations occur predominantly when building permits are issued, but thankfully, the permits will soon cease to exist.

What do you consider to be the main obstacles in the investment process?
There are obstacles at every stage of the process, from the choice of land for a project, to the documentation required in preparing the investment, to the construction and acceptance of the building. The most important obstacles result from unclear and often contradictory regulations contained in construction law, environmental law and the law on land planning and development. I also believe the requirement to obtain a building permit is completely unnecessary. Communities in Poland lack local land development plans and, to make matters worse, a lot of areas have not even done studies of conditions and directions for land development.

What should the legislators do? What steps should be taken?
The application and enforcement of regulations, as well as the regulations themselves, should be clear, transparent and accessible as far as investors are concerned. Formalities should never become an unnecessary burden for investors. By laying the foundations for an investment-friendly policy, the state has to take into consideration the fact that foreign investors have so far operated in a totally different legal environment and, consequently, their experience of dealing with local administrators is completely different.

At the moment, as soon as they enter Poland, investors get ideas about all the potential hindrances. What the authorities have to do is make the notion of insurmountable barriers disappear for good. All necessary administrative procedures in the investment process should be made clear, fast and inexpensive. It is vital to provide comprehensible information on how changes are made in legal regulations concerning investment.

How do you think the abolition of mandatory building permits will influence investment in Poland?
The draft amendment to construction laws gives up on building permits to a large extent and this is the first step in the right direction. It will simplify administrative proceedings in the investment process and as a consequence, projects will take less time to complete. The country will then gain a higher number of Polish and foreign construction projects, which, in turn, will benefit the economy and the personal finances of Polish citizens.

I would like to add that lawyers from our firm, who are expert advisers for the Business Centre Club, have presented a set of necessary changes in the current construction laws to Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak and the "Friendly State" Sejm commission chaired by Janusz Palikot.

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