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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 11, 2008
Warsaw - CEE Financial Hub Conference
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Boosting Warsaw's Investment Appeal
June 11, 2008   
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Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, who formerly headed Poland's central bank and was vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk.

Warsaw is Poland's largest business center. One in five companies operating in this country has its headquarters here, along with banks and other important financial institutions. How attractive is Warsaw compared with other European cities?
In recent years Warsaw has advanced to the top 20 business locations in Europe. In terms of investment appeal, for example with regard to the quality of human resources and the availability of office space, Warsaw is on a par with, or even surpasses, cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Dublin. So it is not surprising that international investors are enormously interested in the city.

What are Warsaw's main strengths?
Warsaw's appeal results from a number of factors. One of them is its geographic and geopolitical location. You can reach Warsaw by air from Europe's largest cities in an average of 2.5 hours. It is the biggest city among the capitals of the "new" European Union member states, with a population of 1.7 million. Most of the residents are young and well educated. They speak foreign languages and are familiar with the EU work ethic. One of the city's greatest assets are its 300,000 students. The city is also a big market offering relatively low labor costs and a growing amount of office space.

Public safety is another important factor for both residents and investors. Warsaw is among the safest cities in Poland. It also offers numerous tourist and cultural attractions.

Don't you think that the city may find it difficult to attract new investors in the future unless it improves its infrastructure, particularly the transport system?
That is true. Warsaw needs to urgently fix some of its shortcomings when it comes to infrastructure. That is why we plan to spend more than zl.15 billion on investment projects by 2012, including zl.2.7 billion this year. We mainly plan infrastructure projects that will make Warsaw more attractive to people who want to work and invest here.

An investment upturn in the construction sector is already visible. Last year we issued 60 percent more construction permits than in 2006. An increasing number of apartments and office buildings are being constructed. The city will also spend huge funds on improving its road network. Of the total pool of zl.15 billion, it will spend zl.10 billion on roads and public transportation.

What are the most important infrastructure projects that will improve the quality of life for both residents and investors?
These certainly include the subway system, with the completion of the first metro line scheduled for the third quarter of this year. The central stretch of the second line will be ready before the Euro 2012 European soccer championships. Another important project, the Północny Bridge, is expected to be ready by the end of 2010, with construction slated to start late this fall.

Warsaw's development strategy by 2020 calls for strengthening the city's role as an important financial and business center in Central and Eastern Europe. Does warsaw stand a chance of becoming the region's financial hub in the near future? How does the city intend to pursue this goal?
Warsaw as a regional financial hub is not just a vision as far as the city's development is concerned. It is reality. This is already happening. We are striving to create a new image of Warsaw as an investment and business center. We are developing Warsaw as a brand that will be recognized internationally. We would like Warsaw to be not only a tourist destination, but also an attractive site for capital investment. In order to create such a center, the city is investing in roads and urban transport, streamlining construction procedures, promoting itself in Poland and abroad, organizing sports and cultural events, and working with the Warsaw Stock Exchange. We are also working to encourage Polish and foreign students to study in Warsaw.

That is important because capital market institutions, consulting firms, market analysts and law firms need knowledge and people. The development of these businesses and the fact that they attract the best Polish and foreign experts will support the development of other sectors such as real estate, new technology and services.

Of course, building a financial hub means much more than just creating good and well-paid jobs. Bringing together related high-value-added services in one place will create a synergy effect. The city will begin to play in a higher league, so to say-not only as an outsourcing and logistics center, but also as a center of knowledge and financial services.

Is the experience you gained as the governor of the National Bank of Poland and vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development useful in your job as Warsaw mayor? Is it easier to govern a city or a bank?
It is much easier to head a bank as you deal with a uniform field then, while in municipal management we deal with a wide range of issues such as social welfare, healthcare and investment. But my bank experience has helped me a lot, for example, in getting a higher credit rating for Warsaw and clearing up the city's financial situation.
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