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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 16, 2009
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Poland 2030
September 16, 2009   
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A government think tank has compiled a report to initiate public debate on what needs to be done to improve the quality of life in Poland in the next 20 years.

According the report, entitled Poland 2030: Development Challenges, the country's gross domestic product should grow at an annual rate of 5 percent and investment is expected to grow by 25 percent each year. Hi-tech products are expected to account for 40 percent of the country's exports, and 75 percent of the population, including 35 percent of the disabled, should have jobs.

The report was written by Prime Minister Donald Tusk's team of strategic advisers headed by Michał Boni. It aims to "provide food for thought and inspire debate on how to improve the quality of people's life, irrespective of how old they are, where they have been born, and where they live," said Tusk at the report's launch at the Warsaw University Library in June.

Measures needed to improve the quality of life in Poland must be taken despite the fact that the country is dealing with the effects of the international economic crisis, Tusk said.

In the report, the prime minister's advisers identified the 10 greatest challenges Poland is expected to face in the next two decades. These challenges are associated with issues such as competitiveness, demographic developments, economic activity rates, infrastructure, energy and climate security, the development of a knowledge-based economy, development of intellectual capital, solidarity and regional cohesion, and public administration.

A new lodestar
According to government experts, the report is a new lodestar for the country. "We need it because the two periods of development which have driven the country so far-the transition after 1989 and entry to the European Union in 2004-will no longer be sufficient for Poland to be able to compete successfully with other countries in the global marketplace," said Boni. If Poland is to avoid what the experts call "developmental drift" it should identify its weaknesses, goals and ways of achieving them, Boni said. "This should be done now because the future starts today," he added.

According to Boni, Poland also needs a long-term strategy because the crisis may offer an opportunity to modernize the country. Poles only need to muster the courage to carry out reforms, Boni said.

The report proposes a model of development based on "polarization and diffusion." This means supporting the key "poles of growth" whereby large Polish cities would be able to compete successfully with other cities in Europe, and decision makers would strive to remove obstacles to the development of other areas. This "diffusion" is supposed to help equalize educational opportunities, build inter-generational solidarity, and give people a feeling that they can fulfill their aspirations, according to the government.

The authors of the report believe that, in order to ensure stable economic growth, Poland should shift tax burdens from direct to indirect taxes, manage public finances through "task-based" budgets, enter the euro zone, and offer preferential tax treatment to investing companies. Thanks to these measures, the country's long-term economic growth in 2009-2030 is expected to accelerate to at least 5 percent per annum, with annual inflation remaining within the 1-3 percent band. The proportion of exports based on modern technology is expected to increase to 40 percent from 3.1 percent today; the contribution of high-tech sectors to GDP generation would rise to 25 percent, and the long-term investment rate would go up from 18 to 25 percent.

The report assumes that there will be a rise in employment and fertility rates so that the ratio of the economically inactive to economically active population is reduced to 1.1-1.2 by 2030, from 1.7 at present. By 2030, the retirement age of men and women would be equalized and extended to at least 67 years.

Efficient public administration is an important part of the strategy, Boni said. Apart from reorganizing and modernizing public administration, the court system and the law-making process, the project involves the development of e-government. The report calls for the development of flexible forms of employment, which will make it possible to combine work with education and family life. Modern forms of assistance would be offered to the unemployed. As a result, the average unemployment rate would stay below 5 percent.

The report calls for developing transport infrastructure, with an increase in the average speed of trains and the density of freeways and expressways. Much hope is being pinned on computerization. In 20 years, 75 percent of Poland's households are expected to have high-speed internet access. At present, 48 percent of households have internet access and 38 percent have broadband access.

Under the strategy, spending on research and development would rise to 4 percent of GDP annually, with at least 2 percent coming from private sources. The proportion of scientists working in the private sector would increase from 8 to 40 percent, and the proportion of students in engineering, technical, mathematics and computing faculties would rise to 20-25 percent.

The report does not propose any specific measures to be taken. Its main aim is to initiate public debate, officials say. The government wants to prepare a package of detailed proposals by the end of next year.

Intellectual capital
"An increase in spending on education and science to 4 percent of the GDP might sound like utopia today, but I fear that by 2030 even that level may be insufficient for Poland to be in the lead internationally," said Boni.

According to Boni, Poland needs a system of education that could provide everyone with equal access to knowledge and at the same time make sure that "talented individuals can be spotted and get their chance." An education boom alone cannot radically improve the quality of human resources, Boni says. In 20 years, a university education will be hardly a pass to a career and graduates will have to constantly broaden their knowledge; creativity and new ideas will be essential, Boni says.

Without structural changes in the system of innovation and education, Poland's intellectual capital will fail to develop fast enough to meet the needs of the economy, Boni says.

Under the strategy, the number of scientists working in the private sector should rise from 8 to 40 percent, while the number of students majoring in engineering, technology, mathematics and computer science is expected to rise to 25 percent.

Making dreams come true
"Making forecasts for the next 20 years is of key importance to the country's development," says Prof. Jerzy Buzek, an ex-prime minister of Poland who was recently elected president of the European Parliament. "In this way we know what kind of strategy we want to pursue, what goals we want to achieve and what dreams need to be fulfilled. In the 1970s, we dreamed of a free Poland, but we never thought it would happen in less than 20 years. It did. Today, our dream is for the forecasts and predictions contained in the report to materialize-at least in part."

As far as the state of the economy is concerned, experts say Poland is doing the best of all EU member states. Still, the country lags behind most other EU members in innovation. Spending funds on research and new technology is a priority these days, Buzek says.

According to Prof. Ryszard Pregiel, an expert with the Polish Chamber of Commerce for High Technology, stronger bonds between business and science are of fundamental importance in Poland. It is vital to upgrade the system under which science is managed and financed in this country, Pregiel said. He called for a thorough reform of Poland's science sector, which needs to be financed by the private sector, he said.

Poland's exports are expected to be 40 percent made up of modern products and services 20 years from now, up from 3.11 percent today. According to Pregiel, this is a bold target because "the world does not stand still." He called this challenge "a new patriotic goal," adding that the report emphasizes the need to build a knowledge-based economy in Poland.

One of the top priorities defined in the report is to increase spending on research and development and encourage the private sector to finance science in the same way as this is done in developed economies. According to the report, the private sector can become involved in funding innovation if the science sector embarks on applied research and development projects, which should account for 75 percent of all funds spent on research. "Institutions of higher education account for a lion's share of researchers and unless they make the effort to reform their policies and learn to sell the findings of their research, the private sector's involvement in research and development will remain low," the report says. "Injecting even more state funds into an anachronistic, uncompetitive and inefficient science and research system could only cause more problems. It would definitely fail to produce breakthrough discoveries in science and increased commercial application of inventions."

Technology loans
Technology loans are a new form of supporting business projects. A total of 400 million euros worth of technology loans are available by 2015. A single applicant will be able to obtain up to 4 million euros to buy or develop a new technology, introduce it and launch production of new or improved goods and services. The money will be made available to micro-companies and small and medium-sized enterprises with innovative ideas confirmed by a research center or a science and technology association.

The loans are intended for investment in technology. Under the law, such investments include the purchase and launch of a new technology to produce new and upgraded goods and services.

The loans are available as part of structural funds under Operation 4.3 of the Innovative Economy Operational Program. A total of zl.200 million is available for this purpose in the second half of 2009.

According to Prof. Leszek Rafalski, chairman of the Main Council of Research and Development Centers, innovative enterprises should be eligible for tax breaks in Poland.

EU funds
Bożena Lubińska-Kasprzak, chairwoman of the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP), says Poland is doing a good job absorbing EU funds for investment in innovation and the development of new technology and innovative projects. The Polish Agency for Enterprise Development distributes these funds among businesses, research and development centers, business-related institutions and universities. The agency has disbursed around zl.4.5 billion under almost 1,000 contracts for 2007-2013.

According to Alicja Adamczak, head of the Polish Patent Office, the number of patent applications is growing every year. The waiting time for a patent in Poland is now half the time needed for a similar procedure before the European Patent Office, Adamczak said. The maximum waiting time is four to five years, while fast-track proceedings take no longer than two years, she said.

Andrzej Smirnow, chairman of the parliamentary committee on science, says decision makers should make it easier for young people to build careers in science. The point is to encourage young people to become scientists, especially as 44 percent of the country's scientists with professorial titles are aged over 70, Smirnow says.
Piotr Bartosz

Report Highlights

Key targets for Poland by 2030:

• average annual growth of 5 percent in 2009-2030
• 40 percent proportion of hi-tech products in exports
• equal retirement age for men and women
• unemployment below 5 percent
• 20 percent of the population in lifelong education
• 25 percent of students in engineering and technical faculties
• 4 percent of GDP for research and development
• 40 percent of scientists in the private sector
• 75 percent of the population in cities
• GDP in the poorest regions accounting for 60 percent of the EU average
• 100 percent of children in rural areas in kindergartens
• 20 percent increase in the employment of disabled people
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