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The Warsaw Voice » Business » October 1, 2010
From Business Editor
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Improving Amid Crisis
October 1, 2010   
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Mid-September marked two years since the Lehman Brothers bank filed for bankruptcy, an event that had triggered the worst financial crisis around the world since the Great Depression. The turbulence on global financial markets led to the spectacular collapse of a string of high-profile financial institutions and large companies. Some countries found themselves in serious trouble. Greece even faced a threat of bankruptcy.

Poland, meanwhile, avoided most of these problems and was one of the few developed countries that did not plunge into recession. Paradoxically, Poland’s international profile improved thanks to the crisis. Financial markets started to perceive Poland as a large and growing European economy rather than merely a part of Central and Eastern Europe.

The improvement in Poland’s ratings abroad is coupled with an increased interest in the country among investors. According to the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ), in the first half of this year, foreign direct investment in the country was more than 80 percent higher than in the same period of 2009, even though 2009 was quite a good year in terms of FDI.

What attracts investors to Poland is that its economy is growing despite the global crisis. But the fact that the Polish economy is increasingly open and competitive is also an important factor. In a league table compiled by the World Economic Forum, Poland is ranked 39th among 139 economies in terms of competitiveness, ahead of Italy, Spain and Portugal, but behind the Czech Republic and Estonia. Although this 39th place does not seem to measure up to Poland’s potential and aspirations, the country has made significant progress compared with the previous league table in which it ranked 46th.

In producing its tables, the World Economic Forum takes into account economic statistics and views expressed by business executives. It uses criteria such as the quality of the institutional environment, the legal and administrative framework in which businesses operate, the quality of infrastructure, education and the health service, technology and innovation. Poland traditionally receives poor marks for the state of its infrastructure. Innovation is not a strong point of the Polish economy, either. In this year’s league table, Poland ranks 53rd in terms of innovation. The reason is that there is no tradition of collaboration between business and science in Poland. In developed economies, a third of the money spent on innovation comes from the state budget and two-thirds from private companies. The size of spending on innovation is another important factor. In Poland, this spending accounts for 0.6 percent of GDP, compared with around 3 percent of GDP in Switzerland and Japan. This shows that Poland still has a long way to go to become an innovative country.
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