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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 27, 2013
Business & Economy
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20th Economic Forum in Toruń
March 27, 2013   
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Almost 2,000 politicians, businessmen, scientists and media professionals took part in the 20th Economic Forum held at the beginning of March in Toruń.

Organized by the Integration and Cooperation Foundation, the two-day forum is among the largest and oldest meetings of its kind in Poland. Participants discuss current problems in Poland and Europe, covering key business and economic issues, such as energy and renewable energy sources, agriculture, rail transport, infrastructure projects, banking, healthcare and tourism.

An especially interesting debate this year was held on Poland’s prospects for adopting the euro. Most of the participants agreed that Poland should adopt the single currency as soon as possible, arguing that it should not remain outside the eurozone, the core of the European Union. Jerzy Buzek (pictured), former prime minister and former president of the European Parliament, said it was not true that the EU was disintegrating. He added that, on the contrary, at a time of economic crisis, the EU, especially the eurozone, was becoming increasingly integrated. This is important because the EU should be perceived by global economic powers as a single entity, he said.

Former President Aleksander Kwa¶niewski (pictured) said a switch from the zloty to the euro would mean Poland entering the core of a two-speed Europe. “Consequently, we will become a country able to decide on Europe’s future,” he said. But he added that adopting the single currency should be preceded by a referendum—all the more so since there is no chance in the near future of getting together the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to make the required changes to the constitution.

There was also a panel discussion on the role of women in Polish business. Women are still stereotypically perceived as worse employees than men because they take pregnancy and parental leave. Those taking part in the discussion said the state is obliged to make it easier for women to participate in the labor market. They added that the state is also to blame for many Polish women deciding to emigrate, for example to Britain, and to have their children there instead of in Poland. Participants agreed that the state should support the employment of women in Poland by, for example, exempting small and medium-sized businesses from social insurance contributions for the pregnant women they employ, or by providing funding to support workplace kindergartens.

Among the topics discussed was the lack of women in managerial posts. In Poland, the percentage of women who are members of company boards is relatively small compared to other European countries. But there are notable exceptions. Alfred Kubczak, director for external relations at Jeronimo Martins Polska, which owns the Biedronka budget groceries chain, said women already hold around 30 percent of managerial posts in the company.

Intelligent transport systems (ITS) was another topic discussed. Marek Cywiński, CEO of Kapsch Telematic Services, the company which has successfully introduced the viaTOLL toll collection system in Poland, said ITS should be further integrated in cities and on roads between them to make the systems more compatible.

There was also a panel discussion on investment opportunities for Polish companies in Colombia. One example highlighted was Jeronimo Martins’ decision to develop its retail chain in Colombia. The company is opening its first store in the country and plans to open another 30-40 stores by the end of the year. Pedro Pereira da Silva of Jeronimo Martins said his company will operate in Colombia in a similar way to Poland—giving priority to local products.
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