Q: The rate of unemployment in Poland is on the up, while the volume of investment is decreasing. Is the Polish economy running out of steam?
A: We still have economic growth and that should not be forgotten. It may not be a growth on the satisfying levels [we have seen in recent years], but we have to look at what is happening [in Poland and elsewhere]. In this context, Poland is performing very well. If in 2004, when we were entering the EU, someone had said that the economic situation in Poland will be better than that of the eurozone, such a person would be seen as far removed from reality.
Meanwhile, our [economic] situation is better. Not least because we kept our national currency [instead of introducing the euro], and as a consequence we also kept our competitive edge in sectors such as manufacturing. I believe that Poland has become a dynamic European country, and is on its way to catching up with leading economies in the continent.
Q: You point to keeping the national currency and a diversified economy as two main engines behind Polish economic success. To what extent has an influx of FDI projects played a role in this success as well?
A: If we look at Polish Special Economic Zones alone, foreign investment this year may create about 20,000 new jobs. It is important for us to use all the tools available for attracting investments. Poland has already become a European industrial hub. More than two-thirds of TVs and LCD screens sold in Europe are manufactured here. In Poland we also see a significant presence of companies focusing on the production of white goods. After the UK, Poland is the biggest producer of yachts [in Europe].
It is important that we attract investors willing to create sustainable jobs. We also aim to attract investments in areas such as shared services or R&D. For example, IBM launched its shared services centre in Wroclaw and employs more than 3000 engineers there; General Electric conducts its research projects with Warsaw’s Institute of Aviation; and Samsung located its centre of smartphone software programming here.
Q: Poland has become a magnet for inward investments. What about the creation of outward FDI?
A: The situation is changing and it has to be emphasised that Polish investors first and foremost should consider an expansion within central and eastern Europe. Now that we are in the Schengen zone [an area of 26 European countries that have mutually relaxed border controls], access to our neighbours is much easier. It is important to be able to use the potential of the region. Central Europe together with the Balkans creates a market of more than 200 million people. That is more than the population of Russia and the combined GDP of that region is also higher than in Russia.
Q: Notwithstanding that, should Polish investors consider the Russian market as one of their main investment destinations?
A: I have no doubts that [Polish investors] have a much better understanding of mentality and conditions there [than investors from other countries]. However, investing in the East is not easy and Polish companies are not always in as strong a position as global multinationals, backed by the economic superpowers. In the Eastern markets such as Russia, [multinationals] are in a much safer position, as Russians do not 'mess with the big guys' and our companies [have in some places gone] through a hard time there.