Q: Are you feeling bullish about Poland’s prospects in attracting foreign direct investment [FDI] at this moment in time?
A: Yes, very much so. We are attracting FDI through special economic zones but also through many different other places. In 2016, the total amount of FDI was about €10bn [thanks in large part to] all the greenfield projects we were able to attract. Before that – you might be aware of our short 25-year history of capitalism in Poland – we were privatising companies and the FDI came through this window. Right now we do not have too much to privatise because most of the economy is already privatised. So we try to attract new investors from different countries to new sectors: greenfield projects, technologically advanced
projects, and we are very successful.
Recently Rolls-Royce came with new plans to invest in Poland [Aero Gearbox International, a joint venture from Rolls-Royce and Safran Transmission Systems, which opened a production facility in south-east Poland in April 2017] as have many other companies from the industrial, aviation and automotive sectors; and recently shipbuilding has been quite popular.
Q: Poland has been an FDI powerhouse for the central and eastern Europe region, but the country is receiving a lot of criticism from western Europe [due to moves by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice government that the EU has criticised as jeopardising rule of law and the independence of the judiciary]. Do you think that this is damaging the country’s image and prospects for foreign investment?
A: I often meet with investors. I just came from New York, where I spoke to many investors. There are those questions about what’s going on in the country. But I think when we speak honestly about the changes – for example about changes to the judiciary system (which is by far the most inefficient in Europe), what we are going to change, and how the solutions look in comparison to some other western European countries – then I have the feeling that the tensions and the concerns fade away. I don’t believe that this is an important obstacle. But yes, the questions are there every now and again.
I always ask the question: why do businesses go to [some] countries that are far from being democratic and are dictatorial? [It is because despite politics] they look for places where they can develop their business with a skilled labour force. This need for a skilled labour force is the number one reason people tell me they are interested in coming to Poland.
Q: Do you feel that Poland can benefit from Brexit? Can you lure some of the companies that might have otherwise gone to the UK?
A: I don’t like replying to this question. I regret that Brexit happened. I am open with this. I think that the UK was our ally in fighting red tape in Brussels… But given that Brexit happened, it is a stimulus for many CEOs thinking about what they are going to do in a post-Brexit world.
And countries such as Poland are benefiting from Brexit because we are able to attract attention from companies because we are able to provide a good environment for business – relatively simple [to operate in], support for investors, relatively low taxes and a highly skilled labour force. Plus we are part of the EU and we want to continue to be members of the EU. So access to the EU market is there from the point of view of freedom to provide services and movement of capital.
The process of attracting financial institutions to Polish towns for the outsourcing of middle-office and back-office functions has accelerated post-Brexit. Recently Citi, UBS, Credit Suisse have moved some of their functions to Poland from London.