Q: What is the economic platform of the Law and Justice party, heading into the October 13 elections?
A: The growth potential of Poland has been estimated at about 3%. Last year, we grew by 5.1%, and we kept growing above 4% in the first two quarters of 2019 – that’s four times faster than the eurozone, and three times faster than the EU average. We had never had such a good performance in recent years.
For us, the major challenge for the next years is to shift our economy from traditional manufacturing, which still accounts for 22–23% of GDP, to an economy based on knowledge and innovation. Expenditure on R&D remains relatively low in Poland at 1% of GDP, which is half the EU average. Increasing this level is a major challenge for us.
We would like to embrace industry 4.0. We have very good programmers in Poland; we would like to them to develop their application in Poland, rather than doing it in the US or elsewhere.
Q: The government now also wants to grow the brand of Polish companies abroad.
A: About half of the domestic industrial output and two-thirds of our exports come from companies with foreign capital. There is a lot of room to push large Polish companies and small and medium-sized enterprises to become more innovative. With specific regard to start-ups, I believe this is a major weakness in the whole of the EU. At a European level, we provide funding in R&D, then start-ups escape the EU. We would like to create an environment conducive to innovation, but also to the growth of start-ups. Once they set up, we have to provide them with the assistance they need to grow [so that they don’t have to leave].
Q: Businesses in Poland are facing a very tight labour market. Will you review your immigration policy to increase the number of available workers on the market?
A: The level of unemployment stands at record low at 3.2%. On the other hand, the employment rate is just over 72%, below the EU average. There are reserves of labour in some segments of the workforce. There is low employment among elder people, women, youngsters and disabled people.
Businesses gave us a clear signal that in many places, especially in bigger cities, there is a shortage of labour. We want to create the conditions for those not participating in the labour market to be mobilised. Meeting the demand of skilled labour is an even bigger challenge, which is why we are putting a lot of attention into vocational training. Besides, we have experienced big inflows of migrants from Ukraine – there are 1 million Ukrainians permanently living in Poland – and, to a lesser extent, from Belarus and Kazakhstan. They are coming over because Poland can offer them a good quality of life; 30 years ago the economies of Poland and Ukraine were equal to each other, now Ukraine’s economy is a sixth of Poland’s.
Q: What are you expectations for the EU’s new legislature?
A: We would like to see a well-integrated EU – we should stay united. Also, we have to make the EU more competitive and more innovative to keep investment within the region. Then we should keep in place policies like the common agriculture policy and the cohesion policy, to harvest the potential of the whole of the EU. Of course, we must also address problems like migration, internal and external security and climate change. But it won’t be possible with a small budget. Earmarking only 1% of the bloc’s GDP for a seven-year budget is very low.