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Economy of Poland
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Economy of Poland

Table of contents
1 Economy - overview
2 Agriculture
3 Industry
4 Economic Reform Program
5 Foreign Trade

Economy - overview

Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of economic liberalization throughout the 1990s and today stands out as the greatest success story among the former communist states. Even so, much remains to be done. The privatization of small and medium state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms has encouraged the development of the private business sector, which has been the main drive for Poland's economic growth. The agricultural sector remains handicapped however by structural problems, surplus labor, inefficient small farms, and a lack of investment. Restructuring and privatization of "sensitive sectors" (e.g., coal), has also been slow, but recent foreign investments in energy and steel have begun to turn the tide. Recent reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger than expected fiscal pressures. Improving this account deficit and tightening monetary policy, with focus on inflation, are priorities for the Polish Government. Further progress in public finance depends mainly on privatization of Poland's remaining state sectors, the reduction of state employment, and an overhaul of the tax code to incorporate farmers, most of whom currently pay no taxes.

Recent GDP growth:

In February 2004, industrial output was up 18.0% annually.

Poland entered the European Union on May 1st 2004.


Agriculture employs 27.5% of the work force but contributes only 3.8% to the gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting relatively low productivity. Unlike the industrial sector, Poland's agricultural sector remained largely in private hands during the decades of communist rule. Most of the former state farms are now leased to farmer tenants. Lack of credit is hampering efforts to sell former state farmland. Currently, Poland's 2 million private farms occupy 90% of all farmland and account for roughly the same percentage of total agricultural production. These farms are small--8 hectares (ha) on average--and often fragmented. Farms with an area exceeding 15 ha accounted for only 9% of the total number of farms but cover 45% of total agricultural area. Over half of all farming households in Poland produce only for their own needs with little, if any, commercial sales.

Poland is a net exporter of confectionery, processed fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Processors often rely on imports to supplement domestic supplies of wheat, feed grains, vegetable oil, and protein meals, which are generally insufficient to meet domestic demand. However, Poland is the leading producer in Europe of potatoes and rye and is one of the world's largest producers of sugar beets. Poland also is a significant producer of rapeseed, grains, hogs, and cattle. Attempts to increase domestic feed grain production are hampered by the short growing season, poor soil, and the small size of farms.

Pressure to restructure the agriculture sector is intensifying as Poland prepares to accede to the European Union. Despite the fact, that Polisg farm are going to receive subsidies on the level of one quarter of the EU farms, the vast number of subsistence farms that do not produce for the market will also receive dotations, therefore the changes in the agriculture are going to freeze.


Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors. Today it extends to fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, electronics, cars and shipbuilding.

Poland's industrial base suffered greatly during World War II, and many resources were directed toward reconstruction. The communist economic system imposed in the late 1940s created large and unwieldy economic structures operated under a tight central command. In part because of this systemic rigidity, the economy performed poorly even in comparison with other economies in central Europe.

In 1990, the Mazowiecki government began a comprehensive reform program to replace the centralized command economy with a market-oriented system. While the results overall have been impressive, many large state-owned industrial enterprises, particularly the railroad and the mining, steel, and defense sectors, have remained resistant to the change and downsizing required to survive in an open market economy.

Economic Reform Program

The economic reforms introduced in 1990 removed price controls, eliminated most subsidies to industry, opened markets to international competition, and imposed strict budgetary and monetary discipline. Poland was the first former centrally planned economy in central Europe to end its recession and return to growth in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the Polish economy has enjoyed an accelerated recovery, although growth has recently slowed. The private sector now accounts for over two-thirds of GDP.

As a result of Poland's growth and investment-friendly climate, the country has received over $50 billion in direct foreign investment since 1990. However, the government continues to play a strong role in the economy, as seen in excessive red tape and the high level of politicization in many business decisions. Investors complain that state regulation is not transparent or predictable; the economy suffers from a lack of competition in many sectors, notably telecommunications. In early 2002, the government announced a new set of economic reforms, designed in many ways to complete the process launched in 1990. The package acknowledges the need to improve Poland's investment climate, particularly the conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises, and better prepare the economy to compete as an EU member. The government also aims to improve Poland's public finances to prepare for eventual adoption of the euro.

Foreign Trade

With the collapse of the ruble-based COMECON trading bloc in 1990, Poland scrambled to reorient its trade. As early as 1996, 70% of its trade was with EU members, and neighboring Germany today is Poland's dominant trading partner. While membership in the EU is Poland's primary goal, it has fostered regional integration and trade through the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which includes Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Most of Poland's imports are capital goods needed for industrial retooling and for manufacturing inputs, rather than imports for consumption. Therefore, a deficit is expected and should even be regarded as positive at this point. Poland, a member of the World Trade Organization, has been steadily lowering tariffs in line with its WTO and EU commitments. Most products from EU countries now enter Poland duty-free; while Poland will apply the EU's common external tariff to goods from other countries (including the U.S.) upon EU entry, it continues to maintain higher tariffs in advance of accession. The Polish government has agreed to lower tariffs on selected U.S. products to address this differential. Most Polish exports to the U.S. receive tariff benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

Opportunities for trade and investment continue to exist across virtually all sectors. The American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, founded in 1991 with seven members, now has more than 300 members. Strong economic growth potential, a large domestic market, prospective EU membership, and a high level of political stability are the top reasons U.S. and other foreign companies do business in Poland.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $426.7 billion (2003 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 5.5% (2004 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $11,000 (2003 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.1%
industry: 30.4%
services: 66.5% (2003)

Population below poverty line: 18.4% (2000 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.2%
highest 10%: 24.7% (1998)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.7% (2003 est.)

Labor force: 17.6 million (2000 est.)

Labor force - by occupation: industry 22.1%, agriculture 27.5%, services 50.4% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate: 18.0% (2003 est.)

revenues: $49.6 billion
expenditures: $52.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2002 est.)

Industries: machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles

Industrial production growth rate: 18.0% (2004 est.)

Electricity - production: 135 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 98.1%
hydro: 1.5%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.4% (2002)

Electricity - consumption: 118.8 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - exports: 11.04 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - imports: 4.306 billion kWh (2001)

Oil - production: 17,180 bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - consumption: 424,100 bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - exports: 53,000 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports: 413,700 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - proved reserves: 116.4 million bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - production: 5.471 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - consumption: 13.85 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - exports: 41 million cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - imports: 8.782 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves: 154.4 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Agriculture - products: potatoes, fruits, vegetables, wheat; poultry, eggs, pork, beef, milk, cheese

Exports: $57.6 bilion (f.o.b., 2002) euro 42.7 bilion (f.o.b., 2003)

Exports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 30.2%, intermediate manufactured goods 25.5%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 20.9%, food and live animals 8.5% (1999)

Exports - partners: Germany 32.3%, France 6%, Italy 5.5%, UK 5.2%, Netharlands 4.5%, Czech Republic 4% (2002)

Imports: $63.65 billion (f.o.b., 2003) euro 54.5 billion (f.o.b., 2003)

Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 38.2%, intermediate manufactured goods 20.8%, chemicals 14.3%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 9.5% (1999)

Imports - partners: Germany 24.3%, Italy 8.4%, Russia 8%, France 7% (2002)

Debt - external: $79.7 billion (2003)

Economic aid - recipient: EU Structural Adjustment fund (2000)

Currency: 1 zloty (Zl) = 100 groszy

Exchange rates: zlotych per US dollar - 3.63 (2004), 3.89 (2003), 4.08 (2002), 4.09 (2001), 4.35 (2000)

Fiscal year: calendar year

See also : Poland