Understanding Poland’s Future

Making forecasts is a fool’s game, and while I’ll be the first to admit that the adjective in question is applicable to me more often than not, it’s not because of making forecasts!

This post, then, is not about quantitative forecasts about where Poland’s economy might go. It is, instead, about Poland’s recent trends that might continue in the near future, and what that would mean for Poland, and her neighbours.

  1. “The attractiveness of their promises are difficult to outdo, as they represent a long-desired ambition by Poles. However, on other issues the PiS is found wanting and at odds with the values and opinions of the majority of Poles. The conflict between local level activism and centralistic ambition will determine the course of the Polish politics in the next decade. Poland’s recent history surely should not let us think that the outcome is already known. ”
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    On how Poland’s recent political trends don’t bode well for the future.
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  2. “In 1989, it would have been considered utopian or plainly misplaced to imagine that, in 2019, most Polish people would live in the countryside despite only 10 per cent of the population working in agriculture. Today, the countryside is more than ever the ‘happening’ place in Poland. Four trends drive this phenomenon: re-ruralisation, de-agrarisation, de-urbanisation, and internal migration.”
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    This report came as a complete surprise to me. The notion, as an Asian and especially as an Indian, that urbanization will decline going forward was completely (pardon the pun) foreign to me. Also, the first time that I read about “water in the tap” – that’d certainly be my pick.
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  3. “The growth rate is predicted to continue slowly decreasing in the years to come and should reach -0.50% by 2035. The population is predicted to be 37,942,231 by 2020 and 36,615,500 by 2030.”
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    Those are literally the only two lines in the entire article about the future of Poland’s demographics. That being said, the article is still worth reading if you want to better understand Poland’s demographics today, about which I do not think we have learnt so far.
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  4. “They assert that the modern Polish Republic rests on “two pillars: the European Union and NATO,” and that these communities are not at odds with one another. This is the strategic balance this is needed to shield Poland. What it is pursuing at the moment is strategic imbalance. As the saying goes in Polish, “nie stawiaj wszystkiego na jedną kartę”—don’t gamble everything on one card.  ”
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    Broadly speaking, the article suggests that Poland cosying up to the United States of America might not be the best idea for securing Poland’s future, not least because it is subject to the whims and fancies of just one man.
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  5. “A few weeks ahead of COP24, the Ministry of Energy published a draft Energy Policy for Poland 2040, by the Ministry of Energy, with updated projections beyond 2030–perhaps the beginnings of a clearer path toward the green transition. The report provides a summary of Poland’s vision for eventually transforming the energy sector. Coal will remain a significant part of the energy mix through 2030 and decline more rapidly by 2040, shifting to nuclear power, renewable energy and high-efficiency cogeneration.”
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    A useful summary of Poland’s economics since 1989, its stellar performance in terms of achieving climate change goals until 2015, and then a tapering off of its enthusiasm – and some optimism about its targets in the two decades to come.

RoW: Poland and her geopolitics

Back in the day, Poland and her geopolitics would have been shaped by two nations, Russia (or the then USSR) and Germany. Now, one is domestically stronger, and no longer a threat, whereas with the other, it is quite the opposite. Five articles that tell us a little bit more about Poland and her neighbors today.

  1. “Countries in the north, particularly Poland, have chosen two paths to limit the Russian threat. One is forging defense ties with countries in the region that share similar fears, while closely working with the U.S. This contributes to the Intermarium, the containment line against Russia from the Baltics to the Black Sea. But Poland knows that the West is in no position to fight against Russian influence further east and that NATO and the U.S. are unlikely to react to a potential Russo-Ukrainian escalation. This is why Poland’s second path to limit the Russian threat is to try to keep Kiev closer to Warsaw and the West, challenging Russia’s role in the former Soviet periphery.”
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    Ukraine and Russia’s designs on Ukraine are key to understanding Poland’s geopolitical concerns today.
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  2. “Both Poland and Russia had accused each other for their historical revisionism. Russia has repeatedly accused Poland for not honoring Soviet soldiers fallen in World War II for Poland, notably in 2017, in which Poland was thought on “attempting to impose its own version of history” after Moscow was not allowed to join an international effort to renovate a World War II museum in Poland and destroyed monument honoring Soviet soldiers fallen in the war. Meanwhile, Poland also accuses Russia for its unlimited historical distortion, notably back to 2014 when Putin signed a bill using any comparison of Nazi to Soviet crimes as a punishment, as the Poles were also treated brutally by the Soviets; although Russia’s historical revisionism might have influenced Poland’s Andrzej Duda over its Nazi war crime laws and Poland also has concerned that Russia’s political and historical revisionism might put Poland at risk.”
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    The entire Wikipedia article is worth reading, but this section was reminiscent of so much in so many other places.
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  3. Is Poland an Easern European nation? Well, it depends. If you mean geographically, no. If you mean it form a historical perspective, not so much. If you ask from a geopolitical perspective, hell no. Why then would most people guess yes?
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    “We see that the current geographical theories place Poland outside Eastern Europe. How come than that Poland is still often considered an Eastern European country? Of course, because of history. The cold war has created a division that influenced generations of Europeans and has an impact to this day. Historically, all countries that have been under the influence of the former Soviet Union were considered an eastern bloc (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia). This cold war legacy influences the perception of Western Europeans and despite big historical shifts (most of the countries from the former eastern bloc joined the European Union in early 2000’s) associations between these countries and the former Soviet Union are still being made.”
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  4. Speaking of the other large neighbour, Germany – how’s things these days? Uh, not great. Energy, the Holocaust, independence of the judiciary in Poland – or lack thereof, and immigration are points that mean that the two large neighbors don’t always see eye to eye.
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    “”In 2013, 70 percent of Germans described their country’s relationship with Poland as “good.” Now that number is down to 31 percent. Why did it happen, and what are the current problems?”
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  5. “The question of permanently stationing U.S. troops in Poland, for which Warsaw is prepared to pay $2 billion annually, is still unresolved. Some military officials have said they prefer retaining elements of the rotational scheme that is currently used to manage between 4,000 and 5,000 U.S. service members working in the country, many at the Powidz air base.”
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    My biggest learning form this article? Fort Trump is a thing.

RoW: The movement of people into and out of Poland

One target for this year, 2020, is to write about one country a month. As this Wednesday article makes clear, this month’s country is Poland. Given its history and its current politics, I was curious about immigration and Poland – as the title of this post suggests, the movement of people into and out of Poland.

This is a topic that is of interest to me for a variety of reasons. I got the chance to teach a course on migration and its impact on development some years ago, and reading up for that course was quite instructive. Specifically, I got to know the works of Douglas Massey, and also chanced upon this lovely paper – lovely to me, that is – by Bryan Caplan. I also want to read this book, written by him.

Our government’s approach to migration – completely wrongheaded, in my view – is of course another reason to want to read about experiences in other parts of the world.

Onwards, then: five articles about Poland and its approach to immigration.

  1. “A draft of the interior ministry’s new migration policy, leaked to Polish media last month, revealed the government’s priority is to lure Poles back from western Europe, and to attract people from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, who can prove they have Polish origins.The document said Poland’s safety was guaranteed by its cultural, national and religious homogeneity, and said the new policy would focus on selecting immigrants who would follow Poland’s law and customs, as well as “values emerging from . . . Poland’s dominating religion”.

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    An article form the FT, miraculously ungated, about the issue.
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  2. “Poland’s massive migration numbers, and the warm welcome Ukrainians have received, stands in marked opposition to the anti-migrant electoral campaign that helped bring PiS to power four years ago. The party crushed a coalition of opposition parties with 46 percent of the vote in last month’s European Parliament election, its strongest ever result. Stumping in 2015, PiS head and Poland’s de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, said that “refugees” would “bring in all kinds of parasites, which are not dangerous in their own countries, but which could prove dangerous for the local populations.”
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    The title of the article says it all, really.
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  3. “So it may come as a surprise that the Polish government has, very quietly, presided over the largest influx of migrant workers in the country’s modern history — though they are mostly Christians from neighboring Ukraine.Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has not been shy about promoting the government’s agenda. “We want to reshape Europe and re-Christianize it,” he said in 2017 in an interview with a Catholic television station. The government recently ordered all new passports include the phrase, “God, Honor, Motherland.”

    But immigration is Poland’s paradox. It has benefited greatly from the European Union’s open borders, earning billions of dollars in remittances from the hundreds of thousands of Polish workers who have migrated to other countries in the bloc, especially to Britain. Yet with Poland now facing labor shortages, the government is failing to lure back the diaspora — and is restricted by its political stance against migrants.”
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    The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.
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  4. “Since the opening of the labour market following Poland joining the European Union in 2004, Poland experienced a mass migration of over 2 million abroad. As of 2011, 52 out of 1,000 Polish citizens have lived outside the country;[10] estimated at 2.2 million by the Polish Central Statistics Office (GUS), and 2.6–2.7 million by the journalists. GUS statistics estimate that the number of long term Polish immigrants abroad have risen from 0.7 million in 2002 to a peak number of almost 2.3 million in 2007, and has since declined to 2 million by 2010–11.It has remained relatively stable at that level for a short period, following the uncertainty of Global Recession of 2007–08, By December 2015, 12% of Polish labor population left for UK to work there.According to a 2013 survey, approximately 14% percent of adult Poles have worked abroad since 2004 (approximately a quarter for over a year); 69% have a family member of a close friend who lives abroad, and approximately 24% are open to immigration. Majority of Polish migrants or those considering leaving are young; according to a 2014 survey approximately 90% of Poles under 34 have considered some form of migration. ”
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    That is from a Wikipedia article about the topic.
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  5. “BELGIANS must believe Siemiatycze is the capital of Poland, residents of this eastern Polish town like to quip. Those that are left, that is. Since before the fall of Communism Brussels has been the destination of choice for thousands of Siemiatyczans who seek work abroad. Accurate figures as to just how many have left are hard to come by, as people often retain Siematycze as their official place of residence. But it is clear that the real population of the town, at any given moment, is considerably less than the official figure of 15,000.”
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    From within that Wikipedia article, an article from the Economist about the number of people who have left Poland over the years.

 

RoW: Links for 1st Jan, 2020

Poland, five links to understand this country better.

  1. “The best way to maximize food production is to allow your farmers to go on owning their own land, encourage them to work together in genuinely free cooperatives, and when you have earned their good will, subject them to central state directives in return for guaranteed prices.”
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    A rather long write-up about Poland, and the original Polish miracle.
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  2. A Wikipedia article about the Communist years in Poland.
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  3. “What could not be foreseen in the autumn of 1989 was that Poland would become the star performer of all the economies that emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet empire. Poland’s return to growth and fiscal discipline were powerful factors in the European Union agreeing to admit eight former communist countries in 2004.”
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    And then the second Polish miracle
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  4. “In reality, Poland’s boom is the result of positive external shocks. And if the ruling party — which is all but certain to win the country’s parliamentary election on October 13 — doesn’t push through serious reforms, the next downturn could seriously damage the country’s future.”
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    Current worries, of which there are a few.
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  5. An interview with Jefferey Sachs in 2015, about his role in Poland in 1989 (and onwards)
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    “I’ve been on many sides of many issues because they’re different in different contexts. For three years I said constantly that the key to reform is stabilization, liberalization, and privatization. That was a kind of mantra for three years in Eastern Europe, which I stand by. Then I went to Africa a few years later and I heard the IMF say: stabilization, liberalization, and privatization. And I said, “Are you kidding? They have AIDS and malaria, why don’t you talk about those things?”“But Professor Sachs, we’re just quoting you!”And I honestly did a double take. I said, “But in Warsaw, they had streets, electricity. They didn’t have malaria or an AIDS epidemic. They had fresh water, sanitation. Here it’s different. It’s about poverty, development, disease, hunger. They’re different issues.””