A country seven and a half times larger in size than the Netherlands, Poland occupies a central position between Western and Eastern Europe and serves as a gateway to both EU and non-EU countries.
But how well do we know Poland? The 20 following interesting facts and figures will perhaps surprise you.
1. An attractiveness survey conducted by Ernst & Young in June 2012 ranked Poland as the second-best investment destination in Europe, behind Germany. This result was bolstered by Poland’s inclusion in the IMF’s Flexible Credit Line*. Most investors in 2011 came from Germany (389), the Netherlands (174) and the United States (177). Poland’s memberships in OECD**(1996), NATO (1996) and the European Union (2004) are seen as assets by foreign investors who are also attracted by the country’s macroeconomic stability and comparatively lower production costs and salaries. Moreover, Poland has implemented a wide range of investment incentives for foreign investors.
2. Industry sectors such as water and waste management, logistics, agri-food, research and development, energy and tourism offer many opportunities for investors.
3. The Polish tourism sector received nearly EUR 231 million in European subsidies. Foreign entrepreneurs are entitled to benefit from EU funds in tourism investment projects in the period 2007-2015.
4. In the period 2014-2020, Poland will receive over EUR 70 billion in EU funds for the expansion and improvement of its infrastructure.
5. Poland counts 14 Special Economic Zones (SEZ or Specjalne Strefy Ekonomiczne in Polish)***. Since 1998, SEZs have led to the creation of 250,000 jobs. The total amount of investments, in the period 2007-2015, is expected to reach PLN 83.9 billion, with Poland, Germany, the US, the Netherlands, Japan and Italy as the biggest investors. The Polish Minister for Economy Janusz Piechociński wants to extend the lifetime of Poland’s SEZs from 2020 to 2026.
6. Before Poland became a democracy in1989, there were hardly any foreign companies operating in the country, except for the so-called “Polonia” firms established by investors of Polish descent. Today, 95,6 per cent of the incoming capital come from OECD countries, representing more than USD 85 billion.
7. Foreign capital entering the Polish market has played an essential role in the privatisation and restructuring process.
8. Approximately 70 per cent of Polish exports go to other EU countries, Germany being its largest export partner. According to a study by Oxford Economics for HSBC Polish exports will grow by 9.1 per cent annually between 2016 and 2020, the second-highest export rate in Europe. Poland’s growth is expected to be higher than that of Germany (5.8 per cent in 2013-15), France (6.1 per cent) or the United Kingdom (4.4 per cent). According to the report, Polish exports are expected to grow by 55 per cent in the period 2016-2020. This figure would place Poland second in Europe, behind Turkey.
9. Industrial machinery and transportation equipment are expected to remain Poland’s main export products. Chemical and mineral products, IT and communications equipment are also expected to contribute to the growth. Poland is a big exporter of boats and yachts, to the tune of more than EUR 200 million per year.
10. According to estimates by ASM Centrum Badań i Analiz Rynku (Center for Market Research) based on Eurostat data, Poland is becoming one of Europe’s largest producers of windows and doors. In 2012, the country produced 8.7 million doors and 12.8 million windows, for a total value of EUR 2.3 billion, while exports reached EUR 0.9 billion. This makes that Poland the second largest exporter of windows and doors in the EU, behind Germany.
11. Poland is the largest producer of rye, accounting for 25 per cent of the world’s production of rye.
12. According to the Agentschap NL**** Dutch exports to Poland grew by 12,9 per cent in 2011, reaching EUR 8,5 billion, while the import from Poland increased by 7,7 per cent, reaching EUR 5 billion. Dutch export to Poland in 2011 equalled half of all the export to all BRICS countries.
13. Poland still offers fairly low labour costs compared to the rest of the European Union. According to Eurostat data, the average cost per hour was about EUR 7,2 in 2012. Labour costs are much lower in Poland than in Belgium and Sweden (EUR 40), Germany, Finland and Austria (EUR 31), or Spain and the UK (EUR 21). Only four countries have lower labour costs: Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia.
14. According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS), only 13,8 per cent of Poles, or less than 1 in 6, are 65 or older, making Poland one of the youngest nations in Europe.
15. Poland occupies a central strategic position in Europe. The combination of highly qualified workers and growing spending on research and development is interesting not only for European but also for Non-European investors, especially from the United States and Asian countries, who see Poland as a link between Central and Eastern Europe (100 million consumers) and Western Europe (500 million consumers).
16. Poland is the only member of the European Union that avoided a decline in GDP during the recession of the late 2000s. It is now ranked 20th worldwide in terms of GDP. The economic growth rate for 2012 equals 2 per cent. The Polish GDP is expected to grow by 1,6 percent in 2013 and by 2,9 per cent in 2014.
17. In the academic year of 2009/2010 Poland counted 457 educational institutions of higher education and two million students. One of the country’s main assets is its young and well-educated population, with 24,5 million citizens in the productive age group.
18. Over 10 per cent of university graduates in the EU are Polish, among whom 40,000 ICT specialists.
19. Poland is the only country in Europe, apart from Lithuania, where cosmetology is taught at university level. Altogether, cosmetology and cosmetics chemistry is taught on different levels at 54 academic centres, including nine state universities. Today Poland is the 6th cosmetics exporter in Europe. Polish cosmetics products are exported to over 130 countries, including places as remote as Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand and Chile.
20. The top 5 video games in Europe come from Poland. (The-Witcher-2-Assassins-of-Kings, The-Witcher-Enhanced-Edition, Bulletstorm, Dead-Island, Sniper-Ghost-Warrior, Sniper-Ghost-Warrior-2)
By Beata M. Bruggeman-Sękowska
Beata M. Bruggeman-Sękowska is a member of the board of the Maastricht Institute for Central and Eastern Europe and a Dutch-Polish journalist. She is a publisher and writer of Central and East European language books including books for entrepreneurs. Due to her international background and experience she is an advisor to governmental and commercial organisations on Central and Eastern European issues. Furthermore, she is an owner of Communications-Unlimited, a language center and a publishing house. She is an academic teacher at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and a PR professional with an international outreach.
Also read: Investing in Poland? Naturalnie!
*A Flexible Credit Line serves economic crisis mitigation between countries demonstrating a strong track record in economic performance.
** The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
*** A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a geographical region that has economic and other laws that are more free-market-oriented than a country’s typical or national laws. Nationwide laws may be suspended inside a special economic zone. Usually the goal of a structure is to increase foreign direct investment from international businesses or multinational corporations (MNC), develop infrastructure and increase employment. There are currently 14 Special Economic Zones. According to PriceWaterCoopers the advantages for the entrepreneurs undertaking new investment in SEZs are: the possibility of corporate income tax exemption, real estate tax exemption and the fact that infrastructure prepared for specific investment purposes and in some cases the properties owned by the investors can become part of the zone.
****NL Agency is a division of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs that supports sustainable joint initiatives in developing countries and emerging markets.