Over the last 30 years, Poland has developed at an astonishing rate. Real GDP has tripled, and since 2004 the economy is growing steadily at about four percent a year. In fact, the economy is so mature that it's no longer all about trying to catch up with the leaders in Europe: Poland can chart its own path of development. This development strategy would define Poland's new engines of growth, exploit the potential of digitization, and prepare for the possible economic downturn that lies ahead.
In the report, two development scenarios for Poland are presented.
- In the first, baseline scenario, the country develops at about 3% per annum. In this situation, by 2030, real GDP would increase from the current level of EUR 12,400 euros per person to EUR 18,500.
- In the second, more ambitious scenario, it becomes an engine of growth for Europe and successfully competes on the global market. In this scenario, the economy grows by 5% through 2030 per annum and the value of the Polish economy doubles from EUR 477 billion in 2018 to EUR 890 billion in 2030.
These goals are not unrealistic, but neither are simple – for a number of reasons. Poland is already such a thriving, developed economy that long-term growth of 4% to 5% will soon become much more difficult to maintain than in the past. Growth may also be hindered by the predicted global economic slowdown.
5 priorities for Poland
How can Poland meet these ambitious goals?
- One of the key tasks for Poland is to close the productivity gap. The country's productivity level is still half that of Western Europe. The sectors that need to catch up the most are mining, agriculture, energy and manufacturing. Effectively tapping the potential offered by digitization and automation could be one of the chief ways to close this productivity gap. According to analysis by McKinsey & Company, if the country were able to match the EU-15 in terms of productivity, the economy could be twice the size, making it as big as the Italian economy today. Poland currently creates EUR 705 billion in added value in purchasing power parity; if it was as productive as the EU-15, this would add a further EUR 607 billion to that figure, taking it to in excess of EUR 1.3 trillion.
- The comparatively low level of private and public investment in Poland is a limiting factor in the country’s economic growth rate. Investments account for just 18 percent of GDP, compared to 20 percent on average in the European Union. Another crucial task will be to develop additional investment projects and secure the capital needed for their implementation. According to our estimates, Poland may need additional EUR 75 billion for funding investments in 2030.
- The challenge will also be to ensure an adequate supply of skilled workers, as Poland's working-age population is set to shrink by more than two million by 2030. The economic activity rate in Poland is 65 percent, compared to 74 percent on average in the European Union. Sweden leads the way here, with up to 83 percent of people of working age actually working.The biggest differences between Poland and Sweden are found for young people, seniors and women, where the labor market participation rate is much lower in Poland.
- Low spending on R&D leads to a low level of innovation in the Polish economy. Poland comes 24th among the EU countries in the Global Innovation Index. Raising spending on R&D (research and development) from its current level of 1% of GDP to the EU average of 2% would unlock huge potential for innovation and new technology. Our analysis shows that Poland's GDP may grow by EUR 64 billion by 2025, solely due to digitization.
- Maintaining Poland's rapid growth rate will also depend on factors such as ease of doing business, efficiency of the tax system, and the existence of modern transportation, energy and telecommunications infrastructure.
As the world changes rapidly, significant reforms still lie ahead of us in Poland – despite appearances – and we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, content with our mid-level position. Maintaining a dynamic pace of development will be increasingly difficult, and achieving further success will depend on whether we manage to become more productive, improve the labor market and ensure a friendly environment for business and society. By consistently achieving these goals, there is a chance that we could join the big league, becoming an economic leader in Europe – and even beyond.