Economic studies
Poland

Poland

Population 38.0 million
GDP per capita 15,699 US$
A4
Country risk assessment
A2
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2019 2020 2021 (e) 2022 (f)
GDP growth (%) 4.7 -2.5 5.5 5.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) 2.1 3.7 5.2 5.9
Budget balance (% GDP) -0.7 -7.1 -3.4 -1.9
Current account balance (% GDP) 0.8 3.4 2.5 2.6
Public debt (% GDP) 45.6 57.4 55.0 52.1

(e): estimate (f): forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Market of 38 million people
  • Proximity to Western European markets
  • Price competitiveness; qualified and cheap labour force
  • Integrated into the German production chain
  • Diversified economy (agriculture, variety of industries, services)
  • Resilient financial sector

WEAKNESSES

  • Inadequate level of investment; domestic savings rate too low
  • Weakness in R&D; high content of exports in imports
  • Developmental lag of Eastern regions
  • Structural unemployment, low level of female employment
  • The EU rule-of-law dispute

RISK ASSESSMENT

The solid recovery continues

The Polish economy will stay on its recovery path in 2022 - it returned to its pre-pandemic level in the middle of 2021. Household consumption (58% of GDP) remains a crucial part of the economy. Its acceleration will be supported by increasing incomes, declining household savings, which soared during the pandemic, as well as changes in the personal income tax for low earners that will likely propel their consumption. Moreover, the labour market has weathered pandemic disruptions relatively well, with the unemployment rate coming close to pre-pandemic levels in October 2021. Meanwhile, wage growth has turned solid again, reaching an 8.4% year-over-year increase in October 2021. Finally, the return of severe labour shortages will put further pressure on wage growth. However, the gain in purchasing power could be limited by accelerated inflation, which reached 7.7% in November 2021. Higher prices for commodities, supply chains disruption and recovering demand, on the back of capacity constraints, have all fed it. Price pressure will remain high in 2022 with a further increase in energy prices, rising natural gas prices reverberating on food production costs, and overall high producer prices passed on to final consumers. Inflationary pressures prompted the central bank to tighten its monetary policy, as its inflation target is set at 2.5% ±1 p.p. tolerance band. Moreover, the government introduced the so-called anti-inflationary shield since the beginning of 2022 to curb inflation. The programme includes the decrease of value-added and excise taxes on energy and natural gas, a reduction in taxes on fuels as well as the decrease of value-added tax on certain food products for six months. Concomitantly, low-income households got a one-time benefit, which could increase inflation through higher consumption.

 
Investments are expected to stay robust after their acceleration in 2021 linked with an increasing capacity utilisation. Even further interest rate hikes should not diminish businesses’ willingness to invest more in fixed assets thanks to their favourable financial position.

 

The budget deficit has been narrowing

In 2022, the general government deficit-to-GDP ratio is expected to decrease further thanks to the phasing out of pandemic-related measures and the vivid economic recovery. Revenues from indirect taxes should increase despite the introduction of the costly new stimulus programme called the Polish Deal. This fiscal package focuses on lowering taxes for the middle-class and increasing health spending, as well as on infrastructural investments (a network of expressways, railroad lines, the New Central Polish Airport, cultural and sports infrastructure in municipalities and digital infrastructure) that should boost the economy from 2022 onwards. The increase in the tax burden for the wealthier part of the society will not balance out its alleviation for the low- and mid-income taxpayers.

 
The current account balance had turned positive in 2019 and has remained in the green in the following years, including in our forecast for 2022. This relies on the trade in services, which continues to post the largest surplus, supported by transportation services abroad, and the surplus in the trade in goods. Despite the contraction of external demand at the beginning of the pandemic, Polish exports rebounded relatively fast thanks to their competitiveness and their inclusion in manufacturing supply chains. In 2022, exports are expected to increase, however, supply constraints will be a drag on their acceleration. Moreover, increasing imports, supported by the domestic recovery, will limit the contribution of net exports to GDP growth.

 

The governing party’s lead shaken by defections

The ruling right-wing party Law and Justice (PiS) has narrowly won a second term in office in the latest parliamentary elections held in October 2019. However, its grip on power weakened after it lost control of the upper house (Senate) and failed to increase its absolute majority in the more powerful lower chamber (Sejm). Moreover, tensions in the coalition erupted in 2020 when the junior parties, United Poland (SP) and Agreement, refused to back legislation proposed by the PiS, which resulted in a cabinet reshuffle. The PiS lost the absolute majority in the lower chamber, but still benefits from the support of several non-members in the voting process. Externally, the relationship with the European Commission remain tense, making the disbursement of EU recovery funds uncertain, which, if not paid, could drag on the recovery. These disagreements have already resulted in the Polish currency depreciation. In December 2021, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recommended the ECJ to dismiss the two lawsuits brought by Hungary and Poland against the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism introduced in 2020 for these funds. Both countries, which are the targets of this measure, have alleged that the mechanism lacked an appropriate legal basis, is incompatible with the EU treaty and violates the principle of legal certainty. Moreover, the migration crisis at the border between Poland and Belarus in late 2021 has also brought additional risks.

 

Last updated: February 2022

Payment

 

Standard bills of exchange and cheques are not widely used, as they must meet a number of formal issuing requirements in order to be valid. Nevertheless, for dishonoured or contested bills and cheques, creditors may resort to fast-track procedures resulting in an injunction to pay. There is, however, one type of bill of exchange that is commonly used – the weksel in blanco. This is an incomplete promissory note bearing only the term “weksel” and the issuer’s signature at the time of issue. The signature constitutes an irrevocable promise to pay, and this undertaking is enforceable upon completion of the promissory note (with the amount, place, and date of payment), in accordance with a prior agreement made between the issuer and the beneficiary. Weksels in blanco are widely used as they also constitute a guarantee of payment in commercial agreements and the rescheduling of payments.

Cash payments were commonly used in Poland by individuals and firms alike, but under the 2018 Business Law Act (Ustawa – Prawo przedsiębiorców), companies are required to make settlements via bank accounts for any transaction exceeding the sum or equivalent of 15,000 Polish złotys even when payable in several instalments. This measure has been introduced to combat fraudulent money laundering.

Bank transfers have become the most widely used payment method. Following phases of privatisation and consolidation, Polish banks now use the SWIFT network. 

Debt collection

Amicable proceedings

Amicable debt collection is the first step of the debt recovery procedure in Poland. These actions include reminders and/or demands for payment. These communications usually serve to obtain repayment of outstanding debt, to warn the debtor of further official actions, to obtain acknowledgment of the debt, to conclude an agreement between the creditor and the debtor based on the acknowledgment of its debt and to obtain a commitment to the repayment agreed.

As of 2004, interest can be claimed as from the 31st day following delivery of the product or service, even where the parties have agreed to longer payment terms. The legal interest rate will apply from the 31st day until the contractual payment date. Thereafter, in the case of late payments, the tax penalty rate will apply. This is very often greater than the legal interest rate, unless the contracting parties have agreed on a higher interest rate.

A bill to implement the 2011/7/EU directive of 2011 on “combating late payment in commercial transactions” provides the contracting parties with maximum payment terms of 60 days. Similarly, default interest is due the day after the deadline, without the need for a formal notice. By implementing the EU Directive, Poland introduced new rules regarding compensation for payment defaults in commercial transactions. These rules oblige debtors to pay the costs of recovery when the payment term expires. The defined amount is a lump sum of €40 – but it is possible to demand a larger amount if the costs of recovery prove to be higher.

 

Legal proceedings
Fast-track proceedings

Creditors can seek an injunction to pay (nakaz zaplaty) via a fast-track and less expensive procedure, provided they can produce positive proof of debt (such as unpaid bills of exchange, unpaid cheques, weksels in blanco, or other acknowledgements of debt). If the judge is not convinced of the substance of the claim – a decision he alone is empowered to make – he may refer the case to full trial.

As since 2010, the district court of Lublin has jurisdiction throughout Poland to handle electronic injunctions to pay when claims are indisputable. The clerk of the court examines the merits of the application, to which is attached the list of the available evidence. He then, using an electronic signature, validates the ruling granting the injunction to pay. This procedure appears, at first glance, to be fast, economic and flexible, but in reality the sheer number of cases mean that this process can be slow and drawn out.

 

Ordinary proceedings

Ordinary proceedings are partly written and partly oral. The parties file submissions accompanied by all supporting case documents (original or certified copies). Oral pleadings, with the litigants, their lawyers, and their witnesses are heard on the main hearing date. During these proceedings the judge is required to attempt conciliation between the parties.

Standard court procedures can be also fast and effective when the creditor can provide documents that clearly show the amount of debt and the confirmation of delivery of goods (or proper performance of services), especially if the documents have been signed by the debtor. The court issues an order for payment which states that the debtor should pay the amount of the debt in two weeks, or return a written argument within the same period of time. However, in standard procedures, it is quite easy for the defendant to postpone the case. When the defendant argues the order of payment during this kind of procedure, it can take a long time to obtain the final verdict, due to the lack of judges and large backlog of cases. 

Enforcement of a legal decision

When all appeal venues have been exhausted, a judgment becomes final and enforceable. If the debtor does not comply with the judgment, the creditor can request that the court orders a compulsory enforcement mechanism of the decision, through a bailiff. For foreign awards rendered in an EU country, specific enforcement mechanisms such as the EU Payment order or the European Enforcement Order can be used for undisputed claims. Awards rendered in non-EU countries are recognised and enforced, provided that the issuing country is party to a bilateral or multilateral agreement with Poland. 

Insolvency proceedings

Restructuring proceedings

The 2015 reform on polish insolvency law introduced four new types of restructuring proceedings which aim to avoid the bankruptcy of insolvent or distressed businesses.

The “arrangement approval proceedings” is available to debtors who are able to reach an arrangement with the majority of creditors without court involvement and where the sum of the disputed debt does not exceed 15% of total claims. The debtor will continue to manage its estate but it will be required to appoint a supervisor, who will prepare a restructuring plan. The creditors approve the proposal through a vote.

Accelerated arrangement proceedings are also available if the sum of the disputed debt does not exceed 15% of total claims. The procedure is simplified in relation to the allowance of claims carrying voting rights. Creditors can only make reservations via a list of claims prepared by the court supervisor or administrator. The debtor’s estate will continue to be managed by the debtor-in-possession, but a court supervisor will be appointed to supervise its management.

The “standards arrangement” proceeding is available for disputed debts exceeding 15% of the total claim. With these proceedings, the court secures the debtor’s estate by appointing a temporary court supervisor.

“Remedial” proceedings offer the broadest restructuring options and scope of protection of the debtor’s assets against creditors. The appointment of an administrator to manage the debtor’s estate is mandatory.

 

Bankruptcy proceedings

Bankruptcy proceedings can only be declared when a debtor has become “insolvent”. There are two test of insolvency – the liquidity test and the balance sheet test. Both aim to liquidate the estate of the bankrupt company and distribute the proceeds among its debtors. The entire procedure is court-driven, although the 2015 reform has given creditors holding major claims a right to influence the Polish anti-crisis legislation (so called “Anti-Crisis Shield”) to a small extent affects issues related to cash receivables in business-to-business relations, although the exception here are receivables resulting from lease contracts in commercial facilities over 2000 square meters. In this respect, the obligation to pay the rent was temporarily suspended for the full-lockdown period.

 

COVID – 19: 

The most important solutions introduced by this legislation concern bankruptcy proceedings thus the responsibility of management board members for failure to file a bankruptcy petition was suspended. This resulted in a decrease in the number of bankruptcy petitions (instead of the expected increase) in the initial phase of the pandemic. Anti-Crisis Shield also announced a new type of restructuring procedure, namely the simplified restructuring procedure. This procedure is similar to the procedure for approval of an arrangement, which has not been popular so far. The opening of this procedure is associated with undoubted privileges for the debtor, such as the suspension of creditors' obligations for a maximum period of four months while the court approves the arrangements made with creditors.  During this period, it is impossible for the creditors to terminate contracts or to start enforcement procedures titles (like court judgements or payment orders). It is all linked with a minor restriction in managing the debtor’s company. So far, we observe a certain number of these proceedings being opened.

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