MAJOR MACRO ECONOMIC INDICATORS
|GDP growth (%)||1.9||1.6||3.1||3.3|
|Inflation (yearly average) (%)||3.7||0.9||1.5||2.4|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-3.9||-4.5||-3.5||-3.0|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-3.7||-1.3||-1.3||-1.6|
|Public debt (% GDP)||55.6||57.5||49.5||50.1|
- Resilient financial sector
- Diversified economy
- Attractiveness for foreign direct investments strengthened by the size of the domestic market
- Largest beneficiary in value of European structural funds
- Inadequate investment rate
- Large regional disparities
- High household debt level in foreign currency
- Vulnerability to the Ukrainian crisis
Faster rate of growth driven by domestic demand
The recovery in growth that began in the final quarter of 2013 has continued into 2014, thanks mainly to a resurgence in domestic demand. The improvement in the labour market and the growth in real incomes have both played their parts in boosting household consumption. Although unemployment is beginning to shift downwards, it remains high (just below 10%), essentially due to structural factors. Whilst Poland remains relatively inward looking compared to other Central European countries, its trading and financial links implies that it is closely integrated into the European market and particularly dependent on Germany, which absorbs 25% of its exports of goods. The commercial importance of Poland’s European partners as well as its efforts to penetrate the markets eastwards make it highly vulnerable to external shocks, such as any slowdown in Eurozone growth or the Ukrainian crisis. In this regard the imposition of counter-sanctions by Russia on gas, although not very likely, could have negative consequences given the country’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. The current ban on certain imports is already having a slight impact on the food-processing industry and is increasing disinflationary pressures. The effect on growth so far has been fairly limited though. The latest European structural fund budgets for the 2014 – 2020 period should help to boost private investment and enable the creation of jobs in the medium term. The growth of credit should also spur investment. Despite the recovery, inflation has remained low. The low rate of imported inflation, especially as regards the energy sector, and a number of domestic factors such as good harvests in 2014 are some of the underlying reasons. Inflation is likely to increase gradually towards the target level set by the Central Bank (2.5%). Otherwise the latter could either maintain or further cut its policy interest rate (2.5%).
A consolidation of public accounts appears to be underway
Following the worsening of the budget deficit in 2013, equal to 4.5% of GDP, a deficit reduction policy was implemented this year with the aim of beginning the reduction in debt. The reforms of the pension system introduced in 2014, including the reintegration of private contributions into the public sphere, should be synonymous with a subsequent reduction in public debt. The 2009 finance legislation has been amended accordingly: the public debt thresholds leading to automatic budget cuts have been lowered to 43% and 48% (from 50% and 55% previously). The improvement in the balance of payments continues. The current deficit, running at 1.3% of GDP in 2013, is at its lowest level in 15 years. The balance of trade was in surplus in 2013, something not seen in the last 20 years, and this trend continued in the first-half of 2014. Part of the explanation lies in the increase in exports outside the Eurozone. The upturn in domestic demand and the resulting growth in imports could however drive up again the current account deficit despite the resilience of European fund transfers. Poland’s opening to foreign capital also makes it vulnerable to any increase in global aversion to risk that could arise following the deterioration in the geopolitical situation in Ukraine or the ending of FED’s exceptional measures. The financial sector and the Zloty are however currently holding steady in the face of those troubles. The level of reserves held by the Central Bank is moreover relatively consequential.
A new Prime Minister
While he was the leader of the fragile ruling coalition, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been chosen as the next President of the European Council in September 2014. Consequently, Ewa Kopacz, the former Marshal of the Sejm (lower house of the Parliament), has been designated as the next Prime Minister of Poland. As Donald Tusk, she belongs to the centre-right Liberal party (PO), which is leading the coalition. The upcoming Presidential elections, scheduled for summer 2015, will be followed by Parliamentary elections in the autumn. Few major reforms are therefore expected before those dates. The risk of early Parliamentary elections cannot be excluded though. Besides, the business environment has improved thanks to the implementation of several institutional reforms.
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 and protested bills and cheques, creditors may resort to a fast-track procedure resulting in an injunction to pay.
Cash payments were commonly used in Poland by individuals and firms alike, but under the “Freedom of business activity Act” (Ustawa o swobodzie działalności gospodarczej), of 2 July 2004, which came into force on 21st August 2004, companies are required to make settlements via bank accounts for any transaction exceeding the equivalent in złotys of 15,000 Euros even when payable in several instalments.
This measure aims to counter fraudulent money laundering.
One highly original instrument is the weksel in blanco, 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 (amount, place and date of payment) in accordance with a prior agreement between issuer and beneficiary.
Weksels in blanco are widely used, as they also constitute a guarantee of payment in commercial agreements and the rescheduling of payments.
Bank transfers have become the most widely used payment method. Leading Polish banks – after an initial phase of privatisation and a second phase of concentration – use the SWIFT network, which offers a cheap, flexible and quick domestic and international funds transfer service.
Where possible, it is advisable not to initiate recovery proceedings locally due not only to the cumbersome formalities and the high cost of legal action, but also to the country’s lengthy court procedures: it takes almost two years to obtain a writ of execution due to the lack of judges adequately trained in the rules of the market economy and proper equipment.
However, there are significant efforts to improve the efficiency of the courts.
Serving a demand for payment, properly accompanied by proof of debt, reminds the debtor of his obligation to pay the outstanding sum, plus any accrued interest.
Since the term of limitation for receivables arising from a merchandise sales contract, and any ensuing past-due interest, is only two years, suppliers should exercise extreme vigilance.
From 1st January 2004, interest may be claimed as of the 31st day following delivery of the product or service, even where the parties have agreed to a longer payment time. The legal interest rate will apply from the 31st day until the contractual payment date.
Thereafter, in case of late payment, the tax penalty rate will apply and it will very often be higher than the legal interest rate, unless the contracting parties have agreed on a higher interest rate.
A Bill to implement the directive 2011/7/EU of 16 February 2011 on “combating late payment in commercial transactions” provides between the contracting parties a maximum payment term of 60 days. Similarly, default interest will be due the day after the deadline, without the need for a formal notice.
It is advisable to seek an out-of-court settlement based on a payment schedule drawn up by a public notary, which includes an enforcement clause that allows creditors, in the event of default by the debtor, to go directly to the enforcement stage, subject to acknowledgement by the court of the binding nature of this document.
Creditors may seek an injunction to pay (nakaz zaplaty) via a fast-track and less expensive procedure, provided they produce positive proof of debt (like unpaid bills of exchange, unpaid cheques or weksels in blanco, or else 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.
Since 1st January 2010, when the claims are certain, the district court of Lublin has jurisdiction throughout the country, to handle electronic injunctions to pay.
The clerk of the court examines the merits of the application, to which is attached the list of the available evidence, then, with its electronic signature, he validates the ruling granting the injunction to pay.
This fast, economic and flexible process has become very successful.
Ordinary proceedings are partly in writing with the parties filing submissions accompanied by all supporting case documents (original or certified copies) and partly oral with the litigants, their lawyers, and their witnesses heard on the main hearing date.
At such legal proceedings, the judge is required, as far as possible, to attempt conciliation between the parties.
Although each party bears his own legal costs incurred in the course of the proceedings, after making a ruling the court will generally require the losing party to bear most of the cost of the procedure.
Commercial disputes are generally heard by the economic courts (sąd gospodarczy), falling under the jurisdiction of either district courts (sąd rejonowy) or regional courts (sąd okręgowy), depending on the value of the claim.