MAJOR MACRO ECONOMIC INDICATORS
|GDP growth (%)||4.5||1.9||1.6||2.9|
|Inflation (yearly average) (%)||4.3||3.7||1.0||2.0|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-5.0||-3.9||-4.8||-3.5|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-4.9||-3.5||-3.0||-3.2|
|Public debt (% GDP)||56.2||55.6||58.2||51.0|
- 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
Stronger growth in line with the uptick domestic demand
Growth slowed again in 2013, held back by sluggish domestic demand. External demand was the main growth driver. However, with a 46% openness rate, Poland is comparatively less outward-looking than other Central Europe countries such as Slovakia (93%) or the Czech Republic (75%). Private consumption will support growth in 2014. Lower inflation will contribute to a rise in real wages after a period of frozen civil servant wages. The resilience of the banking sector ensures the financing of the private sector. Non-performing loans stood below 9% in September 2013. More dynamic consumer credit growth is therefore expected. On the other hand, the unemployment seems to be stabilising at around 10% in the wake of buoyant external demand. The Polish export industry is well integrated into Germany’s value chain, which absorbs 26% of the country’s good exports. But Poland will also benefit from more dynamic trade to the east with Russia and Ukraine(10% of good exports).
On the supply side the construction sector, driven by infrastructure development, should benefit greatly from the new European structural funds budget over the 2014-2020 period. Public investment will also benefit from new financing capacity thanks to the reduction of the country’s public debt. Finally the central bank is expected to keep its key rate at 2.50%, a historically low rate since July 2013, until an increase in inflation that is unlikely to occur before the second half of 2014.
A deceptive sudden consolidation of the public accounts
The fiscal deficit worsened in 2013. Poland remains subject to the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) initiated in 2009 by the European Commission. The 2013 economic slowdown greatly affected fiscal revenues. Since 2009, the finance law has fixed public debt thresholds at 50% and 55%, which, if exceeded, would result in automatic budget cuts. Exceeding the 50% threshold in 2013 required a spending reduction plan equal to 0.5% of GDP. In 2014, the pension fund reform will considerably reduce public debt through the reintegration of private pension assets to the public balance sheet, estimated at 8% of GDP. At the same time, the remuneration from managing these funds will increase fiscal revenues by 1% of GDP annually.
The current account deficit will increase slightly because of the domestic demand recovery, which will boost imports. This deficit is almost entirely funded by transfers of European structural funds and foreign investments. Moreover,Polandhas benefited from a two-year IFM arrangement under the Flexible Credit Line for $34 billion since January 2013. Nevertheless, the widening current account deficit could increase the zloty volatility especially with increasing portfolio investments linked to the foreign appetite for government bonds. But the central bank has comfortable foreign exchange reserves (6 months of imports). It could intervene by selling foreign currency, as it already did in June 2013 to limit the zloty depreciation.
A weakening coalition
Prime Minister Donald Tusk leads the coalition formed by his liberal centre-right party (PO), with 207 out of 460 parliamentary seats, and the 27 MPs of the Polish People’s Party (PSA). The majority is ensured by only two Mps following the defection of several members. However, the PO has a large majority in the Senate with 62 of the 100 seats. In September 2013, around 100,000 Poles have demonstrated their discontentment against the country’s social and economic policy. Then in October 2013, a petition initiated by an association of inhabitants led to a referendum asking the mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz (PO), to resign. The outcome was unmistakable with 94% of votes in favour but the low voter turnout of only 27% invalidated the vote. The November 2013 ministerial reshuffle illustrates the coalition’s determination to check the fall in its popularity. In this context, early parliamentary elections cannot be ruled out. Moreover, it is becoming easier to do business 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.