Economic Studies
Poland

Poland

Population 38.0 million
GDP per capita 15,426 US$
A4
Country risk assessment
A2
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2017 2018 2019 (e) 2020 (f)
GDP growth (%) 4.9 5.1 4.3 -4.2
Inflation (yearly average, %) 1.6 1.2 2.1 2.6
Budget balance (% GDP) -1.5 -0.2 -1.0 -0.3
Current account balance (% GDP) 0.2 -0.4 -0.5 -0.1
Public debt (% GDP) 50.6 48.9 47.2 45.8

(e): estimate. (f): forecast.

STRENGTHS

  • Market of 38 million people
  • Proximity to West 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

RISK ASSESSMENT

Weaker growth ahead

In 2020, Poland is expected to experience a further deceleration of growth, after a slowdown perceived in 2019. Nevertheless, the growth pace is likely to remain at solid levels. It will be again supported by domestic demand, especially household consumption (59% of GDP), which remains the main growth driver. Consumer spending benefits from a number of factors: the unemployment rate reached the lowest level in the last 30 years, wages are set to keep growing at fair rates (enhanced by a series of substantial minimum wages hikes), the central bank’s rate is at its lowest point in history, consumer sentiment indicators remain on high levels, and there are fiscal stimulus measures, including the extension of child allowance programme. Nevertheless, room for further acceleration of household spending is limited after its expansion in previous years. Specifically, an increase of inflation will make wage growth less robust in real terms. Prices are likely to exceed the central bank’s inflation target in the first quarter of 2020, being fuelled by further growth of food prices and a possible increase of electricity prices. However as it will be temporary, the leading interest rate is expected to remain at its current level.

 

Fixed asset investments will contribute to growth but less than household consumption. Although companies are likely to invest in expanding their capacities, it mostly applies to large companies, which are often local entities of foreign businesses that still benefit from attractive labour costs in Poland despite their increase during the last years. Net exports will be a drag on growth with solid imports and concerns on export dynamics. Although the latter remained in positive areas, it already started to suffer from a lower demand in the second half of last year, especially in Germany, which remains the crucial export destination. Possible disruptions in global value chains could affect Polish producers that are widely integrated into them.

 

Labour shortages are likely to ease, facing lower demand expectations. However, a lack of workforce will be still an important obstacle for businesses. They are especially evident in the manufacturing, construction and transport sectors.

 

The budget nearly balanced despite social measures

The general government deficit has remained relatively low since 2017. It is estimated that it reached 1.0% of GDP last year. Costly social transfers, including child benefits and an increase of pensions, are going to be offset by social contributions and direct taxes revenues thanks to the favourable labour market and solid growth. Although the idea of removal of the payment cap on social contributions seems to have been abandoned, an increase in excise duties is still scheduled to be introduced in 2020. Moreover, this year’s budget will benefit from one-off revenues, including a conversion fee from the transformation of the pension fund as well as sales of telecommunication frequencies and CO2 emission certificates. The government assumed that the budget will be balanced this year, but such an assumption could be overoptimistic. The general government debt remains on a manageable and declining level, below 50% of GDP.

 

The current account balance turned slightly negative in 2018 and is estimated to remain in that area in 2019 and 2020. Trade in services continues to post a surplus, supported by transportation services abroad, and balanced trade in goods is still growing despite the global slowdown. Balances of primary and secondary income remain negative. The negative balance on primary income resulted mostly from negative balances on investment income and secondary income resulted from the negative balance on general government sector.

 

The governing party extends its lead

The ruling right-wing party Law and Justice (PiS) party has narrowly won a second term in office in the latest parliamentary elections held in October 2019. However, its grip on power was weakened after it lost control of the upper house (Senate) and failed to increase its absolute majority in the more powerful lower chamber (Sejm). The Senate is less powerful than the Sejm. It can delay and amend legislation, but the Sejm can override such moves with an absolute majority that the PiS has. However, the senate also has a say in nominating many key officials, which could undermine PiS’s attempts to put all government institutions under its control. Compared to the previous term, an opposition-controlled upper house is likely to make the legislation process more difficult in this term. That would be specifically the case if the current President Andrzej Duda originating from PiS loses in the presidential elections scheduled for spring this year.

 

 

Last update: May 2020

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 equivalentof 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 choice of (or a change to) the court-appointed trustee.

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