Poland’s economic growth is the strongest in Europe, Jacek Kuron, a leading architect of the Solidarity movement and a former Minister of Labor, told members of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta.  But despite this economic strength, Poland’s central government is having a difficult time governing and coordinating the country’s economic development.

Saying that Poland had crossed “to the other side of the looking glass” from a state dominated economy, Mr. Kuron added that the initial enthusiasm for a new economic order has soured as Poland’s population feels a sense of betrayal due to a high unemployment rate of almost 16%, roughly 3 million people, that is causing a sense of economic insecurity.

Under current circumstances, he said that Poland’s underground economy is flourishing and he admitted that bribery of local officials or of unofficial groups which control localities is “a fact of life.” “I don’t like bribing,” he said flatly.  But he acknowledged that in certain circumstances “without bribes nothing can be accomplished.” 

Mr. Kuron is regarded as a leading prospect to run for president in Poland’s next elections.  He has received an honorary degree from Emory University and the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.  He spoke to the Chamber Nov. 7 at the Atlanta law firm, Hunton & Williams, which has offices in Poland.

Although a consensus exists that Poland should belong to the European Union and permit foreign investment,  he said that authority is fragmented and that regional authorities have assumed power.  He also said that Poland’s politicians “are considered out of touch and detached from society.”

“There are strong regional authorities that will fight for foreign investment and others where they won’t,” he said, indicating that foreign investors should familiarize themselves with the local authorities in the areas where they hope to operate.

While he favors the establishment of a single foreign investment body that would provide a more centralized direction, he said that in the short term potential investors must deal with differing lobbies that represent regional and other self-governing groups.

For more information about the activities of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast (PACC) call, Donna Bucinski at (404) 395-2455.