Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With the PiS government reversing the economic policies of its predecessor, Poland falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) in the area of economic policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

While continuing to grow well above the EU average, GDP growth slowed in 2016. Investment rates have declined significantly. After deficit reductions under the previous government, the PiS government is pursuing a more expansionary fiscal policy.

Unemployment rates have fallen markedly in recent years, reaching 8.8% in 2016. The government has focused on minimum-wage increases rather than on integrating youth, less-skilled workers and women into the labor market. Regional unemployment-rate variations are large.

The tax system has been repeatedly reformed. Several new taxes were accused of violating EU competition rules. The modification of the official expenditure rule has reduced fiscal credibility. A new university-research strategy is in place, but the country still scores poorly on innovation rankings.

Social Policies

With mixed strengths and weaknesses, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 31) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The PiS government has sought to reverse previous educational reforms, in part returning to a two-tier school system. Additional changes seek to remove liberal texts and values from the curricula. Inequality rates have fallen over time, and severe poverty has been successfully addressed. Increases in family allowances and the minimum wage have further decreased social inequality.

The near-universal public health-insurance program covers only a limited range of services, and quality is often low. A major health-system reform is underway. Family policy no longer emphasizes women’s labor market integration, instead increasing allowances for parents with two or more children.

Retirement-age increases have been reversed, harming the pension-system sustainability. The PiS government has staunchly opposed intake of Muslim immigrants, rejecting the EU’s refugee distribution mechanism. Government figures have exaggerated the risk of terrorist attack.

Environmental Policies

As a reluctant follower within the EU, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 33) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.7 points relative to 2014.

While the country has broadly adopted EU environmental standards, a political consensus prioritizes economic growth over environmental protection. Successive governments have sought to protect the coal industry and obstruct EU emissions targets. Renewable-energy sources account for just 1% of production.

The government has plans to build a nuclear-power station and has engaged in shale-gas exploration. Plans to cut down parts of a protected primeval forest drew international environmentalist opposition.

The country has been one of the primary critics of the EU’s climate policy and emissions-trading system. At the Paris climate conference, the country sought special conditions related to its dependence on its coal industry.



Quality of Democracy

Showing serious setbacks during the review period, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 2.4 points relative to 2014.

Using new media laws, the new PiS government has strongly increased partisan bias in public media reporting, with politically motivated media appointments now common. Many viewers have boycotted the public stations. The government has also sought to limit the market share of independent media. Access to government information has become more restrictive.

The government’s efforts to control the judiciary, along with the imposition of new anti-terror legislation, have raised civil rights concerns. Political liberties are still largely respected. The government speaks out strongly against Muslims, the LGBT community, and “gender ideology.”

Legal certainty has strongly declined, with many new initiatives needing revision. The government has sought to change procedures at the Constitutional Tribunal. PiS forces have accused the preceding government of corruption, but have themselves come under fire for corruption and cronyism in state-owned enterprises.



Executive Capacity

Showing significant deterioration during the review period, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 31) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.7 points since 2014.

Policy-making under the PiS government is guided by party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. The prime minister’s Chancellery has lost sectoral expertise and influence on policy development. Ministers’ standing is largely dependent on relationships with Kaczyński. New appointments have secured government dominance over the administration.

RIAs quality has declined significantly. The PiS often bypasses public consultation, and views many social actors as enemies. Contradictions in government statements are common, and information provided by ministries tends to be propagandistic.

With an absolute parliamentary majority, the government been quite effective in implementing policy objectives. Local governments are often viewed as oppositional, and the PiS government has sought to reduce their role. Politicization of the administration has decreased professionalism. The country has intensified Visegrad cooperation, but its standing in the EU has suffered.

Executive Accountability

With polarization increasing, Poland falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 23) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points since 2014.

While parliamentarians have ample resources, and strong formal executive-oversight powers, opposition parliamentarians say their requests are often ignored. The government rejected the audit office’s report in 2016, indicating it wants a new head for the office. The ombudsman has been an active defender of civil and political rights.

While citizens’ policy knowledge remains low on average, a segment of society has taken to the streets to protest against government reforms. The public media now reflect government positions, but the quality of reporting has increased within the private media.

Most parties are hierarchically organized. Economic-interest associations are relatively active and developed, with unions supporting the PiS. A new social movement has united many Poles in opposition to anti-democratic government policies, organizing large demonstrations in several cities.
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