Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Showing numerous positive signs despite recent policy reversals, Poland falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 26) in the area of economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

GDP growth has continued to be strong, showing a 4.6% gain in 2017. Personal consumption is a main driver, boosted by increased social transfers, improving labor market conditions, low lending rates and low inflation. Private investment rates have declined.

Unemployment rates have fallen markedly in recent years, reaching 6.8% in 2017. 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.

After reducing the corporate tax for small taxpayers, and increasing personal income-tax allowances, the government has focused on fighting tax evasion and fraud. The deficit has been brought down more than expected, to about 1.5% in 2017. A new program provides tax incentives for R&D.

Social Policies

With policy shifts sparking considerable controversy, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 30) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

A return to a two-tier school system has triggered massive teacher protests. 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, and a new social-housing program is in the works.

A major health-system reform is underway. Major conflicts over salaries and working conditions have produced frequent medical-worker strikes, and even a hunger strike. 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. Asylum seekers, 95% of whom are from Russia, Belarus or Ukraine, are held in guarded shelters until a decision is made on their applications.

Environmental Policies

As a reluctant follower within the EU, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.7 points relative to 2014.

The PiS government has focused on coal, gas and nuclear energy as prime energy sources, with renewables accounting for only 1%. Three new coal power stations are being built, along with a new nuclear-power station. The EU has sued the country for beginning shale-gas drilling without an impact assessment.

The government began cutting down significant areas of a protected primeval forest, citing a need to protect trees from insects. The European Court of Justice blocked further logging pending a final decision in 2018.

The country has been one of the primary critics of the EU’s climate policy and emissions-trading system. It has faced increasing pressure to meet climate-protection goals, and has agreed to dialogue seeking compromises for countries with a high dependence on coal.



Quality of Democracy

Showing serious setbacks during the review period, Poland has fallen into the bottom ranks (rank 37) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 3.1 points relative to 2014.

Using new media laws, the PiS government has gained broad control over the public media. Many viewers have boycotted the public stations. A new bill seeking to limit foreign media-ownership shares is aimed at undermining independent private 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 being undermined by restrictions on public assemblies and harsher treatment of demonstrators by police. 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 strongly limited judicial independence. 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 32) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 2.0 points since 2014.

Policy-making under the PiS government has been guided by party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. With staffing based on political loyalty, the Chancellery has lost sectoral expertise and influence on policy development. Ministers’ standing is largely dependent on relationships with Kaczyński. New appointments have secured the government’s dominance over the bureaucracy.

RIAs quality has declined significantly. The PiS often bypasses public consultation and impact-review requirements, and views many social actors as enemies. The swift passage of bills has resulted in very low quality, with many requiring immediate amendment. 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 government has closed offices tasked with preparing introduction of the euro.

Executive Accountability

With polarization increasing, Poland receives comparatively poor rankings (rank 31) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.9 points since 2014.

While parliamentarians have ample resources and strong formal executive-oversight powers, the PiS government has undermined or disregarded opposition efforts in particular. The parliamentary majority has acted slowly to appoint audit-office members, undermining its work. The ombudsman has been an active defender of civil and political rights, taking anti-government stances.

While citizens’ policy knowledge remains low on average, dissatisfaction with the government’s policies has heightened many people’s interest. 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. The Catholic Church has good government access, but has called for a more humane approach to refugees. A new social movement has united many Poles in opposition to anti-democratic government policies, with young people especially active.
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