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What will Poland look like in 10 years’ time?

Jaka będzie Polska za 10 lat?
The THINKTANK Centre for Dialogue and Analysis presented the results of over 1.5 year long project entitled “RE-VISIONS. How will the state, market, labour, education, lifestyle and position of Poland in Europe change in the coming decade.”

The conclusions of the report were formulated by over 200 experts and practitioners from various fields and sectors, i.e. research and academic community, NGOs, economists, sociologists and psychologists, entrepreneurs, public administration, social activists and media.

In their search for answers to the question of how the environment surrounding Poland will change, the THINKTANK experts visited also the world’s largest cities (Bangkok, Delhi, Hong Kong, London, New York, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and several others) to find out how the “rhythm of civilisation” is changing. This is probably the first project on such a grand scale in Poland.

Scenarios for the future: growth carnival will not last forever

The report entitled “RE-VISIONS. Poland in a decade” was drawn up using the scenario method. Its objective was to analyse the existing or emerging trends and to attempt at extrapolating them based on the possible, extreme development scenarios. The method proved to be useful in numerous companies and countries; for example, the scenario report by Shell, drawn up in the 1960s, already then stated that the importance of environmental threats would increase significantly.

“The knowledge of ‘black’ and ‘rosy’ scenarios enables better reactions and better governance. Sustained growth made us indolent. But we cannot think that the growth carnival will last forever. The scenarios of RE-VISIONS were developed, because the analytical capacity in the public sphere is disappearing. Nobody analyses the situation comprehensively, there is no government centre for strategic studies that could identify and respond to emerging trends and phenomena. This is unthinkable in a modern state”, says Paweł Rabiej, managing partner of the THINKTANK Centre for Dialogue and Analysis.

Rosy scenario: on a path to sustainable prosperity

Under the rosy scenario, Poland will maintain its growth rate mainly thanks to the “second wave of entrepreneurship” and smart adaptation and response to trends.

In the state, the public sphere will be reformed by the younger generation of politicians who will become key actors in the next several years. Young people, entrepreneurs and “Polish Europeans” will be the agents of change. Local government, which is currently better managed than the state, will become the basis of growth. Improved quality of governance will allow to more efficiently solve problems which are currently often swept under the carpet and to adjust regulations to the changes outside the EU.

The economic growth will be fostered by development of Internet, expansion of Polish companies abroad, solutions facilitating e-commerce and a greater “market justice” which is the result of providing equal opportunities and eliminating various barriers and regulations. Combined with activity-promoting policy and social assistance, this will be conducive to reduction of stratification.

The increasing effectiveness of companies and the changes in educational policy and labour market will create “the second wave of development.” Technology will eliminate many jobs, but jobs will be offered mainly by medium-sized innovative Polish companies. Schools will be transformed into modern education centres providing training in the most important competences of today, i.e. understanding, cooperation, communication, creativity.

As regards lifestyle, the possibility to express oneself and the room for personal freedom will grow. Consumer behaviour will be determined by hundreds of microtrends (multicultural mosaic). This diversity will increase the level of social capital. “To be” will be more important than “to have”. Consumer responsibility will increase and consumers will make more informed decisions.

Of course, not everybody will be happy, but the created development framework will be conducive to realisation of one’s ambitions and aspirations in Poland and not abroad. Poland will follow the reasonable development path of Germany, thanks to social dialogue, entrepreneurship and identification of growth opportunities. Stronger expansion of Polish firms in the world, as well as durable and sustainable growth will strengthen the position of Poland in Europe and its attractiveness as a brand.

Black scenario: incompetent governance and chaotic drift

Under the black scenario, Poland will fall into a populist drift. Aversion to governance and to making difficult decisions will result in the exodus of talent and capital.

The state, weakened by globalisation, will fall into a drift and the “Italian model”. The young generation will not make any changes, and the political scene will become even more theatrical. Social life will be rocked by subsequent outbursts of discontent. In the ageing society, pensioners will become an increasingly stronger and destabilising political force. The young will contest the state and emigrate.

Protectionist tendencies and the intention to close the economy will gain in power, calls will arise for boycott of goods from other countries, participation in the common market will be contested, the pressure to increase regulation will intensify and the trend to limit the development of technology and free market will become more pronounced. This will reduce the opportunities for competition and consumer choices; it will also result in the outflow of capital.

Interesting, well-paid jobs will be the privilege of the few. Social tensions will increase due to a greater burden on those who have a job. Talent drain will intensify. Education will become more centralised, although grass-roots changes introduced by headmasters and parents cannot be stopped.

Those tensions will have an impact on lifestyles. Increasing stratification and lower incomes will enhance the tensions. Exclusion will spread, “worldview wars” will intensify (“conservative counter-transformation”). Emptiness and lack of hope will lead to trivialization and alienation, simple-mindedness and escape from responsibility. The Sandwich generation, i.e. the current 40 and 50-year olds, will be in the worst position, since they will care for their spoilt and dependent children and for their aging parents.

Stagnation, shocks and chaos will increase the marginalisation of Poland in Europe. Human and investment capital will flow to better and smarter managed, stable countries; talented individuals and businesses will search for development opportunities abroad (emigration, relocation of companies). Poland will not be compared to Korea or Singapore, but will be described as a star which lit up for a while and then disappeared.

Which scenario has a chance to materialise?

Both scenarios are realistic and both can materialise within a decade. In 2025, the newspapers around the work (newspapers in print will still exist) may entitle their articles about Poland both “Poland as undisputed leader of smart growth” and “How long will Poland be a problem for Europe”.

Several factors will decide on which scenario will materialise:

1. Quality of strategic thinking and governance in politics. It is currently very low. Central administration lost the ability to analyse and respond to problems, the discussion on facts was replaced by the discussion on problems. A much better governance and a much better leadership are needed. Disastrous governance quality and lack of expert competences are conducive to the black scenario.

2. Social dialogue on development challenges. The real, substantive dialogue between central government and business, between local government and business and between local and central government is definitely too weak now. It hardly touches upon development challenges. Political parties rely on dramatics, treating citizens as the object of propaganda and not the subject of informed discussion. This also acts in favour of the black scenario.

3. Participation of young generation in politics. Generation X and Y is interested in participation in public life, although the paths to inclusion are not easy to follow. Much depends on whether the demographically strong young generation will want to participate (voting, expressing opinions, exercising citizen opportunities, exerting impact on the surrounding environment, joining or establishing political parties).

4. Pace of international expansion of Polish companies and pace and quality of succession in family businesses. Those two overlapping categories are drivers of development. The quality of succession will determine whether family businesses will increase their innovation level and conquer new markets. Expansion and increasing the global reach of companies.

5. Security situation in Europe and the path followed by the European Union. European structures may wither and Member States may grow apart, or the closing of ranks and closer integration will take place. The year 2015 is the year of election in eight Member States. Their results will point to the direction in which the EU will go.

“Today, more than ever, the future of the Polish development depends of the Poles’ ability to think. Poland cannot rely on good economic situation in Europe or European funds to act as another stopgap. The current challenge is to find how to ensure good management and how to stand on our own feet. This requires first of all good governance. Prosperity of developing countries depends mainly on the quality of their government. Electing a weak government without competence or vision and giving in to social pressure instead of pursuing a consistent strategy increases the risk of the black scenario. The life under this scenario will not be pleasant for anyone”, says Paweł Rabiej.

MT, source: Report by THINKTANK