Predictions for 2018

Poland Today shares its forecasts for the new year, including government policy, Polish GDP growth, World Cup chances as well as some long-shots.

How will the Sunday-shopping ban affect society and the economy?

According to a TNS Polska poll carried out last year, 74% of Poles do their shopping on Sundays while 54% visit stores on Sundays at least once a month. People living in large cities will be most affected by the new restrictions as the majority use shopping malls for a variety of purposes – from getting their hair cut and eating out to dropping off their dry cleaning. So expect bigger crowds on Fridays and Saturdays once the new restrictions take force. In terms of the economy, large chains and shopping centres will feel the pinch and could start gradually laying off employees, potentially pushing up the unemployment rate.

Will Poland’s steady GDP growth continue?

With unemployment in Poland at a record low and rising wages fuelling consumption, Poland’s economy is currently looking robust, however the Polish economy is likely to slow down in 2018 due to lower economic activity in Europe and labour shortages on the domestic market. World Bank economists predict 3.2 per cent growth in 2018, down from 4.6 per cent in 2017. As always, don’t discount the unpredictable. Risks related to the uncertain outcome of the Brexit negotiations, geopolitical tensions and a shift towards more protectionist policies could have a destabilising effect on Poland’s economy.

Will the government agree to take in any refugees from conflict areas in the Middle East?

No. But it is likely to substantially boost financial assistance and humanitarian aid to the Middle East, including partnerships with aid organisations working in refugees camps in Turkey and Lebanon. The government line will continue to be that it cannot accept refugees from the Middle East because the country is already burdened by the mass inflow of Ukrainians.

What will be the next ‘hot’ city in Poland for young people?

Wrocław. Still often overlooked by foreigners visiting Poland, new international train links will lure first-time visitors to Poland’s fourth largest city. Celebrated for its cafe culture, alternative theatres and a vibrant nightlife scene, the charming city is filled with Austrian, German and even Prussian influences, a legacy of its chequered past.

Will the political leadership introduce new measures to combat environmental problems such as air quality?

Yes. But don’t hold your breath (or actually do, when outdoors). Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has made it a point to focus on the country’s pollution during his time in office – he has pledged to significantly improve the air quality in Polish cities within five years. But it will take time for the changes to be felt. In the meantime, especially in the lead up to United Nations Climate Change Conference in the mining city of Katowice this December, expect the government and regional authorities to get creative and use smog-combatting UAV technology. In Katowice, officials have begun using a drone equipped with sensors that can map discrepancies in air quality to detect any prohibited pollutants being emitted into the air.

Which Polish start-up will be on everyone’s lips in 2018?

Codewise – an exciting, self-financed start-up specialising in advertising technology. Last year, Codewise was ranked second overall in the FT 1000 list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies. Robert Gryn, the company’s flamboyant CEO, has amassed a net worth of $180 million and is the youngest self-made millionaire on Poland’s Forbes Rich List. Expect Codewise to reach new heights internationally in 2018 and beyond.

Will UK-based Poles start returning en masse to Poland?

Uncertainty and insecurity caused by the Brexit vote, combined with the attractive pull of a thriving Polish economy, will lure more Poles to return to their homeland. But don’t expect a mass exodus from the United Kingdom just yet. Poles are now the country’s largest foreign-born community. And a new generation is blooming: last year Polish-born mothers gave birth to over 22,000 babies in England and Wales, more than any other foreign group. Many Polish families still see their future in the UK.

Will Poland win the World Cup?

No. But they stand a strong chance of reaching the quarter-final assuming that they beat Japan and draw against Colombia and Senegal. They would then stand a good chance of playing Belgium or England in the knockout stage. If they manage to squeeze through then they could face Brazil, against whom their World Cup adventure will likely end. The good news is that Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski has a good chance of becoming the competition’s top scorer,  as long as his team breaks out of the group stage.

Will there be a lot of new mayors in Poland after the municipal elections, or will the status quo stand in most cities?

PiS will sweep most of eastern Poland and swathes of central Poland, wresting power away from PO in at least six or seven of its 15 voivodeships. Expect new mayors in Wrocław, Gdańsk, Poznań, Kraków and Warsaw, although Poland’s capital city will most likely stay under PO control. If PiS candidates took power in some big cities, it would be a sign that the metropolitan electorate has ceased to be inaccessible to the party. The results of the autumn vote will be an indicator of whether a PO-Nowoczesna coalition could pose a serious challenge to PiS in European Parliament, Sejm and Senate elections in 2019.

Will the EU push ahead with Article 7, leading to sanctions being imposed on Poland? 

Frans Timmermans

Yes, but don’t expect sanctions. EU member states will drag out the early stages of the Article 7 process against Poland in the first half of this year, recognizing their leverage is ultimately limited by the need for unanimity (Hungary has promised to veto any punitive measures against Poland). French President Emmanuel Macron will spearhead efforts to regain influence over Warsaw by attaching conditionality to EU funds in the next budget cycle, but any reduction in flows will only deepen the East-West divide. Therefore although sanctions against Poland are very unlikely, the PiS government will become increasingly marginalised in Europe.

Will plans be put into place to knock down Warsaw’s Palace of Culture? 

Yes. But don’t take them too seriously, just yet. 2018 marks the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, so we can expect a lot of pomp and circumstance throughout the year. The announcement of plans to knock down the Palace of Culture, a “gift from Stalin,” could very well be on the cards. After all, the current government has been known for its strong symbolism and grand gestures.

With Poland’s biggest airports predicted to be at capacity this summer, how will Polish tourists be affected?

Prepare for summer hell. In 2018, Warsaw Chopin Airport, Modlin and Kraków Airport will be operating at maximum capacity. Out of the three, only Kraków has expansion plans in place. So factor in delays and logistical mishaps when travelling this year.

Orban, Szydlo…Morawiecki? Will the new Polish Prime Minister be named “Person of the Year” at this year’s edition of the Krynica Economic Forum? 

Yes. 2018 will be an important year for Mateusz Morawiecki. The Prime Minister will need to shore up support within PiS and, more broadly, among the Polish electorate. This will involve sustaining a balance between appeasing the party faithful and not losing touch with the political centre. The key will lie in keeping the Polish economy on track and implementing proposals addressed at the middle class. If he manages to pull this off then there is a very good chance that PiS will maintain its strong lead in the polls and Morawiecki will be crowned “Person of the Year” at the Krynica Economic Forum this year.

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Written by: Philip Boyes

Philip Boyes who is half Polish and half British, has written speeches, sometimes on the back of restaurant napkins, for presidents, prime ministers and congressmen. A former Reuters journalist, his work has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Philip is a graduate of the London School of Economics and King‘s College London.