High Growth, High Unemployment


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "New Warsaw Express"

A series of buoyant numbers this week showed Poland's economy is booming just in time for EU entry, with ministers now predicting 6-percent growth in the first half of 2004 - more than three times that in most of Western Europe.
Industrial production, the key gauge of how much Polish manufacturing industry is churning out, in March rose by 24 percent compared to a year earlier, while retail sales were up almost 21 percent.
"This opens the way for really high growth," one bank analyst told NWE. "Importantly, construction has also turned positive and if - as we expect - this trend strengthens in April, we could see the growth being maintained for the rest of the year."
The problem is that while the economy has been recovering strongly for more than a year now, unemployment remains almost untouched. This week's jobless figures showed more than 3.2 million Poles remain unemployed - almost unchanged from a year ago, when the economy was growing at a third of the current rate. The unfortunate fact is that growth is not helping the regions that need it most - where collective farms or old, unproductive state factories have been closed, leaving whole communities out of work and without the skills or access to education to do anything about it.
Sitting in Warsaw or Katowice or Krakow it's easy to convince yourself that this is an easily solved problem - but check out some of the dead-end towns in the east or northwest of the country and it's harder to sustain this belief. Yes, as Gazeta Wyborcza reported this week, EU entry may give Poles access to half a million jobs in the UK, to medical sector posts elsewhere, and the tourist industries in southern Europe. But that only deals with those with the energy or ability to get up and, literally, go.
Many of the rest have been left psychologically and practically unemployable by communism and its aftermath, and it is difficult to see a solution. Out in the villages the people are beginning to look like a generation with nowhere to go but old age, benefit dependence and vodka. And, as Andrzej Lepper's rise in recent months makes all too clear, frustration is rising.

STEVEN MULLER

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