Poland has made massive strides away from a centrally planned economy towards a freer market-oriented economy since the fall of communism in 1989.
Huge amounts of effort have been put into the liberalisation of trade, economic restructuring and the adaptation of globally recognised legal and financial standards.
In May 2004, Poland became a fully integrated member of the European Union enabling it to access the vast European single market where goods, services, capital and labour flow freely in a way which would have been unimaginable under the old Soviet-based system.
These changes have enabled Poland’s economy to grow at a much faster rate than many of its European neighbours – it has at times almost reached ‘Asian tiger’ levels of growth. These growth levels have been stifled by the post-2008 global recession, but Poland is well placed to recover strongly.
Yet despite the progress that has been made, Poland is still very much a transitional economy and suffers from the typical breaks on growth which hinder the development of many of its former Soviet-neighbours.
Decades of under-investment in infrastructure, an under-developed banking system and other legacy issues from the previous era all combine to make progress slower than many would wish.
The contrast between the old systems and the new approach can be seen at all levels of Polish business life – they even mark out a difference in attitude between the older generation and the new generation who have entered the workforce since the end of the communist era. (This generational tension is explored further in other sections of this country profile.)