Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Poland's progress: international rankings season

It's that time of year again when nations are scrutinised and ranked according to parameters which determine where global business should locate its activities. Last week, the World Bank published its Doing Business ranking, in which Poland advanced once again (from 45th to 38th in terms of ease of doing business). And EF, a language training company, published its English Proficiency Index, which placed Poland as sixth best (!) in the non-native English-speaking world in terms of its population's mastery of the de facto global language. Poland is among the fastest-improving countries in the world when it comes to knowing English.

Today, Transparency International published its Corruption Perception Index, looking at how corruption is perceived across 175 countries around the world. For the ninth year in a row, Poland did better than the year before, albeit the pace of improvement has slowed down.

This is a clear wake-up call to Ms Kopacz's government not to take its eye off the ball. Although Poland is not slipping, the pace of improvement is far slower than in the first two years of the Tusk administration, when the leaps away from Millerite corruption were most noticeable. Whether you tend to be left-leaning or right-leaning (or, like me, seek balance), corruption is something we can all agree on needs to be extirpated with extreme prejudice.

Look at the graph below which puts Poland into the context of other former communist states. Poland has clearly distanced itself not only from the Balkans and the post-Soviet space, but also from the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. Only Estonia, a country that's more Scandinavian than Slavic ranks ahead of Poland. The distance between the UK and Poland (17 points and 21 positions) is smaller than between Poland and Romania (18 points and 34 positions). And this year Ukraine advanced (marginally) from its dire 2013 ranking, while Russia slipped back. Note the effect that EU membership has had on these countries. And note also the general connection between low corruption and high standards of living.

EU membership has brought huge benefits to Poland, not least in terms of the quality of its public administration, now able to share best practices across the member states, better and clearer (though still a long way off perfection) laws and regulations, and a lack of tolerance to corruption. Gone forever are the days when a well-stuffed envelope can buy you the necessary planning permit from the town hall, or a large banknote can let you off a drunk-driving charge.

Foreign investors are looking for transparency, stability and predictability; when investing with a 20- to 30-year timeframe, a government that grasps, wheedles and wobbles is not going to be a good place to build a factory, warehouse or shopping mall, no matter how cheap the labour or the land.

The quality of a country's institutions is paramount; effective, productive public administrators able to carry out their functions quickly and well is crucial to the citizens' well-being.

So a big thank-you to the World Bank, to the World Economic Forum, to Transparency International and to other institutions, NGOs and think-tanks that take the time to compare countries and rank them. Governments take notice, citizens take notice. Governments that fail to deliver improvements get democratically booted out.

This time last year:
The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2013

Also this time last year:
Poland's rapid advance up the education league table: PISA 2013

This time two years ago:
Life expectancy across the EU: more comparisons


AndrzejK said...

All good news but as far as Mr Kaczynski and his cohorts are concerned things are getting worse. And the real problem is that his misguided electorate believes the hog wash!

Warsiawiak said...

If one believes in Transparency International reports, he can believe in absolutely anything... For example in Platforma Obywatelska's immaculacy regarding systemic bribery. Any sober observer or participant in public life sees that after 2007 and Kaczynski's resignation levels of corruption have risen - not fallen - steadily.
Scandals around public investments, EURO2012, Amber Gold, leaked tapes, staged verdicts in courts, luxurious lifestyle of leading politicians... and it's only a tip of the iceberg.
Transparency International was established in Germany, and PO can be labeled as a group which represents German interests well in Poland. That's another reason, apart from daily experience which goes counter to their claims, why TI findings in Poland shouldn't be taken too seriously...

Anonymous said...

@ Warszawiak -

Crap. Crap. Lies. Bullshit. Total and utter crap.

It's the era of post-truth that PiS has helped to usher in, so I won't even bother to attempt to try to BOTHER to refute any of the crap you're spouting here.

I'll just shout louder that you -