Thursday, 21 January 2016

Warsaw voivodship: good idea, or pie in the sky?

One idea proposed by the current government that I thoroughly support is that of creating a separate voivodship (or province) of Warsaw. In its current form, the province of Mazowsze consists of a massively wealthy Warsaw (wealthier than Glasgow, Bristol or Nottingham in terms of GDP per head at purchasing power parity) surrounded by swathes of far poorer towns plagued with high unemployment. And while in its current shape, Mazowsze as a region is richer than the EU average. And because of its supposed wealth, Mazowsze receives lower funding from EU programmes designed to iron out inter-regional differences.

I agree for two reasons: 1) better urban planning for Warsaw, connecting its hinterland with its labour market and 2) better absorption of EU funds by the rest of Mazowsze.

Whereas the five voivodships of eastern Poland (Podkarpacie, Świętokrzyskie, Lubelskie, Podlaskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie) are recipients of additional EU funds through a separate programme, Mazowsze does not.

[A bit of background. Administrative units across the EU classed as NUTS - from the French - Nomenclature des Unites Territoriales Statistiques. NUTS-0 are countries, NUTS-1 are macro-regions. Poland has seven of these. NUTS-2 are, in Polish terms, voivodships. It is at the NUTS-2 level that EU Cohesion Programmes are targeted. NUTS-3 are small regions, in Polish terms, poviats. A poor poviat in a rich voivodship therefore misses out on its share of EU funds.]

Compare neighbouring poviats like Szydłowiecki (31.2% unemployment) and Starachowicki (12.8% unemployment). The former is in rich Mazowsze, the latter in poor Świętokrzyskie. Then take Radom, a city the size of Portsmouth or Newcastle-on-Tyne. It has the highest unemployment (18.3%) of any major town in Poland, nearly double the national average (9.6%). When drawing up the current administrative map of Poland, Radom opted to be in Mazowsze, rather than suffer the indignity of being in Świętokrzyskie (capital in Kielce – a city smaller than Radom).

Poverty is not just a feature of southern Mazowsze. Towns like Ostrołęka, Siedlce and Ciechanów, once capitals of the tiny, pre-1999 voivodships, also have far higher-than-average unemployment. Across Mazowsze, only Warsaw and its surrounding districts (poviats) has an unemployment rate below the national average. Ah – there's one exception. Płock. Home to Poland's petrochemical industry (and home town of Mazowsze's Marshal, Adam Struzik), Płock (10.2% unemployment) has generally escaped the worst privations caused by low growth and high unemployment. Mazowsze-minus-Warsaw is being left behind by the five voivodships of eastern Poland.

Creating a separate administrative entity, akin to Greater London, Ile de France or Bratislavsky Kraj, will see a new Warsaw Agglomeration voivodship surging up the ranking of EU regions by GDP. (As it is, Mazowsze voivodship's GDP per capita is higher than that of Greater Manchester. Warsaw on its own would be far wealthier.) And it should also see the rest of Mazowsze entitled to the type of regional support funding that its richer eastern neighbours receive.

The creation of a new administrative body would require the creation of a new chief executive or marshal. Currently Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, as mayor of Warsaw, has high (70+%) approval ratings Re-elected twice, now in her third term of office, she remains popular. [I curse her name, however, whenever I trudge home along ul. Karczunkowska in the mud or deep snow – where's our bloody pavement?] But the second Metro line has been built, new roads are being built, Warsaw has many new buses and trams, and it is clear to one and all that Our City is moving forward rapidly.

To the new government, the creation of a new voivodship will be an opportunity to try to unseat Mrs Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Despite the election of a PiS government nationally, 15 of 16 voivodships are run by marshals from parties other than PiS. Mrs Gronkiewicz-Waltz seemingly unshakeable position could be put up for grabs should the new voivodship be created before the end of her third term of office.

There is a need to hurry. Talk of leaving this reform until after 2020 makes no sense; EU funding will have all but dried up. But there are major issues that need to be resolved.

Firstly - the new capital of a new Mazowsze. PiS argued to make it Płock. Now, Płock is a long way from Radom, even further from Siedlce. So where should Mazowsze's capital be? It actually makes sense to keep it where it is - roughly equidistant from all points of Mazowsze - namely Warsaw. But that would upset everyone. Equally. Not a bad idea then.

Second - where would the borders of the new Warsaw Agglomeration voivodship run? The current proposition is to add the nine poviats adjacent to the capital city. This simplistic idea will lead to glaring anomalies. Why should popular exurbs Milanówek, Podkowa Leśna and Grodzisk Mazowiecki lie outside the new province (because the Grodzisk poviat is not adjacent to Warsaw) while small, distant towns like Mrozy, Jadów or Osieck lie within just because the poviats they are in adjacent poviats?

An equitable way of defining the Warsaw Agglomeration would be by travel-to-work area. Milanówek and Podkowa Leśna are commuter dormitories; Mrozy and Osieck are not. Transport infrastructure and commuting should be principle determinants in defining the new Warsaw Agglomeration voivodship. Any town where a significant part of the population travels each day into the city centre should be included.

So my proposed map of the new voivodship, bounded by the yellow line (click to enlarge), would look as follows:

Note that I've included Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki inside the boundaries. And this would include Modlin Airport - which, as Marshal Struzik's pet project, would no doubt be fought over.

Creating a Warsaw Agglomeration voivodship would instantly create a huge benefit in terms of urban planning, infrastructure and public transport. Warsaw's exurbs, currently outside its administrative remit, are not properly connected with the capital. Housing estates spring up in fields, tens of kilometres from the city centre; neither developer nor local municipality (gmina) gives a fig about how the new residents will get to their jobs. Proper roads, amenities and public transport are not laid on. Because why should they. With a NUTS-2 level capital city, this can all come to pass.

PO and PSL say that reforming the administrative borders is pointless. They give no cogent reason. As far as I'm concerned, splitting the Warsaw agglomeration from the rest of Mazowsze is good for both.

I hope that this reform that can be executed quickly and well by the new government.

This time three years ago:
Around town in the snow

This time four years ago:
Reference books are dead

This time five years ago:
A winter walk to work, and wet socks


Anonymous said...

One problem with your revised boundaries is you're cutting the Puszcza Kampinoska and National Park in half.

Another solution could be one often proposed in London - a modern natural boundary - if not for any other reason than ease of control of congestion charging: London's M25.

Warsaw's equivalent is the little known HGV bypass - the DK 50 and DK 62 - the Duża Obwodnica Warszawy.

It runs through, or near Sochaczew, Żyrardów, Mszczonów, Grójec, Góra Kalwaria, Kołbiel, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Łochów, Wyszków, Serock, Zakroczym and Wyszogród.

Another advantage is control of all key road and rail bridges.

Railheads that fall outside of the new ww, could be covered by the Metropolie law.

See more here .

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anonymous:

Many thanks for an excellent comment. The DK 50 I know well - a nightmare of a road - so many bypasses that could have been dual-carriageway were a missed opportunity. The Siskom link was very useful.

As to the Puszcza Kampinoska, its management should be able to keep it together despite it straddling voivodship boundaries.

Mat said...

What about Koleje Mazowieckie then? How do you split a railway company, rolling stock, etc? For Warsaw region in your boundaries you don't need a company that's so big. You probably only need something tad bigger than current SKM Warszawa (currently owned by the city) and WKD (owned by the voivodship). Other voivodships have problems maintaining their own rail companies (look at Koleje Śląskie for example and their disastrous first year of operation), or having to use services of Przewozy Regionalne.
Almost all Koleje Mazowieckie routes go through Warsaw, but they mostly serve people commuting long distance (at least Poland-wise long distance). It makes sense in a way that it allows more people to work in Warsaw, so they can earn better money there. I work in Mordor na Domaniewskiej and one of my colleagues commutes daily from Siedlce.
If Koleje Mazowieckie stay based in Warsaw, then they will not get EU funds for new rolling stock, Warsaw would also not care that much about transporting passengers paying their taxes outside the city. If Koleje Mazowieckie move away from Warsaw - will the main hub stay in Warsaw? Will the new Mazowieckie-bar-Warsaw voivodship marshal want to pay extra for transporting people to work in Warsaw? I know that's all short-sighted, as I think current situation, where you can commute to Warsaw by Koleje Mazowieckie train benefits everyone, but politicians tend to be short-sighted. I worry that whatever they finally create in place of current Koleje Mazowieckie will be some kind of horror for a commuter.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Mat

Koleje Mazowiecki. On the one hand, Marshal Struzik's plaything (PSL placemen get good jobs at the top), on the other a part of Warsaw's public transport, paid in part by the payment from the City for inclusion in the Karta Miejska network. KM is the only successful regional railway, mainly because so many people use it. Extending the Agglomeration to the further reaches of the travel-to-work area would, I think, have a positive effect as long as there's cooperation between the two voivodships and no political tug-o'-war over KM.