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Strong central bankers depart

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic offer three different puzzles for western European banks. While the fall of the iron curtain presented new opportunities in new markets, the transition from communist regimes to free market economies is still proving a painful struggle.

Zdenek Tuma

They call it Jaruzelski's revenge, which might sound flippant, though precious few people in Poland are laughing. The martial law imposed by general Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1981 and 1982 by all accounts left most Poles who weren't plotting the overthrow of the Communist government with precious little to do. As one Warsaw-based analyst puts it: "The shops were closed, the bars were closed and the movie theatres were closed. And with nothing much to watch on television, the only thing many people could do was make babies."

Today, if you gauge such things on the basis of the political freedom they enjoy, those babies, who have now reached voting age, are considerably better off than their parents ever were. Whether or not they are any better off in economic terms is a different question. According to Krzysztof Rybinski, president of the Polish Association of Business Economists and chief economist at ING Barings in Warsaw, the babies born in the early 1980s now make up the mainstay of the 400,000 individuals who enter the Polish labour force each year.

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