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Privatization takes a slower route

A point of increasing concern for Poland and its foreign investors is the extent to which the new government is committed to the rapid pace of privatization that characterized the country's successful early transformation into a market economy. On present form doubts are emerging about its willingness to press ahead with the rest of the job, particularly in strategic sectors and where the already high unemployment rate is likely to be increased.

Lescek Balcerowicz

Most Polish assets are now in private hands - 76% of assets in the banking system are foreign-owned, for example - but some prize assets are still state-owned. The government has been frank about the fact that it wants to review some of the sales that were pending under the direction of the previous government, particularly in the insurance, banking, oil and power sectors.

Among these, the new government has said it will block the sale of the four remaining major state-owned banks: savings bank PKO Bank Polski, co-operative bank Gospodarki Zywnosciowej, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego and postal bank Bank Pocztowy.

It wants to do this because it feels that the privatize-at-any-cost strategy pursued by the previous government led to some misguided disposals. And now there is the additional pressure of the rising unemployment rate, which already stands at 18%.

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