CEE architects of transition: Leszek Balcerowicz
Leszek Balcerowicz served as minister of finance in Poland from September 1989 to December 1991, and again for three years from October 1997. He was governor of the National Bank of Poland from 2000 to 2007.
By the time the Berlin Wall came down, Leszek Balcerowicz had already been working on plans to restructure Poland’s ailing socialist economy for more than a decade.
“In 1978, I created an informal group of young economists to work on a blueprint of an improved economic system, which would still respect the geopolitical constraints,” he says. “We wanted to be realistic, because we didn’t assume that the Soviet Union would disappear in our lifetime.”
Their solution was a more radical variant on the Yugoslav socialist system.
“We proposed the introduction of self-management in firms but without Party control, because otherwise there would be no market economy,” says Balcerowicz.
The group went public with their proposals in September 1980, just as Poland’s labour movement was gaining strength. Their plan was picked up by the new Solidarity union, and for a year Balcerowicz and his team were in the political and media spotlight.