At a time when the OECD is discussing enlargement, “we still very much have the example of Poland in mind”, the secretary-general said.
Mr Gurría briefly retraced Poland’s modern history, its emergence from communism and subsequent structural changes. Joining the OECD in 1996 helped Poland to integrate itself into global policymaking circles and to gain access to the experience of other OECD countries. “Poland was also a potent symbol of a changing world,” Mr Gurría argued, pointing to other central European countries, Korea and his own home of Mexico as other examples of countries that joined the OECD at around the same time.
The secretary-general outlined Poland’s progress: its robust growth rate–some 4% per year since 1995–a skilled workforce, and high foreign investment. The number of students in higher education is nearly five times what it was in 1991, and with education investment, “Poland is laying the foundations for future growth and greater competitiveness to come”. Mr Gurría also described the OECD’s contribution to this success story, which began before membership, in the Partners in Transition programme, he recalled. Over the years, the organisation has helped develop Poland’s modern tax system, competition law and pension reform, while the combat against inflation also reflected OECD policy advice. Labour market reform and public governance have also benefited.
The secretary-general saw some difficult challenges ahead, with stubborn unemployment, high public spending and taxation, and emigration. Fighting corruption was another challenge, and the OECD chief emphasised the need to make Poland “a more attractive place for the creation of businesses and employment”.
Reforms are not easy to implement, and the OECD’s mandate was to “make reforms happen without losing the support of voters”, Mr Gurriá remarked. The secretary-general concluded by reaffirming the OECD’s readiness to back Poland “in all those areas where progress is lagging”. RJC
The full speech, “A vision for Poland: Joining the world’s most advanced countries”, is available online at www.oecd.org/speeches
©OECD Observer No 258/259, December 2006