Jacek Murawski (Poland) - Poland: on the Threshold of EU Council Presidency and Re-Defining Economic Success

In my experience, foreigners tend to find that Poland is full of surprises. Andrew McAfee, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA blogged after a recent trip that Poles have a distinctive energy and appetite for life. This drive is often underrated by Poles themselves, but I believe it is the basis of our success, most visibly demonstrated by the fact that Poland was the only EU country to maintain positive GDP growth during the recent economic crisis. We will soon have a unique opportunity to demonstrate what we have learnt from our experiences -for the benefit of the entire region - as we start a six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union in July.

The last 20 years have proven that Polish companies, and to a certain extent the Polish administration, have a unique ability to flexibly adjust to unfavorable market conditions. They are also extremely creative in overcoming regulatory barriers which hinder effective operations. I would argue that a strong Information Communications Technology sector is also one of the foundations of the Polish economic success. For more than ten years, our IT/telco industry has grown more than 10% annually, becoming one of the leading economic sectors creating jobs and attracting direct investment from abroad.

Poland has the second-largest IT market in Central and Eastern Europe, next only to Russia, consisting of more than 11,000 companies employing about 100,000 people. According to early estimates from the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency, its value reached PLN 25 billion in 2010, indicating continued industry growth of 3 % compared to 2009 despite a tough climate. The market value is forecast to reach about PLN 28 billion in 2011, again driving growth momentum into the double-digit range.

Many large global enterprises have set up R&D and BPO centers in Poland, benefiting from our extensive pool of language proficiency and IT skilled local talent. Currently, there are almost two million students getting their education at the 458 universities in Poland - this translates into one of the world's highest schooling ratios and the highest number of academies in Europe. Of these, nearly 5% of students are studying IT and 6.8 % are studying technology and engineering, according to figures from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

In addition, for many years running Polish students have won top honors in coding competitions such as the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest or Microsoft's Imagine Cup competition, the worldwide finals of which Warsaw hosted in 2010. We continue to motivate the next generation of high calibre business leaders through such initiatives to drive business and technology innovation.

Similarly, during our EU presidency, I feel we will inspire other countries, not least with our proven ability to address serious challenges and manage the ongoing turbulence of today's financial markets. The European Union needs to take strong, rapid action which would aim to solve the issue of increasing debt for certain members of the community on the one hand, and allow the largest European countries to get back on the long-term growth track on the other. It's exciting to think that Poland could help shape this action.

However, our EU presidency period is filled not only with strategic challenges, but with unique opportunities for valuable networking with business representatives from other EU countries. For many Polish companies, this may be a chance to gain international recognition. For example, even though they are global tycoons, the achievements of companies such as Asseco, Solaris Bus & Coach, Selena and Kelner are still best known mostly within our country. The EU Council presidency has potential to change that and act as a platform to apply our learnings from the recent financial downturn and inspire our fellow countries to tread a brighter economic path. I also hope it will bring even greater business opportunities to our doorstep so that we can continue on our own successful national journey, especially in the IT sector.

By Jacek Murawski, general manager, Microsoft Poland



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