Tag Archives: poverty

Masovia is wealthier than regions of Germany or Italy!

A discussion we’ve been having recently on this blog on whether Poland is poor or not, now has a surprising epilogue.

This year the income of an average resident of theWarsaw region (the Masovian voivodship) will level to 88% of the EU average – says Eurostat.

This is a great achievement: even though EU funding has only begun to reach Poland, Mazovia is already richer than the East German regions of Mecklenburg, Thuringia, Brandenburg or Saxony which for over 20 years have seen a constant influx of cash from West Germany.

What is more, Mazowsze voivodship is wealthier than a growing list of EU regions, which have never even experienced communism. Including: Picardie and Nord-Pas-de Calais, the whole south of Italy including Sicily and Sardinia. Or in Spain: Galicia, Asturia, Castilia-La Mancha, or Extremandura.

This however is just the beginning. The capital region is developing so fast, that it is very likely it will out compete more regions of Western Europe. In 2004 when Poland joined the EU the average income in Masovia was 76% of the EU average. A year later it was 81%.

Mazovia results are mostly thanks to the enormous impact of Warsaw. The largest Polish region with an area comparable to Belgium and population size similar to Denmark comprises of the cosmopolitan, rapidly developing Warsaw, but also many smaller towns with economic problems and villages more grim then in other regions of Poland (especially in the north or south). Warsaw’s strength lifts the whole region in the statistics.

The Polish government is proud of Warsaw’s performance, yet no one is chilling the champagne. There are concerns that the Masovia region has become so rich, it will no longer be eligible for EU funding (only regions with a development level lower than 75% of the EU average are eligible). The 7-year budget until 2013 had been negotiated previously, based on 2001 economical data, so there is no need for immediate alarm. However the government is considering separating Warsaw and making it a 17th region. This would sustain the support for the wider Masovian areas.

The success of Mazowsze exposes the defeat of many other regions of Poland. Four of them: Lublin, Subcarpathian, Podlachian and Holy Cross, all of them comprising the so called “eastern wall” or “Poland B”, are within Europe’s 15 poorest regions. Only Romania and Bulgaria perform less well. In the eastern part of Poland the level of development reaches only 35-38% of the EU average. It is therefore three times lower than in Masovia.

Poland, which used to be more or less homogeneous, is now a country of contrasts.

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Myth #17: Poland is poor

No it’s not. It was, 30 years ago. It isn’t now. And even 30 years ago it was pretty similar to, say, Britain in the 1950s. We’re not talking Third World poverty here. There are poor people in modern Poland for sure, and more of them as a proportion of the population than there are in the super-rich nations of Western Europe, but most westerners seem to have a wildly exaggerated view of what this means. The life of the average, working, city or town dweller in Poland is pretty much indistinguishable from the life of his or her British or French or German counterpart. People are most emphatically not walking around in rags or queuing outside bread shops or grubbing for potatoes in the fields. They drive around in shiny new cars, buy iPhones, shop in glitzy shopping malls, and eat out in trendy restaurants.

British people coming to Poland for the first time are often shocked to discover that it isn’t the austere, poverty-stricken place they had been led to expect by the lingering propaganda of the Cold War days. I’ve heard them wandering around the Old Town saying things like ‘Hey, this is just like any other city in Europe’ or ‘This is actually very nice’ in slightly unbelieving tones. I think a lot of them are slightly disappointed.

Could be anywhere in Europe… and it is.

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More myths?

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