Forum Obywatelskiego Rozwoju

  • During the election campaign, the Civic Coalition and the Third Way promised to “depoliticize” state-owned enterprises. This commitment was also included in the coalition agreement.
  • However, representatives of the Ministry of State Assets have announced that the share of state ownership in the economy will be maintained, and the deputies of Poland 2050 party have submitted an act meant to repair corporate governance in companies with state shareholding. This indicates that the current ruling coalition does not foresee true depoliticization of state-controlled enterprises, i.e., their privatization.
  • The share of state ownership in the Polish economy is very high, and according to some studies, it is the highest in the EU.

One of the most frequently repeated electoral promises of the Civic Coalition and the Third Way in the parliamentary elections was the “depoliticization of state-owned enterprises.” This pledge was reflected in point 13 of the coalition agreement from November 10, 2023, which states, “One of the coalition’s priorities will be the depoliticization of state-owned companies by introducing clear recruitment criteria for managerial positions.” Szymon Hołownia, leader of Poland 2050, announced on Twitter a commitment to “detach politics from the finances of state-owned companies,” stating, “We did not come to precipitate in old policies. We came to change them.” By the end of February, deputies from his party submitted a legislative proposal to amend certain acts aimed at repairing corporate governance in state-shareholding companies.

Transparent and fair selection rules for board members of state-controlled companies are an important step towards depoliticizing these entities, yet they are insufficient alone. The only true change that would allow for a real and complete depoliticization of state-owned enterprises is their privatization. Controversies related to partisan appointments will not cease as long as politicians have any influence over such appointments—such influence as exercised by the Ministry of State Assets and other departments and agencies through ownership of shares. Unfortunately, recent statements by ministry representatives suggest that true and lasting depoliticization is unlikely to occur. Deputy Minister of State Assets Marcin Kulasek, when asked about privatization plans, stated that “there are no such plans at all. We believe that the state treasury should maintain these companies.” This message disturbingly echoes the claims of Marzena Małek, Minister of State Assets in the so-called two-week government of Mateusz Morawiecki: “The sale of Polish national assets, also known as the privatization of state-owned enterprises, is not a mistake, it’s a crime.”

The KO-TD-NL coalition government does not plan to return to the path of privatization, which was maintained by all governments—except those of Law and Justice—after 1989. The transformation and its most crucial element, privatization, enabled unprecedented economic development and catching up with the West. After 2015, instead of decreasing the share of state ownership, the Law and Justice government nationalized private companies, calling it “repolonization.” Notable examples include Pekao Bank, Polskie Koleje Linowe, Polska Press, and power plants. They also created and developed state-owned holdings reminiscent of the shamed communist-era conglomerates (zjednoczenia), such as Polski Holding Hotelowy, Polska Grupa Lotnicza, or Krajowa Grupa Spożywcza.

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Contact to author:

Bartłomiej Jabrzyk, FOR analyst
[email protected]