Poland successfully managed its integration into the European Union since joining in 2004, and during the 2008-09 global financial crises it was the only member to experience growth. Poland is a high-income country with a large and diversified domestic economy.
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In the 1990s, along with many other fundamental changes, Poland began a painstaking analysis of its education system. Experts quickly focused on two major problems: only 7 percent of the population wa... Show More +s enrolled in higher education, and vocational schools were not teaching basic literacy.In short, those gaps meant that Poland was not training a workforce that could move the country toward a new, more vibrant, economy. But today, 25 years later, Poland is a country with a dynamic workforce whose competencies in reading, mathematics and science exceed OECD and EU averages.In the late 1990s, educators and lawmakers in Poland began making major changes. One big change means Polish students now spend more time in school: the country expanded mandatory schooling from 8 years to 9, adding another year in the primary grades. Poland made other adjustments. The state began shedding central control of elementary school operations by transferring decision-making to newly reformed and empowered local governments. And the government began focusing on adult education and on critical thinking skills, instead of memorization, for younger students.Another major reform reorganized secondary schools. Poland delayed the selection of students into general secondary or into technical schools by a year from the age of 15 to 16, offering a broader general education but still preparing students for the workforce by teaching them skills for specific careers. The pressure for change was clear; as Poland’s economy was evolving, so was its demand for workers.“It was apparent that neither basic vocational school students nor their teachers believed that much could be achieved as far as general skills were concerned,” writes Professor Zbigniew Marciniak, one of the key architects of the Polish education reform of the late 1990s, in a report for the World Bank. “Emphasis was instead placed on basic professional skills. This contrasted sharply with the soft competences increasingly required by the labor market of the free economy. The public was becoming increasingly aware that general skills are of key importance when faced with the need to change job or even profession.” And, to make sure the reforms were working as intended, Poland also introduced independent national assessments that not only analyze student progress but also compare individual schools with each other.At about the same time Poland was reforming its education system, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, launched an international assessment of achievement and application of key knowledge and skills of 15 year-old students, the Program for international Student (PISA). In 2000, Poland’s PISA results were below the OECD’s averages. But 3 years later, Polish students’ results had improved, and on each PISA test since 2003, Poland’s scores have risen steadily. In the last assessment cycle, conducted in 2012, Polish students placed an impressive 2nd in reading scores and 6th in mathematics in Europe. Show Less -
WARSAW, December 11, 2014 – A well-designed system that shares revenue and responsibilities between different levels of government (fiscal equalization transfers) is key to ensure that all Polish citi... Show More +zens have access to good quality public services, regardless their geographical location. As Poland embarks upon reforming the current system, it is seeking to draw on the experiences of other countries in the area of sub-national government financing.To address these issues, a joint World Bank and Ministry of Finance workshop was held in Warsaw on December 11, 2014. The discussion among participants representing subnational government associations, local government units, think-tanks and researchers, World Bank and international experts, focused on the key questions that need to be considered in reforming the current Polish system, while highlighting relevant lessons from international experiences.There is no single ideal system for fiscal equalization transfers, with many technical and political considerations unique to each country. Considering the experiences of other countries can be helpful in considering such questions as: what should be the basis for equalization (revenue, expenditure, needs etc.), and how to implement the equalization formula? Solutions and practices in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Canada can help inform the process of change, although the final outcome is likely to be uniquely Polish.“Poland needs to find its own way of designing and implementing the reform. We understand that there is no ‘best practice’ model, although there may be good and better practices – to be further developed by the Ministry of Finance,” said Mateusz Szczurek, Minister of Finance.Facilitating knowledge sharing is at the core of World Bank’s program in Poland. In a highly sophisticated client country like Poland, knowledge sharing is a two-way partnership.“The World Bank has been involved in the subnational issues in Poland for quite some time and we are pleased to be able to now support the Ministry in its plan to reform the equalization transfers. Today's workshop has been an unique opportunity to offer global knowledge but also to learn from how Poland chooses its own design,” said Mamta Murthi, Country Director for Central Europe and the Baltic Countries at the World Bank. Show Less -
Ladies and Gentlemen,Thank you all very much for coming here today. I want to thank the Ministry for allowing us to partner with them on this very important issue that will be discussed here today. In... Show More + addition to the members from the Ministry of Finance, I’d like to thank representatives of subnational governments, individual local government units, international experts, and others who are assembled here. I hope we will have very good, detailed and fruitful discussions on this very important topic.As the World Bank we have worked in a number of countries on issues connected with fiscal equalization and we find it a very important area because it speaks to our core mandate. Our core mandate is about ensuring that there is access to good quality public services that provide equality of opportunity for all citizens, and making sure that there is an intergovernmental fiscal framework that ensures access to good quality public services is very central to that. Hence this topic that we are discussing today is at the core of our mandate.It’s an important and challenging topic, I suppose I don’t need to say that. It’s an important and challenging topic for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is that any system of intergovernmental transfers not only has to meet technical requirements - it has to be efficient, it has to be sustainable - but at the same time it also needs to be politically acceptable, and so this tension between political acceptance and efficiency and sustainability is what makes the topic so interesting and challenging. We really see three aspects, or three questions, that any discussion on these issues needs to address. I’m not an expert so I will speak about these three questions in very simple terms, you will have experts who will discuss it in much greater depth than I can. But there are really three basic questions. Who should be involved, which level of government should be involved in equalization? What is it that needs to be equalized? And how should equalization be achieved?The first question: the WHO? Are we talking about horizontal redistribution – one subnational government passing on to another subnational government, or is there an intermediation role that can usefully be played by the central government or the federal government, so the WHO should play the role in equalization is a very important question. Then, the second one on WHAT should be equalized? Is it equalization of revenues, is it equalization on the basis of costs of producing services, is it equalization based on differences in needs? Understanding exactly what needs to be equalized is a very important question in order to arrive at the solution. Finally, there is the question of HOW to equalize. This is a very technical question, exactly how is the equalization achieved. So these three questions are questions that I hope we can deliberate based on the existing context in Poland.Just to give you a flavor of how these questions play out, at the moment one of the more hotly debated issues is on the so-called Robin Hood tax. I wish I could say it in Polish but I can’t but I believe by the end of the day I will be able to say it. But clearly there is a challenge because it affects the incentives of subnational governments who actually collect the tax if the marginal rate of taxation is very high. There’s also the question of the timeframe, and this relates to the HOW question. There’s a timeframe over which the revenues are measured. And if you have a downturn and you are measuring revenue capacity with a lag then you could be in a situation when a subnational government has to pay out a lot at the time when it has to meet the needs of its own constituents. So these are the very detailed, technical questions that very quickly come up in discussing any reform, and we are hopeful that a discussion of the experiences from other countries will help throw light on the reforms that need to be undertaken here in Poland.Finally, let me emphasize that we see things as a two-way street. At the World Bank we like to believe we are a learning institution and we learn as much from individual countries and the way they approach problems as we learn from talking amongst ourselves. And so we very much see this as an opportunity in which by understanding how Poland reaches conclusion on the course forward we will learn more about this topic and this is knowledge that we can share with other countries where we are working. With that let me conclude and wish everybody a very good discussion. Show Less -
A few numbersSeventy percent of Roma live in European Union (EU) member states in Central and Eastern Europe - representing Europe’s largest and poorest minority group. Roma are also one of the fastes... Show More +t growing population groups in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and are much younger than the general population of Europe - with about 30% under the age of 15.Poverty among many Roma citizens translates into poor human development and is associated with poor employment outcomes. Roma face higher unemployment. For those who are employed, they often work in poor-quality jobs and the Roma-non-Roma wage gap is almost 50%.These few numbers alone highlight the importance of improving employment opportunities for marginalized Roma – the topic of a recent conference on the European labor markets, held at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.While these numbers are sobering, one might argue whether the issue of low labor market participation among Roma should be at the top of Europe’s agenda at the moment. Climate change, migration, rapid aging, and high budget deficits are hotly debated topics in Europe these days. Desite these other pressing challenges, however, the World Bank Group and others continue to urge Europe to address the challenges faced by Roma, including labor market integration. Show Less -
Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes already affecting millions of lives, but solutions exist WASHINGTON, November 23, 2014 – As the planet warms further, heat-waves and other weather ex... Show More +tremes that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, would become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability. The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources shift, sea-levels rise, and the livelihoods of millions of people are put at risk, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.In parts of Central Asia and the Western Balkans specifically, unprecedented heat extremes could occur in over 60 percent of summer months and drought risk could increase by 20 percent in a 4°C warmer world, the report finds. At the same time, projections suggest an increase in riverine flood risk, mainly in spring and winter, due to more intense snow melt in spring and heavier rainfall in the winter months. Climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable because the Earth’s atmospheric system is locked into warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, the report said. Even very ambitious mitigation action taken today will not change this, it said.“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying – past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier.”“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” Kim said. “They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.”Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting water security at risk, according to the report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal. Many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C, the report said.“The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate change and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping our journey down this dangerous path,” Kim said. “World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances.”Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal is an analysis of likely impacts of present day (0.8°C), 2°C and 4°C warming above pre-industrial levels on agricultural production, water resources, ecosystem services, and coastal vulnerability across Latin-America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and parts of Europe and Central Asia. It builds on a 2012 Bank report, which concluded the world would warm by 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if we did not take concerted action immediately. The report, prepared for the World Bank Group by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, reveals how rising global temperatures are increasingly threatening the health and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations, crucially magnifying problems each region is struggling with today.A common threat across the three regions is the risks posed by heat extremes. State‐of‐the‐art climate modeling shows that “highly unusual” heat extremes, similar to the heat-waves experienced in the US in 2012 and Russia and Central Asia in 2010, increase rapidly under a 4°C emission pathway.It also reveals that the risks of reduced crop yields and production losses for the regions studied increase significantly above 1.5°C to 2°C warming. It notes that declines in agricultural productivity will also have impacts outside core producer regions, with strong repercussions on food security, and may negatively affect economic growth and development, social stability and well‐being.Key findings across the regions include:Latin America and the Caribbean: Heat extremes and changing precipitation patterns will have adverse effects on agricultural productivity, hydrological regimes and biodiversity. In Brazil, without additional adaptation, crop yields could decrease by up to 70 percent for soybean and up to 50 percent for wheat at 2°C warming by 2050. Ocean acidification, sea level rise, tropical cyclones and temperature changes will impact coastal livelihoods, tourism, health, food and water security, particularly in the Caribbean. Melting glaciers would be a hazard for Andean cities.Middle East and North Africa: A large increase in heat-waves combined with warmer average temperatures will put intense pressure on already scarce water resources, with major consequences for human consumption and regional food security. In Jordan, Egypt, and Libya, crop yields could decrease by up to 30 percent at 1.5 to 2°C warming by 2050. Migration and climate‐related pressure on resources may also increase the risk of conflict.Western Balkans and Central Asia: Reduced water availability in some places will become a threat as increases in temperatures head toward 4°C. Melting glaciers in Central Asia and shifts in the timing of water flows will reduce the amount of water available in summer months and increase the risk of torrential floods. In the Western Balkans, climate extremes will pose major risks to agricultural systems, energy, and human health. A 2°C warming would already entail significant impacts, such as in Macedonia where yield losses are projected up to 50 percent for maize, wheat, vegetables and grapes by 2050.The report also warns that, if warming continues unabated, irreversible changes on a large scale could be triggered. In northern Russia, forest dieback and thawing of permafrost threaten to amplify global warming as stored carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere, giving rise to a self-amplifying feedback loop. Methane emissions could increase by 20 to 30 percent across Russia at 2°C warming by 2050.Laura Tuck, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said, “From the Western Balkans to Siberia, from Europe to Central Asia, the impacts of extreme climate events, such as floods, droughts, and forest fires, are already being felt, all with significant human and economic cost, as well as environmental impact. Across the Europe and Central Asia region, countries are requesting our assistance to reduce vulnerability to climate change and move towards climate-smart development. For example, we are supporting Romania in operationalizing its national climate change strategy. We are working with Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina following the devastating floods that hit earlier this year to strengthen their disaster response preparedness and disaster recovery capacity. We are also working with the Russian Federation to improve forest fire prevention; and we are supporting the countries of Central Asia to establish regional collaboration to enhance climate resilience.”“The report makes crystal clear that we cannot continue down the current path of unchecked, growing emissions. Leaders must step up and take the necessary decisions on how we manage our economies towards clean growth and resilient development,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change. “Urgent and substantial technological, economic, institutional and behavioral change is needed to reverse present trends. Economic development and climate protection can be complementary. We need the political will to make this happen.” Show Less -