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Poland Table of Contents


Development Strategy

In the postwar years, all East European countries including Poland adopted a fundamentally similar inward-looking development strategy following the Soviet model of accelerated industrialization and collectivization of agriculture. Planners attempted to enforce excessively high rates of growth and to achieve a relatively high degree of self-sufficiency. Strong autarkic tendencies were modified only by the shifting import requirements of the Soviet Union and by specialization agreements within Comecon; those agreements were limited, however, by their insulation from the factors of real profitability and comparative advantage.

In 1945 the Polish economy was completely disorganized and urgently needed reestablishment of its prewar industrial base. The initial central planning organization that began work in Poland in late 1945 stressed socialist rather than communist economic goals: relative decentralization, increased consumer goods production to raise the standard of living, and moderate investment in production facilities. In 1949, however, that approach was scrapped in favor of the completely centralized Soviet planning model. During the 1950s, planners followed Stalin's requirements for a higher growth rate in heavy industry than the overall industrial rate and a higher growth rate in the steel industry than that of heavy industry as a whole. This approach neglected the other economic sectors: agriculture, infrastructure, housing, services, and consumer goods. The sectors that were emphasized were all capital-, fuel-, and material-intensive. Materials shortages had developed already in the Comecon group by the 1960s. In response, Poland was required to expand its extraction of coal, copper, and sulfur, as well as its production of steel and other basic industrial materials without considering costs.

Stalinist planning also forcibly redirected foreign economic relations. Poland's extensive interwar commercial links with Western Europe were reduced, and some important prewar markets were lost as trade with the Soviet Union expanded rapidly. For Poland this trade was based mainly on export of coal and manufactured goods primarily from the rapidly growing heavy industries. In return, Poland became dependent on the supply of Soviet oil, natural gas, iron ore, and some other raw materials. This arrangement meant that Poland's industrial structure adjusted to Soviet needs and specifications, yielding many products that could be sold only to the Soviet Union or its allies. Thus exports became heavily dependent on markets in Comecon.

Data as of October 1992