EU funds, a good deal

Economist Gruchman: European grants support growth

Over the past days the International Monetary Fund released encouraging data on the growth of Polish economy for the year 2014, estimated at 3.1%, much higher than the average of EU countries, including Germany. Also the latest spring economic forecasts published by the European Commission highlighted encouraging figures for Warsaw, with a 2.9% growth. According to IMF experts in 2015 Poland will grow by 3.3% annually. In the new multiannual European budget Warsaw stands out as the major recipient of Community funding, with 106 billion euro in grants received to date. Anna Kowalewska, for SIR Europe, interviewed Bohdan Gruchman, economist, President of the Social Affairs Council set up ten years ago in Poznan’s diocese, to learn more about the use of the funds. Professor, how are European funds invested in Poland? Is it money well spent? “I teach at the University and I asked the same question to my students, most of whom live in small villages or in rural communities. Over the past years almost every local council availed itself of European grants, the list of investments is in fact very long. It all depends on the decisions taken by local authorities. For example, a water and sewerage system is created in a small village is a fundamental investment for all inhabitants, as it significantly improves the quality of living. Sometimes EU funds contribute to the conservation of churches or ruined buildings. Economic criteria, formulas to assess the effectiveness of interventions come into play, and I must say that in most cases in my region, the region of Wielkopolska, the outcomes of these surveys are positive.” Is all Polish territory involved in such investments? “I don’t want to generalize, since European contributions are not granted to all districts. It depends on the local authorities and on the effectiveness of their engagement in seeking to obtain them. For many years I have been dealing with economic development and I must say that never before did local bodies in Poland have so many resources available. However, the EU also sets conditions for grants allocation. Accordingly, investments should be complementary and promote job opportunities. It must be said that some investments such as those previously mentioned don’t directly affect employment, however, they do contribute to the improvement of the population’s wellbeing.” In your opinion, what is the approach of Polish youth vis a vis European elections? Are your students optimistic about the future? “As regards the May elections the Council for Social Affairs highlighted the importance that voters cast a responsible vote, acknowledging candidates’ expertise, which is critical to decision-making at European level. The major concern of the youth is finding a job. Also my students shared this concern, although numerous small and medium enterprises in our region are likely to become – I hope – sub-contractors of great factories, such as the Volkswagen plant that is being set up in Wrzesnia. A department in the university where I teach is dedicated to the analysis of the attitudes of young people. Surveys show that most students would like to have a family with at least two children.”  What can be done to support their choices? “These values ought to be strengthened with a synergic relationship between families and the school environment. In one of its reports the Council pointed out that in order to face the challenge of widespread relativism and egoism the school must provide an unfailing axiological system since childhood, so that the youth may find a point of reference within a system of values. In Poland this system has is represented by Christianity. In the history of Poland the Church has played a special role that enabled to treasure the legacy of Polish culture and language despite invasions, Nazism and communism. Moreover, the Wielkopolska region is the cradle of Polish Catholicism, since in Gniezno, then capital of Poland, was built the first cathedral where are kept the reliquaries of Saint Adalbert.”  

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