Social Inclusion through Microenterprise Development
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Chapter 17: The State of Microfinance in Poland
Agata Szostek* 1 National context The first partially free elections in Poland after World War II took place in 1989; since that time Poland became the first country in the former Eastern bloc to re-establish democracy and embark on an economic and social transition to a market economy. The so-called ‘shock therapy’ programme implemented during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most dynamic and robust in the region.1 Today, Poland’s economy is by far the largest among the new EU member states. It accounts for over 50 per cent of the cumulative population of the 12 new member states and also about 50 per cent of their cumulative GDP.2 The initiation of Poland’s transition in the early 1990s was marked by remarkably difficult macroeconomic conditions comprising high inflation, a large legacy of external debt, and a high black market foreign exchange premium. At that time in the Polish economy, a large part of the enterprise sector was considered ‘value subtracting’ (the final output was worth less than the sum of the inputs), and the Polish policy makers took huge risks by making the Polish currency (zloty: PLN) convertible, fixing the exchange rate, and lowering import barriers. Microfinance in Poland was introduced into an environment which was undergoing an economic transformation, trying to satisfy the demand of different levels of ‘entrepreneurs’. There was a lack of personal savings (probably resulting from high inflation), lack of assets, and lack of access to financial capital...
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