New figures released by the International Monetary Fund reveal that Poland became a richer country than Portugal in 2019.
Polish GDP per capita in terms of domestic purchasing power parity (PPP) increased in 2019 to USD 33,891, slightly ahead of Portugal (USD 33,665). It’s the second western European country Poland has passed as it overtook Greece in 2016. According to experts, Poland is likely to pass Italy in the same statistics within a decade if no unforeseen events take place in the coming years.
Poland’s success is part of a wider European trend which is seeing the traditional wealth gap between east and west being exchanged for north and south.
Hungary, which had the EU’s fastest growing economy last year with 4.9%, also passed Portugal in the 2019 statistics for GDP per capita (PPP). The Czech Republic (around USD 38,800) has narrowed the distance with Italy (around USD 40,400) and is within striking distance of overtaking Spain (around USD 41,600). Other countries in Central Eastern Europe which are also closing in on Italy are Estonia (around USD 35,800), Slovakia (around USD 36,600) and Slovenia (around 38,400 USD).
The countries of the region have long had their growth hampered by poor infrastructure which has been concentrated along an east to west axis, allowing for goods being exchanged with neighbouring countries in western Europe, and in particular Germany.
The Three Seas Initiative, launched in 2015 on the initiative of Polish President Andrzej Duda and his Croatian counterpart, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, was created to remedy the situation and integrate the infrastructure of 12 Central Eastern European countries, primarily along a north to south axis.
The initiative will help Austria and 11 EU member states isolated for decades behind the Iron Curtain: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia to increase the region’s internal trade flows. The new infrastructure is expected to speed up the already high GDP growth in the region, making it possible for poorer countries such as Romania and Bulgaria to also catch up with Greece and Portugal in the coming years.
The swift economic growth has many experts saying that the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027 could be the last one in which countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will be net recipients instead of net contributors.