mBank-CASE Seminar Proceedings No. 168: Problems at Poland’s banks are threatening the economy
Until now, the banking sector has been one of the strong points of Poland’s economy. In contrast to banks in the U.S. and leading Western European economies, lenders in Poland came through the 2008 global financial crisis without a scratch, without needing state financial support. But in recent years the industry’s problems have been growing, creating a threat to economic growth and gains in living standards.
For an economy’s productivity to increase, funds can’t go to all companies evenly, and definitely shouldn’t go to those that are most lacking in funds, but to those that will use them most efficiently. This is true of total external financing, and thus funding both from the banking sector and from parabanks, the capital market and funds from public institutions. In Poland, in light of the relatively modest scale of the capital market, banks play a clearly dominant role in external financing of companies. This is why the author of this text focuses on the bank credit allocation efficiency.
The author points out that in the very near future, conditions will emerge in Poland which – as the experience of other countries shows – create a risk of reduced efficiency of credit allocation to business. Additionally, in Poland today, bank lending to companies is to a high degree being replaced by funds from state aid, which reduces the efficiency of allocation of external funds to companies (both loans and subsidies), as allocation of government subsidies is not usually based on efficiency. This decline in external financing allocation efficiency may slow, halt or even reverse the process, that has been uninterrupted for 28 years, of Poland’s convergence, i.e. the narrowing of the gap in living standards between Poland and the West.