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Opinion: Has corruption stunted Szczecin’s growth?

2013/03/23

‘Why has Szczecin never achieved its potential?’, is a question frequently asked by visitors to and residents of the capital of Zachodniopomorskie.

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Has corruption stunted Szczecin’s growth?

Szczecin is the closest Polish city to Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is also the closest and easiest city to reach from Denmark. For these reasons, Szczecin was selected as the NATO headquarters for central and northern Europe. We might therefore suppose that Szczecin would be one of the most natural and convenient destinations for Scandinavian and German investment in the ‘new’ Europe. Yet the lion’s share of such investment goes not to the capital of Zachodniopomorskie, but rather to the Tricity, Poznań and Wrocław. We need to ask ourselves ‘why’?

GDP in Poland increased by 46.8% in Poland as a whole during the ‘noughties’, (2000-2010). The figure for Poznań was 36.7%, in Wrocław it was 48.4%, and in Warsaw 58.9%; yet Szczecin saw growth of a mere 14.3%. Szczecin has underperformed on a massive scale.

The cause of such catastrophic underperformance is neither Poland as a whole, nor the geographical location of Szczecin, which is excellent. The main cause is a weak and corrupt city administration, and those who have ensured this weak administration have both attained and retained power.

2005. A certain Szczecin businessman opens his latest restaurant on Wały Chrobrego. The ‘elite’ of Szczecin are in attendance: lawyers, city politicians, local government officials. This includes the four previous presidents of Szczecin as honoured guests.

Fast forward to 2011, and the opening of a further restaurant on Plac Orła Białego. Again, we see the same elite. Again the same four presidents, this time including the present incumbent.

Let us return to 2004. The then president of Szczecin, Marian Juczyk, is in danger of losing his position in a local referendum calling for his dismissal. Who funded the campaign against. A restauranteur, pan G.

Did our friend the ‘well-known businessman’ give his support to pan Marian as the man best qualified and able to move Szczecin forward into the twenty-first century? We are discussing a president who cost the city over five million złoty when he illegally renaged on a deal to allow a German consortium to build a shopping center in Pomorzany, who further reputedly asked of any potential foreign investors whether they were Żydzi or Niemcy (Germans or Jews), and who also suspected businessmen of ‘hiding behind Polish names’, (being crypto-Jews). Clearly, pan G wanted an easily-manipulated fool to remain in charge of Szczecin.

By 2006, Jurczyk was clearly ‘damaged goods’. Who better to replace him than the present incumbent, Piotr Krzystek, a previous vice-president of Jurczyk, and a man who was himself implicated in making dubious use of former city property? Who was it that funded Krzystek’s re-election campaign after he had been disowned by his party Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform)?

According to Gazeta Wyborcza, in the article ‘Z kim Paweł G robił KESZ‘ (With whom did Paweł G create KESZ, Szczecin enthusiasts club),  ‘the well-known businessman’ pan G was responsible for the ‘Floating Garden’ strategy. Of course, such a ‘strategy’ is ideal for the owner of restaurants on Wały Chrobrego, but makes far less sense for an industrial city which is no obvious tourist destination.

How have the alleged activities of Paweł G damaged Szczecin and its potential development?

First of all, by supporting Jurczyk to retain the city presidency, pan G used his money and influence to help keep in power a man who created the worst possible impression on potential foreign investors, and who have most probably taken their money, expertise and jobs elsewhere.

Secondly, by allegedly using his power and influence on local officials and politicians to ensure he keeps prime locations for himself, pan G has not allowed fair competition in Szczecin, which most likely frustrates young, dynamic and ambitious businessmen, who must be tempted to either become dishonest themselves, or else try their luck outside the city.

Why, after so many years of one person having allegedly undue influence over the the city’s officials and politicians, have the CBA (Poland’s anti-corruption bureau) finally decided to act?

Did pan G overreach himself with his most recent ‘advantageous’ purchases of city property in 2012/13, creating the appearance of influence that was so blatantly obvious and seemingly corrupt that the powers that be could no longer afford to continue to turn a blind eye?

Or is it that someone more ruthless and greedy than pan G wishes to be known as the ‘king’ of the local hospitality trade and is himself using his ‘influence’ to topple the previous incumbent?

I hope, for the sake of Szczecin, the former scenario to be the true one.

cba

Why, after so many years, have the anti-corruption authorities finally decided to act?

 

 

 

 

 

English editor, A native of the Isle of Wight, Warren has been running the language teaching company, Go! Languages, with his wife Małgorzata, since 1997. A fan of England, Portsmouth F.C. and Pogoń Szczecin, Warren will be contribing articles on football for the Szczecinian.

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1 comment to “Opinion: Has corruption stunted Szczecin’s growth?”

  1. Russia, Moscow · 2013/10/26 · Permalink Reply

    Hello Sir. Many thanks for your excellent site. Just wish to say that in my humble opinion the main reason for the decline of Stettin with its once flourishing shipbuilding industry was Poland’s joining a very harmful organization called European Union.
    Best wishes, Alexander in occupied Russia.

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