Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s main opposition party, warned recently that the U.K. will soon be poorer than Poland. But instead of being dismissive of Poland’s success, U.K. political leaders should focus on the reasons behind Polish economic growth.
That’s the view of columnist Matthew Lynn, outlined in a piece published by The Spectator magazine on Monday.
Lynn explained how Starmer, in presenting his future plans for the U.K. economy, attributed low economic growth, insufficient investment, excessive expenditure constraints, disruption of trade relations with the European Union, and chaos in the tax system to the 13 years of governance by the Conservative party.
He summed it all up with one damning statistic.
“‘We will,’ he argued, ‘soon be poorer than Poland. Poland!’ But hold on. Why does Sir Keir imagine the British have some God-given right to be richer than the Poles? And why doesn’t he take a moment to reflect on the policies that have made Poland so successful – because if he were in Warsaw, he would oppose all of them,” Lynn highlighted.
The Spectator writer explained how the forecast that Poland’s GDP per capita will surpass that of the U.K. by 2030 is gaining popularity on both sides of the British political debate as an illustration of the U.K.’s relative decline. He noted that from 2010 to 2020, the Polish economy grew at a rate of 3.6 percent annually, while the U.K. economy only grew at 0.5 percent. If this pace continues, Poland will indeed surpass the U.K. by 2030.
“There are, however, a couple of big flaws in Sir Keir’s analysis,” Lynn observed. “The first is that he seems to complacently assume that the U.K. has an innate right to be richer than Poland. That is, to put it mildly, a little disrespectful to the Poles.”
Additionally, Lynn stressed that Poland had done exceptionally well since leaving the Soviet sphere of influence, especially as it had been left with a legacy of declining heavy industries such as mining and shipbuilding.
Lynn added that an annual growth rate of 3.6 percent is very good by all standards, except for southeast Asia, and by 2030, Poland will likely be richer than Italy, France and Spain, and will be closing the gap with Germany.
He explained that Poland achieved this growth by adhering to a pro-growth and pro-business policy, with the highest personal income tax rate at only 32 percent, a corporate tax rate of 19 percent, and debt as a percentage of GDP of only 46 percent, which is less than half of the U.K.’s level and continues to decrease.
“If Sir Keir were leading the opposition party in Warsaw, he would of course oppose all those policies, favoring higher taxes, more debt and more state intervention,” the Spectator columnist pointed out.
“Instead of being rude about Poland, perhaps Sir Keir should reflect on the policies that have made it so successful. Who knows, perhaps even a few of them might work in the U.K. as well,” he concluded.