Leszek Balcerowicz


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Lech Wałęsa (b. 1943) Polish trade unionist and statesman, President 1990–5.


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(b. Lipno, 19 Jan. 1947)

Polish, Finance Minister 1989–91, 1997–2000, President, National Bank of Poland, 2001–7 In the 1980s Balcerowicz was an economic researcher at the Central School of Planning in Warsaw and an adviser to the trade union movement Solidarity. In 1989 he was appointed Finance Minister and Deputy Premier in the Solidarity government formed after the elections of May 1989. Balcerowicz negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for credits to help Poland out of her economic crisis. Balcerowicz had little choice but to agree to the harsh conditions which the IMF imposed. The resultant programme of economic shock therapy involved the first comprehensive implementation of market reforms in the former Soviet Bloc. It was heavily influenced by the theories of the Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs. The ‘Balcerowicz Plan’ was introduced on 1 January 1990. Balcerowicz had great success in stabilizing the currency and introducing the first stage of marketization. He played a vital role in sustaining international, particularly IMF support for Poland, but his plan led to a serious collapse in living standards and industrial unrest. President Wałęsa blamed Mazowiecki and Balcerowicz for not creating an economic revival quickly enough. Regarding Balcerowicz and his policies as an electoral liability Wałęsa manœuvred him out of office at the end of 1991. He returned as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister from 1997 to 2000, and was then appointed by Parliament as President of the National Bank of Poland (2001–7). He has been a major influence behind Poland's transformation to a market economy and became a target for all who opposed these economic reforms.

Subjects: Politics.

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