Polish firms display pandemic resilience

28 January 2021
ITC News

Poland’s largest bank, Bank Pekao, teamed up with the International Trade Centre to survey 7400 firms, and compare the results to an ITC survey of 6400 firms in 138 countries.

A new report on the state of Polish micro, small and medium-sized firms shows that Polish firms are weathering the pandemic better than similar companies in Europe and around the world.

Government access to information for its relief packages is allowing businesses to switch to teleworking, innovate in products and diversify suppliers, in order to get through the initial impact of the pandemic.

Among the Polish firms surveyed, 37% stated that the epidemic had a profound impact on their business, compared to 54% in Europe and 60% worldwide. Two of three companies in Poland experienced a decline in sales. Elsewhere, the shock was even greater, with as many as three out of four companies reporting sales declines.

Report on the situation of micro, small and medium-sized firms analyses a pandemic-related competitiveness survey carried out by the International Trade Centre with Bank Pekao. It is the latest of the Bank's annual series of Polish SME reports, issued since 2010, and is the first to compare the results in a broader context.

'I am pleased that we have joined forces with Bank Pekao, Poland's largest commercial bank serving MSMEs, to evaluate the pandemic's impact on Polish businesses,' said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre.

'This is the first time we have partnered with a commercial bank to jointly conduct our COVID-19 Business Survey in-country, and the first time that we have compared country results to regional peers and the rest of the world,'  she added.

Despite their resilience, Polish companies remain concerned about pandemic-induced bankruptcy: 57% believe that they risk closure, compared to 38% in Europe and 39% worldwide.

An important challenge that businesses faced was a drop in investment: 32% of firms cited reduced investments as a main effect of the current crisis.

Reaching out to firms makes a difference

Access to information about assistance programmes may be the key to their resilience and agility. The government provides considerable support, tapped by 81% of the surveyed companies.

While 39% of Polish companies found access easy, only 23% of European and global companies do. For those companies which find it difficult, there were 22% in Poland, 32% in Europe and 45% worldwide that had difficulties in accessing information on support measures, according to the survey.

The structure of Polish assistance programmes also differed significantly, with an emphasis on employee compensation, rather than tax relief. In Poland, 71% of those surveyed used employment programme to support workers' income. In the rest of the world, only 29% of SMEs highlighted employment programmes. Globally, companies said that tax waivers and temporary tax relief (53% of SMEs) would be the most helpful government measures. In Poland, only 4% of the companies surveyed were beneficiaries of tax measures.

The survey was conducted in 2020, focusing on pandemic's effect on economic activity. The global survey took place from April to August 2020, and collected data for 6400 companies in 138 countries. The Polish survey of 7400 companies (employing up to 249 persons) took place in September and October 2020.

The report launch is on 28 January, from 10:00 to 12:00 CET, and features Polish economists, SME experts and ITC leaders. Registration is open to the public.