48 (143) 2021

Chairman's and CEO's note

Chairman's and CEO's note

By Antoni F. Reczek, chairman of the board and Paweł Siwecki, CEO, BPCC
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Dear Members and Readers,

Restart, rebuild, renew – these are the three words that encompass the ambitions of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in its campaign to re-energise business post the pandemic. As a committed member of the BCC’s global network, we share these ambitions; they will guide the BPCC’s programmes for 2021 and beyond.

Restart: with the third Covid-19 wave subsiding in Poland and the vaccination roll-out gaining pace, we are looking to move from online activities to a hybrid virtual and face-to-face model of interaction with our members. In the previous Contact Online we announced a long-expected series of networking events under the ‘Nice to See You’ label (from 17:30 till late). They were originally scheduled to be held around the Polish ‘Majówka’ – (the May long weekend) – but the Covid restrictions prevented this, and so we have rescheduled as follows, taking account of our continuing inability to meet indoors.  

•    10 June, Wrocław, open-air courtyard of the Radisson hotel
•    17 June, Poznań, Vastint Business Garden’s outside patio
•    24 June, Warsaw, open-air courtyard of the Bristol hotel
•    9 September, Kraków, lobby of the Mercure Old Town hotel

The Team at the Chamber and the Board are looking forward to catching up with everyone. Our Annual General Meeting of Members will take place on Wednesday 30 June. Details will be circulated shortly.

Rebuild: there are two elements that we will be focusing on. One is accelerating the recovery of business development among our members and external partners. The other is the post-Brexit reality of doing business with the UK.

Starting with the latter, four months on from Brexit, things are gradually getting easier, but there is still a long way to go before volumes and values of goods traded between Poland and Britain return to former levels. For now, opportunities created by Brexit are all emerging on the Polish side – UK e-commerce firms setting up fulfilment centres in Poland to reach EU consumers; new possibilities appearing for Polish exporters on the UK market as western European rivals pull out. New border checks that were due to come into force on 1 April have been put back to 1 October; full customs declarations will replace the simplified ones on 1 January 2022 rather than on 1 July 2021. With around 50% of the goods that the UK imports coming from the EU but less than 2% of EU imports coming from the UK, it's not in the UK's interest to make life difficult for importers.

On the business-development side we’ll be promoting best practice, business solutions and ready products that are offered by our members. Forms of support delivered by the BPCC can range from direct events, industry-specific events, social media promotion, member-to-member offers and the use of BPCC’s database. Our particular strength lies with the policy engagements for individual companies, industries or groups of partners and stakeholders. We are a founding member of the IGCC –  the International Group of Chambers of Commerce in Poland – which has just added a new member – Luxembourg – bringing the number of chambers representing foreign investors in Poland up to 17. It has become an increasingly powerful voice for foreign capital, which seeks above all a level playing-field and fair competition with domestic capital. Recent issues on which the IGCC has made representations to the Polish authorities include the government's Covid-19 compensation fund; the enforced rent cut for shopping-mall landlords; workplace vaccination, and due diligence when dealing with entities based in tax havens. Government meetings are part of direct discussions with the policy-makers and we invite all interested to attend a virtual meeting with Minister of Finance Tadeusz Kościński on Wednesday 26 May.   

Renew means for us building a better business environment and strengthening the impact of the BPCC network. A post-pandemic world will have to adjust to new challenges, and the immediate one is saving the planet. Green transformation is the key concept that we will be advocating with a special branding design to promote member-led initiatives and announcements. Priority will be given to goal-setting, facts, and hard numbers on how member companies are minimising their carbon footprint. We’ll be supporting COP 26 in Glasgow by promoting governmental and commercial initiatives. Another issue is ease of doing business – the current World Bank ranking places the UK eighth and Poland 40th in this respect – this means we have to advocate for improving the business environment and see Poland climbing back up.  Our last meeting with the World Bank’s CEE chief economist in December 2019 happened in entirely different settings and in the interest of post-pandemic recovery this means that governments must work closely with both domestically and foreign-owned businesses. There will no doubt be many taxation disputes that will need to be resolved and we must work to protect an equal playing field for investors regardless of their origin. The most recent example of where we add value is April’s BPCC policy meeting on real-estate investment trusts (REITs) in Poland, where investors are united in their support for the emergence of Polish REITs that will contribute to both business and to the financial well-being of Polish citizens.

Strengthening the BPCC network means working more closely with the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) global network of 100+ chambers located in the UK and around the globe. Circumstances have forced a renewal of the cooperation between British businesses and their local chambers of commerce. The BCC has become the leading voice representing the interests of British business and the overseas chambers within that network are at the forefront of that cooperation between British businesses and their local chambers of commerce. We are in very regular contact with the BCC’s London headquarters, but also directly with local British chambers where we link up business interests with our members.

Together with the BCC we are committed to gender equality and the promotion of female leadership. The BPCC has not done too badly in recent years in this respect, with 36% of the Board being women. Our platform for the promotion of gender equality is our CSR policy group. We are proud to announce that the theme for our 2021 Gala Dinner in October will be female leadership.

Lastly, we would like to express our sadness at the passing of HRH Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Tony Reczek has vivid memories of the visit of HRH, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to Poland in 1996. As Tony recalls: “I was invited on 26 March 1996 to a reception at the Łazienki Park Palace on the Water in honour of their Royal Highnesses. Shortly before the event, I was informed that I was one of three guests who were to be presented to their Royal Highnesses. We three stood at the front of the gathering, waiting to be introduced. The plan was that the Royal Party enter the room from the left, exchange a few words with us, and after ten minutes spent with guests at random, leaving by the right. As their Majesties entered the room, protocol collapsed and many of the guests surged forward to greet the Queen, leaving the privileged three gawping like goldfish in a bowl. Just as the Queen was virtually surrounded, Prince Philip neatly slipped round the crowd and made his way towards us. He greeted us with the words, “Sorry gentlemen, but you get second prize today”. The Prince stayed with us for 20 minutes telling us some funny stories about a recent private visit to Corfu and explaining the circumstances of how he came to possess an armful of copper bracelets that he used for his arthritis.

Twenty-one years later, I met with HRH Prince William at a garden party in the Łazienki Park. I recounted my Prince Philip story to which Prince William replied, “It’s probably the only tactful thing he has ever said”. Prince Philip was an occasional ruffler of feathers, but he had a natural charm that appealed to most. In this often charmless world, he will be missed.”

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