Inside the Polish leader's big bet on Piketty

by LEONID BERSHIDSKY

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It's not often that a banker turned conservative politician approvingly quotes Thomas Piketty, but that is exactly what Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did during an interview this week in Warsaw. A similar tension lies at the heart of his government's economic push in Poland: reasonable strategy roiled by leftist impulses.

The economic creed of Morawiecki -- and that of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) -- is based on the idea that Poland needs to replace a development model that's too dependent on foreign investment. In laying out his vision, Morawiecki quotes the work of economists Andreas Noelke and Arjan Vliegenthart, whose typology of capitalism flavors didn't include a fitting definition for the eastern European model until they came up with "Dependent Market Economies." He also mentions the concept of "foreign-owned countries" that came up in a paper Piketty co-authored with Filip Novokmet and Gabriel Zucman last year.

"It's brutally said, but, on the other hand, it's a realistic picture of what happened over the last 25 years," Morawiecki said. "We have sold pretty much all of our economy." Calling out "our elephant in the room," he bemoans the money being sucked out of the country, "transferred every year in the form of dividends or interest on capital, interest on loans, deposits and current accounts."

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