Infrastructure must have - Polish Economy Forum

Infrastructure must have – Polish Economy Forum

The sooner we realize this fact, the better. However, something seems to have changed in this matter, because topics related to the broadly understood TSL segment have become interesting for the media, and therefore – like it or not – also for decision-makers. There is a lot of talk today about the Central Communication Port, Agroport, the situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border, the port in Świnoujście and railway investments. If we add the currently necessary expansion of the national storage, warehousing and processing infrastructure, we will obtain a relatively complete picture of what the government must most urgently address as part of full cooperation between the ministries of infrastructure, agriculture and regional funds and policy.

Our location on the map of Europe has recently caused many problems, which are visible, for example, in the blockades of border crossings with Ukraine carried out by road carriers and protesting farmers, who also have not missed the sensitive issue of Polish-Ukrainian crossings. What is problematic today from a business perspective can, however, be turned into one of the driving forces behind the development of the national economy, which will translate into multiplied revenues from the TSL industry – still underestimated in Poland.

Emergency needs

Let’s look at it from an agricultural perspective. The inflow of agricultural products from across the eastern border, unprecedented in the history of our trade contacts with Ukraine, has caused many problems for both small and medium-sized farmers. However, this happened because we were not prepared, we did not have a long-term plan and we did not have the infrastructure that could respond to the market needs. Sudden, but still needs.

Theoretically, millions of tons of Ukrainian products would not have to remain on the Polish market. We can do everything to make our country a springboard for the transit of these goods, which would allow domestic entrepreneurs to earn money at higher levels of the supply chain than just production. Food production should not, of course, be underestimated. This is clear, because today it is one of the pillars of the country’s security. However, setting the sights mainly on this field of activity is an expression of a certain economic short-sightedness. In the long term, it is also impossible to constantly block the border with Ukraine, which – even if we were to force this country to introduce a number of reforms adapting production requirements to EU standards (which some Ukrainian enterprises do anyway) – will still have a number of competitive advantages over Poland.

What if Ukraine becomes a full member of the European Union? We are not talking about the pointlessness of farmers’ protests – because they also have solid arguments on their side – but about the need to look to the future and skillfully “bypass” the inflow of products from the East, which is currently happening only to a relatively small extent and rather at the initiative of the private sector. To put it bluntly – we must learn to effectively and profitably ship these goods outside our country’s borders. The baton here is only partially on the side of entrepreneurs. To put it bluntly – without the implementation of certain investments, which are currently the responsibility of the government, in the broader scheme of things this will not work.

Transit corridor

In order for Poland to become a transit corridor for agricultural products from the east – and ultimately also for agri-food goods from other countries in the region – it is necessary to increase the capacity of state borders on the eastern wall. Perhaps the construction of additional border crossings for the transport of goods should also be considered. The existing crossings will certainly need thorough modernization (on both sides) and railway investments. Today, it seems necessary to “adding” additional tracks at the Dorohusk/Jagodzin border crossing, but not only there. It is also necessary to increase the number of points for phytosanitary and veterinary inspection. The goods will also have to be stored somewhere, and there is still a lack of adequate space for this – assuming progress – in Poland.

Port terminals

Going further, we should finally take care of the creation of grain terminals and the expansion of the national port infrastructure. The ports themselves declare a certain flexibility regarding the shipment of agri-food products, which depends – obviously – on the appropriate demand for their services. The reaction to the market recovery should be efficient here, because the key entities in this context operating in areas belonging to the ports are representatives of the private sector, and therefore companies capable of reacting quickly to market trends.

In this context, we cannot abandon the idea of ​​investing in Świnoujście, which may prove to be extremely promising – also due to the fact that this port is simply cheaper than its competitors on the German side of the border. The arguments must end and the time for real action must begin, because it seems that Poland has missed the most important moment, which occurred immediately after Russia began its armed invasion of Ukraine. And the competition doesn’t sleep. Romania remains active, and ports on the Black Sea are no longer toothless. However, many companies will still find it profitable to use the Baltic infrastructure. Let’s just hope we don’t give business arguments to use, for example, the port in Klaipėda. There are also many indications that transit through the European Union will remain safer for a long time. Let’s do something, because not taking advantage of the opportunity related to the management of Ukrainian goods is a mistake that may have disastrous consequences both for Poland and for Ukraine itself, which has to sell.

Make money from the crisis

Investments would certainly need to be followed by efficient and simple legislation using a quota system and mechanisms proven around the world – for example, trusted partners with an entire repository of responsibility for releasing goods intended only for transit on the Polish market. If a number of the changes signaled here do not materialize, it will turn out that farmers were right in the long term. Meanwhile, we have a unique chance to get out of this difficult situation not only unscathed, but ultimately also with a large profit. The farmers themselves, even through representatives of the Grain and Feed Chamber, raised the issue of expanding transport infrastructure as a potential solution to the current impasse. Not without reason.

Let’s not be stupid

In the context of infrastructure investments, the topic of building the Central Communication Port cannot be abandoned. The project has recently become highly politicized, but let this not eliminate the prospects it brings. The fact that the project is the target of protests today – not only on our side of the border – should only mobilize us. The benefits here are clear. CPK is an inseparable piece of the puzzle, the missing piece to make Poland a transport hub of the central part of Europe.

CPK is important not only in the context of passenger transport – although also (according to IATA, in 2035, passenger traffic in the aviation sector in Poland will be around 90 million passengers; this is much more than we can handle, and this is not the only end). Cargo is key here. As the fifth most populous country in the European Union and the sixth largest in terms of area, Poland today serves 1.3 percent. Community air cargo. This is absurd.

In 2022, Luxembourg had a five times higher share in the management of EU cargo than Poland. Germany also still charges 60 percent. air cargo to be delivered to Poland. Who might want to stop the investment in Baranów? Yes, exactly, and there is no reason to be surprised. In Germany’s shoes, any sensible government should follow the pattern followed by our Western neighbors: block it by all possible means. However, we must think about our national interest, and in this case it is the Central Communication Port. What sense does it make to give away customs revenues for next to nothing in the long term? What’s the point of depriving yourself of the chance to build a network – finally! – efficient railway connections between the most important Polish cities? Hopefully not “political”. Let’s not be stupid.

So what to do? Plan, build, modernize and don’t look at others.