Surprise choice for Polish central bank

The nomination of Slawomir Skrzypek as Polish central bank governor has evoked surprise among economists concerned about his lack of economic credentials and his close ties to President Lech Kaczynski.

Mr Skrzypek, 42, has an MBA and a degree from the Warsaw School of Economics but is not an economist. He worked for many years with Mr Kaczynski before becoming acting chief executive of PKO BP, Poland’s largest state-owned bank.

The president’s nomination of Mr Skrzypek late on Wednesday ends months of speculation and several missteps by the president in the search for a new central bank chief. The nomination, which must still be approved by parliament, came only a week before the six-year term of Leszek Balcerowicz, the current governor, expired.

Immediately after his nomination, Mr Skrzypek put out a careful statement saying he supported a “stable and credible monetary policy”, and adding he would consider economic growth as a factor as long as it did not increase the risk of inflation.

In what traders said was a negative reaction to Mr Skrzypek’s nomination, the zloty dropped 1.6 per cent against the dollar and 0.5 per cent against the euro on Thursday. yesterday.

But Piotr Kuczynski, an economist with Xelion financial advisors, said the was “market neutral” because Mr Skrzypek will be one of 10 members of the Monetary Policy Council, which sets interest rates. “He will certainly be more of a dove than Balcerowicz, who voted for interest rate rises, but I don’t think it will cause a large change in the policies of the MPC.”

Mr Skrzypek’s advocates point out that, while Mr Balcerowicz is an internationally respected economist, another former central bank governor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, was a lawyer when she took the job in 1992 and ended up doing a good job.

Mr Balcerowicz said he was unable to assess Mr Skrzypek’s candidacy because he was unfamiliar with his writings, but pointed out that in other EU countries central bank chiefs are usually central bank officials, former finance ministers, or distinguished economists.

Mr Kaczynski made it clear his candidate would be quite different from Mr Balcerowicz, who was unafraid of criticizing politicians for failing to reform the economy and became embroiled in a bruising battle with the government last year when he refused to block the merger of two banks owned by Italy’s UniCredit.

Market analysts worry that Mr Skrzypek will be too closely tied to the president.

“The close links to the president concern us,” said Katarzyna Zajdel-Kurowska, chief economist for Citibank Handlowy, the Polish affiliate of the US bank. “It confirms our suspicions about the government’s and especially the president’s eagerness to get their hands on all areas of public and economic policy in Poland. The centralization of power in Poland continues.”

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