Forced Deglomeration in Poland: Unconvincing Government’s Report

"Gezicht op huizen in Delf" by Johannes Vermeer // Public Domain

In July 2019, the Polish Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology published its report regarding transfer of central public administration offices from Warsaw to smaller cities – interchangeably referred to as deglomeration or delocalization – an idea popular in the Law and Justice’s government circles.

However, the content of the report is disappointing:

  • The review of literature describing other countries’ experience is too limited, done in a desultory way, and lacking due criticism;

  • The report lacks approximate estimates of expected costs and benefits of transferring public administration offices in Poland;

  • The choice of offices to be transferred is based on an analysis of their websites, without consultations with officials themselves.

The conclusions following the report are also disputable. For example, why is it impossible to move the Police Headquarters, but the Fire Brigade’s Headquarters can be moved?

Is qualifying the Central Statistical Office (GUS) for transfer not an exaggeration, when its functions are already today dispersed throughout all the provinces, while moving the statistical office in the United Kingdom triggered a strong criticism?

The authors’ arguments are based mainly on a 2005 publication on the effects of moving offices in the United Kingdom.

Notably, in the article, the issue is analyzed exclusively from the perspective of public administration operation budgetary costs, estimating that thanks to their decrease, outlays connected with moving offices will be recovered after 8-11 years.

However, the latest research conducted in Sweden is much less optimistic – taking all costs into account, it turns out that it requires more than 20 years for the outlays incurred to transfer an office to be recovered. The Ministry’s report quotes the Swedish research, but it happens to omit this estimate.

The report methodology shows that the government itself does not know what particular central administration offices do. It is not known what advantages of their operation for citizens are and, consequently, what costs an interference with their operation would generate.

Hence, instead of announcing a deglomeration, the government in the first order should focus on reviewing the existing offices and their competences, seeking savings especially by liquidating institutions providing similar services.

There is a risk that the Law and Justice politicians and, in the future, politicians representing other parties, will distribute offices according to their political goals.

For instance, Chełm (with a population of around 60,000) is the only new city with a presidential office where Law and Justice won, by a small margin, in the local government elections.

It has been already announced as the place where the Social Security Institution shared services centre, the National Health Fund shared services centre, and a branch of the Institute of Electric Technology will be located.

The city’s units of higher education have also been promised subsidies. MP Anna Sobecka writes to politicians to advocate locating offices in Toruń, while MP Szymon Giżyński speaks about moving three central offices to Częstochowa. Both cities are their own constituencies.

All this shows that deglomeration might be based not on cost and benefit analysis but on some current political goals of the ruling party or local politicians.

Full response to the government’s report about deglomeration is available here (in Polish).

Rafal Trzeciakowski