BRAIN FOOD: Us And Them - Poland

Next May, Poland will join the EU, its largest trading partner, after 77.5% of the nation's 38.6 million population said tak in June this year.

At $187.7 billion, Poland's GDP is less than half the EU average, although growth for 2003 is expected to reach 3%, up from 1.2% in 2002. In the post-communist transformation, the service sector has flourished at the expense of industry and agriculture, and growing business sectors include insurance and pharmaceuticals.

On the surface, Poland is cheap, with a cost-of-living index of 62, compared to the UK's 102. Consumer prices rose a moderate 2.9% in 2002, compared to 5.5% in 2001. Yet, the average gross monthly wage is only $679, 75% less than the EU average of $2,746. One of Poland's most pressing concerns is unemployment, at 18.8%. Private car ownership rose rapidly in the 10 years from 1990 to 2000, from 138 to 259 per 1,000 people.

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