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An overview of Poland:

Polish economic growth surged ahead by six percent in the first quarter of 2004, Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner said, in the latest sign of economic recovery as the country joins the European Union.

Hausner's statement on Polish public radio surpassed expectations, being one percentage point higher than the five percent growth expected by the government for this year.

It is also higher than the 5.3 percent growth rate forecast several days ago by the finance ministry for the first three months of the year compared with the same period of 2003.

In another sign Poland is emerging from the economic woods, Hausner said Poland's current account "was practically balanced" in the first quarter thanks to a boom in exports to the European Union.

And the GUS national statistics bureau signalled Poland's high unemployment rate, the expanding EU's highest, had eased slightly in March to 20.5 percent, down from 20.6 percent a month earlier.

The new indicators come two days after another piece of good news, in the publication of figures which showed that industrial production leapt by 23.8 percent in March compared to the same month a year earlier.

Poland saw its economy turn the corner last year, but it still faces a mammoth challenge reducing its public deficit to join the euro zone and to pare down the jobless rate.

The Polish economy grew by 3.7 percent in 2003, compared to 1.4 percent a year earlier, after years of economic weakness that followed a quick start in the wake of the fall of communism in 1989.

While almost everyone was guaranteed a job in communist-era Poland, the jobless rate rose sharply in the mid-1990s. In preparations to join the EU and amid a deep restructuring of its economy, Poland had to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the mining, steel and shipbuilding industries.

About 3.26 million of the central European country's population of 38.2 million were out of a job, the statistics agency said

Some useful sites

An analysis of the macro performance of the Polish economy.

An analysis of the pace of change within the Polish economy.

 A detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Polish economy as prepared by the BBC in the United Kingdom.

 A virtual tour of the Polish economy as it prepared for EU entry.



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