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Industrial Privatization and the Environment in Poland

February 1992

Citation: ELR 10092

Author: Ruth Greenspan Bell

Privatization — the transfer of state owned and managed enterprises into the hands of the private sector — is a central task for the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. This process, which requires the untangling of 45 years of state control and management, is even more difficult than was earlier imagined because of the parallel legacy of 45 or more years of environmental neglect.

Poland, the largest of the Central European countries, has embarked on an ambitious privatization program. Beginning just over 18 months ago, Polish authorities have leased an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the country's small retail and commercial businesses to private individuals. Any visitor to Poland is keenly aware of the explosion of private sector activity as existing shops that have moved into private hands adapt to consumer needs, and new shops open with an increasing variety of goods.

Ruth Bell is Assistant General Counsel, Water (Effluent Guidelines), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. (on leave of absence Feb. 1, 1991, through Aug. 1, 1991). From March 1991 to August 1991, Senior Fellow, Polish Representative, Regional Environmental Center (Budapest). The author assists the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry and Ministry of Privatization, Government of Poland. The views expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily represent EPA or the Regional Environmental Center. The author benefitted greatly from extended discussions with Thomas A. Kolaja, Manager, Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Environment, Polish Ministry of Privatization.

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