Leszek Balcerowicz

Sandra Szymańska
Young Talent Management

The Man Who Transformed Polish Economy



Leszek Balcerowicz is an economist, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance (1989-1991 and 1997-2000). He was the architect of a plan of economic transformation of the post-communist Poland in 1989.


Leszek Balcerowicz was born on January 19, 1947 in Lipno, Poland. In 1970 he graduated with distinction from the Foreign Trade faculty in Central School of Planning and Statistics (CSPS) in Warsaw, which is now the Warsaw School of Economics. In 1974 he received an MBA from St. John's University in New York. One year later he also gained a Ph.D. in Economics at the CSPS. From 1978 to 1980, he worked at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. After that he became an economics adviser of  the independent trade union Solidarity. In 1985 he was offered visiting fellowships at the University of Sussex and three years later at the Marburg University.

In September 1989 Leszek Balcerowicz became Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and President of the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers in Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s administration, which was the first non-communist government in Poland after the end of the II World War. He was responsible for creating the “Balcerowicz Plan” also known as the “Shock Therapy”. The purpose of the plan was to transform a communist economy into a capitalist market economy. In 1992 he was awarded the Ludwig Erhard Prize from the Ludwig Erhard Foundation, Germany. From April 1995 to December 2000 he was the Chairman  of the Freedom Union, a free market - oriented party. In 1997 he was re-appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, this time in the government of Jerzy Buzek.


In 2001 Balcerowicz was elected the President of the National Bank of Poland, where he stayed until 2007. In 2005 Leszek Balcerowicz was awarded the Order of the White Eagle for his contribution to the economic and political transformation of Poland. One year later he became a member of the Group of Trustees of the Institute of International Finance (USA). After that, in 2007, Balcerowicz founded The Civil Development Forum Foundation – FOR, a think tank based in Warsaw and has been serving as its Board Chairman, since then.


Not only does Leszek Balcerowicz have impressive political achievements, but he is also the author of more than 100 publications on economic issues in Poland and abroad. In addition to that he holds honorary doctorates from more than 20 universities in Poland and abroad, such as Dundee University in Scotland. Balcerowicz received many notable awards. In 1999 the European Institute in Washington granted him the "Transatlantic Leadership Award" for the most outstanding European personality in 1998. In January 2004, another British monthly periodical "The Banker" recognized Leszek Balcerowicz as the Central Banker of the Year for Europe. In 2013 he was rewarded the Forbes Milestone Prize in the “Politics” category. One year later, in New York, he received one of the most internationally renowned merit - the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, granted by CATO Institute.


In spite of unquestionable success of his policies in saving Poland from economic disaster, which loomed large in 1989, Balcerowicz met with ferocious attacks  during and after his time in office. Like Margaret Thatcher, he was blamed for social disruption the “shock therapy” caused in certain branches of economy. Although he remains a target of severe criticism, no subsequent government has proposed a substantially different economic approach.