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Political connections and the super-rich in Poland

Working Paper 2020-553

Abstract

We use newly collected original panel data on the super-wealthy individuals in Poland (observed over 2002-2018) to study the impact of the rich’s political connections on their wealth level, mobility among the rich and the risk of dropping off the rich list. The multimillionaires are classified as politically connected if we find reliable news stories linking their wealth to political contacts or questionable licenses, or if a person was formerly an informant of communist Security Service or member of the communist party, or when the origins of wealth are connected to the privatization process. We find that political connections are not associated with the wealth level of Polish multimillionaires, but that they are linked to the 20-30% lower probability of upward mobility in the ranking of the rich. Moreover, being a former member of the communist party or secret police informant increases the risk of dropping off the Polish rich list by 79%. Taken together, our results show that, contrary to some other post-socialist countries such as Russia or Ukraine, there is little evidence that the Polish economy suffers from crony capitalism.

Authors: Katarzyna Salach, Michal Brzezinski.

Keywords: the super-rich, oligarchs, political connections, crony capitalism, Poland.
JEL: D31, D63, P36.