GB No. 5-6, summer-fall 1991
The Poles are a stupid nation and can be told everything. No problems. You can be sure - they will believe.
The Poles - the romantics, living still connected with Great History, have their hearts open for everyone, who knows magic words like: Westerplatte, Katyn, Dunkirk, Solidarity, Papa, Walesa...
The Poles, similarly to other post-communist countries, were living for fifty years in a country with no economy. They do not know any bank rules, believe no advertisement they see, and do not have any mechanisms to control the situation. And the most important thing - bribes make wonders in Poland.
The following report is not based on fairy tales or gossips. For almost half a year I was trained to be "The European Expert on the East-West Exchange". Later I worked as an adviser to the companies, which wanted to invest in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the USSR or Hungary. I looked for ways to omit the law and make the whole thing run faster. I am Polish, so I worked in Poland mostly, but a lot of my remarks are true for all post-communist countries.
The foreign businessman can locate everything he wants in Eastern Europe, everything which is not allowed by the law of all other countries. All he needs is a good domestic adviser, who knows not only the language, but also the "relations" in his country.
The leaflet issued by one of the Western embassies in Warsaw says, how cheap it is to run the office here (i.e. a secretary, who knows foreign languages can be paid half less than your secretary in the West, and she is happy to earn that much). Sums for advertising and promotion are unbelievably low in comparison to those you are used to paying. The market needs you - the man from the West.
In Eastern Europe (except the USSR and Romania) the epoch of revolutions, manifestations and idealism is over. These people are starting to think in a new way: they are building normal life and normal economy from the very beginning. For you, dear Western businessman, the most important is to choose the right country. Big companies (Renault, Elf) searched all countries and then chose.
If you want to place a technology, impossible to be legal anywhere else, I would advise cooperation with Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Romania. Now and there this is the easiest thing to do.
In Eastern Europe, there is no protection of the environment. Admittedly, there are a lot of committees, and offices, and even a Ministry in charge of this matter, but here quantity does not mean quality at all. Thousands and thousands of clarks can do nothing without any good laws. So these are only frightening externals, which you are not afraid of. The Ministry of Environment has no influence on politics. The main excuse is: "We can not afford to protect the environment while our people have got nothing to eat!" - so the wasteful exploitation is going on.
In no Eastern European country any minister has anything to do with ecological movements (as i.e. in France: Brice Lalonde). When they were beginning their careers, the membership of the communist party was the passport to it. Never has been "veto" to eco-bandity used. All decisions were made by the communist establishment and no one had any influence on it.
Now the situation has changed a little bit. Clarks feel lost, because no longer is anything imposed upon them. You - Western businessman can make use of this! They need a new establishment. This establishment can be you - with your companies, invest funds, new ideas and open-fresh-heads!
You companies should be advertised as well-working, wealthy, with world-wide connections and offices all around the world. You have to remember about full-colored leaflets in English of course (prospects in Japanese could also make very good impression). Your Eastern partners are not able to check any information.
If you hurry up, you could make really good deals. Haste is recommended, because your placing here may be uncertain, if ecological consciousness grows, or other political changes come. Moreover the main reason for haste is competition. Soon will many European countries establish new laws saying that before starting any technology, you will have to prove that this is no danger for the environment. Paradise, which will be in Eastern countries then, will be for you, if go into it now. Now-giving only a small part of what other companies will have to invest in a few years time.
The European Countries are polluted, so one factory more, or less will not change anything. In Poland highly radioactive wastes are stored under the sky, the ecological education is none. You can take advantage of this situation. People's work is very cheap here, natural resources rich, the law is on your side. In Poland domestic companies have 70% government tax of total incomes, foreign only 30%. Everything depends only on you, and is easier than it seems.
Concerning Eastern Europe, you do not have to have so much money. Institutions like The World Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will surely help you. The bank, which has the honor of helping Central and Eastern Europe, will classify your project. Sending fertilizers can be "a help for the agriculture in order to make up for latedness", building atomic power plants "a help in energetic problem" (even if your project is to send 80% energy to the West). Foundation, bank or other organization will finance your coming out to the East in full or partially.
Success! Success! Governments in Eastern Europe are attacked from every side. They need success. Announcing that a contract with a Western company has been just signed is a great achievement. This is a sort of national holiday.
In one of Eastern countries the Western company stated that: "OK, we will build a water purification plant for you, but in return you will give us a good place to build a hotel in the center of your capital". Many agreements which are signed, are of this sort. We will give you that, you will give us that, and everything is going to be all right - this is the most popular type of "technology exchange" between the East and the West.
Success can be not only a deal on conditions similar to above, but also renegotiation debts, which has compensatory character. The International Currency Fund and The World Bank willingly accept remission of some part of Eastern allowances, but in return they will allocate new credits on conditions dictated by them. For example: credits given to Poland during the last year were worse interested than those given to Southern America countries.
It is worth remembering that the East is still menanced with the West, but in a different way than years ago. It is said that the West will turn its back on Poland, if the reforms are not continued (Mazowiecki vs Wałęsa); will turn its back on the USSR if a time of confusion comes here (Gorbatchev vs Baltic countries), finally - the East "will not manage" without the West (Havel for keeping status quo). No one is after making noise around "compensatory transactions". Success is that anything has been signed: that we will have a new water purification plant, new credits. What is hidden behind it, no one is willing to inform. This is the managers' secret.
Futhermore, if you want to make a deal in the East, you must remember about nationalism, which is now beautifully blooming there. You have to be aware, and do not say Budapest instead of Bucharest, because this can mean the end of your negotiations.
Citizens of Eastern Europe are afraid of at least one neighbour country, at least to one have old "illfeeling" and are at odds with at least one. You should know these "secret connections" in order to make good use of them. Saying a word here, saying a word there, and you are accepted as a friend united against the shared enemy. This would be a great position for making a fantastic deal.
Similarly, if you are aware of the situation in the country you are conquering, you will not react with fear to some social "thunder-storms", which, in fact, are ordinary in every new-democratic country. The Eastern European Pot will be still boiling for some time, this is only your verisimilitude, that this is danger. To be true, this situation is perfect for you.
Every one takes bribes in Eastern Europe, according to the old rule: "If you scratch my back, I will scratch yours".
Corruption of clarks is a postcommunist reminiscent. You will not find a good interpreter, you will not have an appointment with anyone from the government, and you will not be allowed to use telefax not giving a bribe. While talking to people, you can see, that they are waiting for something: a secretary for chocolates, her boss for a smart pen, both of them for a dinner at the best-in-town restaurant.
Politicians, who are in power, take bribes because they know: their days have already been counted. After a shorter or longer period of time, they will be dismissed, and called "the communist corps" ("nomenclature"), so now they have to gain as much "dough" as possible. This is simple and quite a logical thinking: they want to earn for their and their families' future. The situation is obvious - they will have to be gone, no matter if they are real professionals or just swindlers. Afterward they will be branded with "the bad-establishmentmark".
They ways of winning people's hearts in the East have rearly anything to do with checks. The reason is simple: it is very hard to turn such a check into money, because there are too few banks (about this fact Western investors will soon get to know).
For your own sake you should realize that you must not let your Eastern partners' appetites grow. Of course you can laugh at the fact, that for an ordinary "Renault-5" (which your children arrive to schools in) you have any minister under your feet. But you ought to remember: he will have to work for such a Renault years and years on end.
In the West such "gifts" mean sums counted in millions of dollars. In the East these are only thousands (if that much). In the West such things can be detected by the police and called "corruption affair". In the East these are ordinary things and there is no danger of that sort. By the way, journalists and policemen earn much less than their Western colleagues. You can buy them too, to feel safe.
If you have signed an agreement, made a brilliant deal, you will be still having some trouble. That trouble is ecologists and some crazy journalists, whom you have forgotten to pay. They will be doing bad publicity for you. In order to avoid it, you somehow have to make them feel important. They have many hung-ups and do not feel fullfilled.
First let us talk about the ecological group. You can, for example, invite them for "a discussion" to your country. They are crazy about going abroad, because it gives them prestige. During that short visit you can tell them, how you appreciate cooperation with them, and how highly you estimate their work and professionality. Then you should give them some money and take to a super market for shopping (if their rank is higher i.e. professor, show them your factory, laboratories and give them "a gift" not money because they are more sensitive). THey will be satisfied, proud, and what is the most important for you, they will be absolutely on your side when they return to their country.
Now, let us think about the journalists. You must be aware of them, because some are still very honest, impossible to be changed with gifts and money. But do not get panicked: the greater part of them will also sing for you" - Give me lie, give me sweet little lie...". Today journalists do not feel secure, especially the old ones. They have no centrals to communicate with, and they are not happy about all that freedom (similarly to the clarks). You may just tell them, what they could write about your great company, if will be better than any advertisement. Then you can help them to organize their own magazine. This magazine will serve you, of course. All these things you can achieve simply by tickling their ambition and self-conceit. You should remember, that flatters make wonders with journalists.
Idealism is going to be forgetten in Eastern Europe. The fires are still burning in Bucharest, Vilnius, Warsaw... But instead of friendship and solidarity, the consciousness of more and more empty pocket is crawling into people's minds. There are no colors in the life of Eastern Europe but gray - color of sadness and boredom.
If you get to know well at least one East European country, you will understand character of your Romanian, Polish, Hungarian or Soviet partners. Living there, you will understand that they are going to do everything for you. If you get to know the conditions for business, learn that you are able to change them anyhow you like, you will understand, how much you have lost not conquering this market sooner.
LET YOUR MONEY GROW!
(The European Expert f the East-West Exchange)
article from "Ekopuk" No 1
"Ekopuk" is a proffesional, independent, ecological magazine published in Poland.