Interview: Stanisław Kracik [UPDATED with video]
Two days ahead of the elections, the Krakow Post sat down with mayoral candidate and current Małopolska Voivod Stanisław Kracik to ask him about his plans for the city, and specifically, how he plans to make life easier for foreigners living here.
Krakow Post: What would you say are your priorities for the city of Krakow?
Stanisław Kracik: The city has a lot of positive energy, but no one can find an open door to the City Council, whether for grants for cultural projects, or education, or social services. For example, if residents of Nowa Huta or other districts around Krakow want to organise a meeting for seniors or set up a private school, it’s impossible in Krakow, because everything must go through the City Hall. Krakow has 18 sub-municipalities, and some like Bierzanów-Prokocim have 70,000 inhabitants. But when it comes to renovating a primary school [in the district], they still have to go through City Hall.
From my point of view, what’s most most dangerous is to tell recent graduates when they finish university to go back to their town or country, because we don’t need them here. In my program, we want to educate and then provide jobs. But in order to provide jobs, I must invite new investors to Krakow.
We have started to prepare a special area of economic activity in Nowa Huta, because ArcelorMittal and the city own a mosaic of pieces of land there, and we have begun to prepare a master plan for this area, which totals 500 hectares. So far we have established parts of two to five hectares with accessing roads, and we have to prepare for the time in about five years when the Krakow Technology Park in Pychowice closes, and we have to have a second place to which we can invite new companies from the IT and BPO [business process outsourcing] sectors.
While we have to create new jobs, I also know that many young people graduating from university do not have money to rent a flat. We are starting a public-private partnership establishing five to seven thousand flats, in which in the first year young people would pay about 25 percent of the average cost of a flat, and then after five years it would go up to over 100 percent, to make the flats available to a new set of young people who would stay in Krakow.
In a special project, we have chosen 10 new technologies to support that will be important in the future, from nano technologies to clean energy to an innovative eye cancer treatment using high-energy particles. We only need 20 million złoty to establish this cancer treatment centre, and it will be the only one in this part of Europe – not just in the Małopolska region or just in Poland but in the entire Central and Eastern European (CEE) area.
This is interesting from my point of view because right now we have a fantastic time for Krakow universities. We are a lucky city because we have generous rectors in UJ, in the Technical University. They cooperate closely, and they can and will create a synergy effect. Krakow universities are worth over 1.5 billion złoty, and they are the biggest employers in Krakow, as they provide over 25,000 jobs.
I hope we can invite many people from Europe and from around the world to make their careers in the technology sector here.
KP: Do you see Krakow as a potential Silicon Valley for the region?
SK: Yes, exactly. Krakow is a very nice city to live in, but we must create new possibilities for the people who come here, for the people who would make their careers here.
Right now, if you go to the Krakow railway station on Monday morning, you will see that all three trains to Warsaw are full, because so many people go to Warsaw because they can’t find a job here, or they go abroad to EU countries or the United States, and they’re growing their economies. I say, we need them here in Krakow, in Małopolska and in Poland. We need to do everything we can to encourage talented people to stay here. But this is a parallel process. We must create new jobs, but we must also create a strong cooperation between the universities and the city. Last week, I met with the rectors of the four main universities in the city, and they all said the same thing: a relationship between the city and the mayor and the universities does not exist. It is only on paper, with one letter of intent from three years ago.
When a university gets money from the government or the state or the EU and begins the construction of a new laboratory or new buildings, it needs access roads and connecting infrastructure, and this is the problem today. Every day in the morning there are huge traffic jams because many people are driving to the UJ campus [in Ruczaj], while next to the campus there is a large housing centre with 25,000 inhabitants and no schools or kindergartens, so everyone with children is then going in the other direction by car, every day. We have no master plan for the management of public space. This situation must be stopped.
In Krakow, we have three cities: Nowa Huta, the Old Town, and then all of the districts where the majority of the people live, and where they need the infrastructure, where the biggest problems with traffic and lack of public transportation exist.
KP: What about the foreigners already living in Krakow – do you have a plan to make life easier for them, and to keep them here? For example, would you make it easier for someone who only speaks English to go to the urząd miasta (City Hall)?
SK: I think the municipality part of the City Hall must have people who speak English, this is just normal [in other countries]. We have thought about a special theatre with English performances or translations. I hope we can show English-language programs because our actors perform in many countries and can perform in English, but you cannot find this in Krakow.
When we think about the people who come here for business, we must be able to grant them permits for shorter periods to minimize risk, not just for two or three years. This is a matter of administrative procedures, because we use the same system of law in all of the municipalities. If you want to apply for a permit to build a road to access your factory, for example, the minimum amount of time you have to wait is 90 days, because there are three different offices and each has up to a month to make a decision. This is horrid. All of this could be done in one or two days.
KP: So why is it like this?
SK: I think it is a problem of understanding. Every company that creates new jobs in Krakow provides three new sources of income to the municipality: the property tax, the income taxes of all of the new workers, and the corporate income tax – as well as the savings provided from not having to pay unemployment benefits for those workers. I think no one understands this very simple fact in the municipal office.
The second problem is motivation. There is no motivation for a worker to be helpful to those who come to them. When I was the mayor of Niepołomice, in my first year – this was 20 years ago – I created jobs for a new group of young people who would work only with new investors. If a worker is paid a normal salary, like the other workers were, if someone comes in looking for help between this hour and that hour that they have to be at work, they don’t want to help – no one pays them more if they’re helpful. With this group [of young people] I was successful, because I only paid them if they brought new investors, so they were successful.
People who come here from other countries do not have the knowledge of Polish administrative procedures. But when you have someone to help you and take you from office to office, then it’s easy.
KP: What about tourism – do you have a program that’s different from the current one for attracting tourists to Krakow?
SK: I think all [tourism] marketing must be targeted. Whether we want to attract weekend tourists from London, or rich tourists to stay in five-star hotels, or pilgrims, or families – we want all kinds of tourists. But the message to each tourist must be different, must be targeted. We have to have feedback for how effective our marketing is, so we know who is coming to Krakow and why.
Tourism is very important, but tourism is very strongly connected to the economic situation. We cannot be dependent only on tourism. We need new companies. I am very happy that Capgemini created 2,000 new jobs in Krakow, and manages outsourcing and BPO processing in Guatemala and China from Krakow. I’m very proud. However, if the board of one IT company decides they can make the same product for cheaper in Romania, for example, suddenly we have 1,000 people out of a job, so we must have many different sources of income for our economy. We are not a member of the euro zone, and the relationship between the złoty and euro often dramatically influences businesses exporting and importing here. We must always monitor this situation and be prepared.
See also: Meet the Candidates
Watch a fragment of the interview below: