REVERSED MARKETING (or on Announcing “Local Development” Programme Results)
The Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy has “inaugurated the process of announcing” results of the “Local Development” Programme competition outcomes we have been expecting – as have cities and towns – for some time now.

In early June, the Polish-Norwegian committee responsible for evaluating applications filed by 54 cities and towns for “Local Development” Programme funding provided from so-called Norway and European Economic Area Grants approved a Programme call outcome ranking list drafted by the evaluator team, the Programme worth a total of EUR 102 million, including the 15-percent domestic funding contribution. The Norwegian party (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) approved the list immediately upon its reception, as we have been notified by our colleagues from the Norwegian Association of Regional and Local Authorities (KS). While assisting cities and towns in the so-called predefined project process of drafting applications, the Association of Polish Cities did not participate in their appraisal; nor was it part of the result approval committee.

Whereupon disconcerting silence fell…

Today, on the other hand, our phones began blaring with calls from embittered and disappointed beneficiaries presented with “cheques” (already made infamous in our new political marketing lingo) this morning in Zabrze (by the prime minister and minister Waldemar Buda) and this afternoon in Tomaszów Mazowiecki (by the minister only). Never before in history have beneficiaries been resentful or expressing numerous doubts.

Negative emotions have been primarily triggered by reduced grant amounts in comparison with what was proclaimed and expected. According to prevailing information, around 15 cities and/or towns were to receive grants reaching approximately EUR 7 million per recipient. However, since nearly all municipalities had applied for the cap amount of EUR million, one could have already anticipated their necessary downsizing. Yet individual “cheques” for EUR 3.5 million each have been presented today, a message reading i.a. as follows uploaded to the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy website:

“Given the difficult situation of cities and towns due to the pandemic, the development funds and regional policy department decided to expand the ranking list to include 29 cities and towns who had scored no less than 60% under both assessment criteria: Local Development Plan and Institutional Development Plan.

Polish urban development funds have been provided as part of a special-purpose pool allocated by Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein to over ten Central and East European and Baltic states in exchange for access to the European Union internal market, though none of the three are member states.”

Embitterment has been triggered by changes to the rules of the game on the go, a move cities and towns are openly criticising; we have chosen not to comment…

We had anticipated that once the call results have been announced, we would end up with around 15 happy and around 38 “saddened” cities and towns (one having dropped out before for formal reasons). Yet it seems we will be facing a group of 29 beneficiaries with mixed feelings, and only 24 “sad” ones. Nonetheless, we hope that the chosen 29 will appreciate their newly secured funding, however reduced, and proceed to submit projects drafted for purposes of other calls ASAP, National Recovery Plan grants in particular. Today, we have learned the names of the first 8 municipalities to have been awarded funding, the remaining 45 still awaiting their “cheques”…

I have personally never experienced a situation where project call results would be announced “in instalments”, not to mention the highly unusual setting (why the absence of the Norwegian Ambassador to Poland, for example..?). The ministry had a ready response here as well: “cheques” would be presented in Podkarpacie and Wielkopolska regions, then only in the Świętokrzyskie and Podlasie provinces. “The complete list of cities and towns awarded funding will be announced already on 9 July on the website, under the ‘Local Development’ Programme tab.”

All that remains for us to do is keep waiting for “cheques” followed by a results announcement – another novelty in Polish politics: reversed proclamation. Polish cities and towns and the Association itself are all waiting for the complete all competition results list, scoring included.

Andrzej Porawski, Executive Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities