Taking back control: Comprador bankers and the revival of developmentalism in Poland

With rare exception, political economists assume that developmental policies and developmental alliances between state and business are the result of a top-down co-option or coercion of business by states. They also do not expect the subsidiaries of multinational corporations (MNCs) and their local, non-expat, managers – the “compradors” – to press for developmentalism in host countries. Based on process tracing of Polish economic policy since the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), I argue that, in the specific context of the Poland’s FDI-based growth regime and dependent market economy, “comprador” bankers used their political connections to co-opt state actors into renationalizing foreign-owned Polish banks and into creating new development finance institutions to support the growth of indigenous firms. Moreover, comprador bankers played a crucial role in operationalizing new industrial policies for which state actors, indigenous entrepreneurs and “compradors” all simultaneously started pressing in the 2010s. Comprador bankers’ motives were their frustration at their weak managerial autonomy in their foreign-headquartered MNCs and their concerns about the negative macro-economic implications of their parent banks’ attempts to capture their Polish subsidiaries’ excess liquidity during the GFC in order to improve their own liquidity positions.

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