Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- As Adam Glapinski takes over as the head of Poland’s central bank, he is stepping into a job with shifting priorities.

The 66-year-old economics professor is set to win parliamentary approval on Friday to replace Marek Belka, after spending the past six years as a member of Poland’s Monetary Policy Council. Topping the next governor’s agenda are risks to financial stability as Poland’s authorities plan to convert $36 billion in Swiss franc-denominated mortgages into zloty, with banks set to pick up most if not all of the tab.

With Poland’s economy growing at one of the European Union’s fastest rates and little risk to price stability, the challenge of safeguarding the financial system may eclipse borrowing costs in importance in two to three years, Glapinski said last month. Belka was a vehement opponent of plans to help the country’s foreign-currency borrowers at lenders’ expense, saying in January that President Andrzej Duda’s legislative proposal at the time was “pure evil.”

“Financial stability, led by the issue of Swiss franc loans, has definitely stayed at the forefront,” Marcin Kujawski, an economist at BNP Paribas SA, said by phone. “Even if Glapinski already declared that he wouldn’t like the central bank to be involved in solving that, the problem is still a serious threat for the Polish banking sector and the new governor can’t disregard it.”

The cost of converting the mainly Swiss-franc loans has hung over the nation’s banks for a year, adding to their troubles after the cabinet led by Law & Justice imposed the EU’s highest tax on lenders. The president is set to submit a bill on converting home-loans to parliament this month, his spokesman said on Sunday.

Parliamentary Vote

Lawmakers will vote on the candidacy around mid-day on Friday. Nominated by President Andrzej Duda in May, Glapinski won’t officially start his six-year tenure until he’s sworn in, a ceremony that hasn’t yet been scheduled. Belka’s term ended on Thursday.

Glapinski is taking charge with the nation gripped by a political crisis. S&P Global Ratings has warned that Law & Justice’s push to exert greater control over the state threatened the independence of institutions, “most importantly” the central bank, as it unexpectedly downgraded Poland’s credit rating in January. Moody’s Investors Service followed last month by lowering the sovereign’s outlook to negative.

The choice of Glapinski may go a long way toward restoring a measure of calm. The first internal pick to head the National Bank of Poland in the country’s modern history, he also has close ties to the leadership of the ruling party. Glapinski has spoken out in defense of the central bank’s independence, saying it’s “deep-rooted” and won’t buckle under political pressure.

Rate Pause

Poland’s benchmark rate has been on hold at 1.5 percent for more than a year, as a record run of deflation did little to slow an economy growing at an annual clip of more than 3 percent. Glapinski and the new members of the policy council, picked by the ruling party and the president this year, have endorsed the pause, arguing the central bank needs to leave room to respond to potential shocks.

The nominee has said that central bank borrowing costs “may have reached bottom” after declaring a three-year easing cycle over in March 2015. The Polish currency is the second-worst performer this year among its peers in developing Europe , according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield on Poland’s 10-year government bond stands at 3.08 percent, 50 basis points higher than last year’s low.

As the debate on loan conversion casts a shadow over monetary policy, Glapinski has said that he favors shifting powers to oversee financial markets to the central bank. The outgoing governor warned this month that a large-scale unwinding of the loans could sink the Polish currency and destabilize lenders.

“Glapinski is facing uneasy tasks,” Belka said. “Of course, I’m not talking about interest rates. It’s the banking system and financial stability that matter the most.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dorota Bartyzel in Warsaw at dbartyzel@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net, Paul Abelsky, Wojciech Moskwa

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