The article represents an attempt at identifying institutional barriers to the implementation of the Plan for the Development of Rural Areas. The author starts his analysis with a general description of the situation of Poland's rural areas and the role of human and social capital in their development. He claims that the sustainable development of rural areas is possible only when investments in infrastructure are accompanied by substantial investments in human and social resources, which are absent at present. Since it is assumed that the Plan for the Development of Rural Areas is an excellent instrument serving the development of the rural community the author also thinks it essential to determine the Plan's chances for implementation. The author applies analytical tools of the New Institutional Economy since efficient institutions - understood as the rules of the game, will probably be decisive for the degree of absorption of means available under the Plan. He also uses the results of a sociological survey of potential beneficiaries of the Plan's implementation, which was conducted for the Office of the Commissioner for European Integration by the Agency for Market Studies 'Opinia' in December 2003. The author divides the potential barriers to the use of means envisaged by the Plan into administrative (formal) barriers and mental (informal) barriers. The most serious formal barrier is the inefficient agricultural advisory system, whereas the most serious informal barriers are: the farmers' reluctance to form associations, their lack of initiative and creativity, and lack of confidence in their own abilities. In the conclusion of the article the author presents suggestions concerning actions that are necessary to ensure fuller utilisation of funds available under the Plan for the Development of Rural Areas.