Privatisation and Transition in Albania
AbstractThis article considers the privatisation policy and its role in the transition to a market economy in Albania. The disintegration of the old regime took place over a much longer time than in other Central and East European countries, resulting in chaos and a political vacuum in which no systematic or effective policy could be formulated. The new government, committed to fundamental reforms necessary for a market economy, did not take power until after the second general election in March 1992. One outcome of this long pre-transition period was that the privatisation programme had to evolve gradually in the course of transformation, without ever having been planned in a comprehensive and integrated manner. Privatisation proceeded on five different fronts: small privatisation, privatisation of agriculture, housing, small and medium-sized enterprises and mass privatisation. The article discusses the progress of each aspect and provides up-to-date information and data on their progress. The privatisation of agriculture and housing were the most crucial aspects of the overall policy, with significant impacts on economic growth and the progress of the transformation programme. The privatised agricultural sector grew very rapidly and made a major contribution to pulling the whole economy out of the 'transformational recession'. Privatised housing created a significant wealth effect amongst the urban population, providing many of them with collateral or start-up capital. The privatisation of state-owned enterprises, however, was carried out with much more difficulty and controversy. Although auctions were to be the main method of transfer, ensuring a significant income for the treasury, in practice many enterprises were privatised through other methods, bringing in less income and giving rise to allegations of political favouritism. Another aspect of privatisation was the weak corporate governance mechanism which replaced state ownership. Many small and medium-sized enterprises (probably about half) were sold or transferred to their employees, without any outsider interest. The performance of this sector has to be monitored closely in order to assess the impact of massive insider privatisation, reminiscent of Russia's privatisation programme. Mass privatisation too, by distributing enterprise shares amongst the general public, resulted in the increased power of insiders. The shares of nearly 100 enterprises were transferred to the private sector over the first year of the implementation of this programme. Although the privatisation programme progressed very rapidly, no serious attention was paid to problems of corporate governance. Without concentrated ownership or the involvement of financial intermediaries to oversee and monitor the managers, it is unlikely that the expected efficiency gains will be realised. The political crisis resulting from the collapse of informal financial schemes brought the whole reform process, including the privatisation programme, to a halt in early 1997. It is expected that, with a new government in power, there will be a new push for reforms and an increased pace of privatisation. It is hoped that the renewed efforts will also deal with the shortcomings of the previous schemes-particularly the corporate governance issues.
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Volume (Year): 11 (1999)
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