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Information, incentives, and commitment : an empirical analysis of contracts between government and state enterprises

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  • Shirley, Mary M.
  • L. Colin Xu

Abstract

The authors analyze experience with written performance contracts between developing country governments and the managers of their state-owned enterprises. Such contracts have been a vogue since the mid-1980s, and substantial resources have been sunk into their design and enforcement, yet the few assessments to date show mixed results. Using a simple agency model, they identify how problems of weak incentives sthemming from information asymmetry, lack of government commitment, and lack of managerial commitment can lead to shirking. They apply the model to a sample of 12 contracts with monopoly enterprises in six developing countries (Ghana, India, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, and Senegal). All suffer from serious contracting problems. They find no pattern of improved performance that can be attributed to the contracts. Only three of the 12 case-study companies showed a turnaround in total factor productivity after contracts were introduced, six continued past trends, and three performed substantially worse under contracts than they had before. Labor productivity improved at a faster pace in four cases, and deteriorated in none, but the improvement predated the contract. Performance contracting assumes that government's objectives can be maximized, and performance improved, by setting targets that take into account the constraints placed on managers. For this to occur, the principals must be willing to explicitly state their objectives, assign to them priorities and weights, translate them into performance improvement targets, provide incentives to meet those targets (or monitor the agents without incurring significant costs), and credibly signal their commitment to the contract. These conditions failed to materialize. Why would governments adopt contracts to which they were notcommitted or that were politically unrealistic? Sometimes because it enabled themto get foreign assistance. How explain the managers'lack of commitment? Not surprisingly, managers with information advantages and bargaining power, and with no strong incentives or commitment from the government, used their advantages to manipulate the targets so as to ensure that their performance would be judged satisfactory. The authors outline the conditions under which performance contracts might succeed in improving performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1769.

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Date of creation: 31 May 1997
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1769

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Keywords: Environmental Economics&Policies; Labor Policies; Health Economics&Finance; International Terrorism&Counterterrorism; Banks&Banking Reform; Knowledge Economy; Health Economics&Finance; Environmental Economics&Policies; National Governance; Education for the Knowledge Economy;

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  1. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Using Cost Observation to Regulate Firms," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 614-41, June.
  2. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  3. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1994. "Politicians and Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 995-1025, November.
  4. David E. M. Sappington, 1991. "Incentives in Principal-Agent Relationships," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 45-66, Spring.
  5. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  6. John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116, December.
  7. Nellis, J.R., 1989. "Contract Plans And Public Enterprise Performance," World Bank - Discussion Papers 48, World Bank.
  8. Freixas, Xavier & Guesnerie, Roger & Tirole, Jean, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 173-91, April.
  9. Shirley, Mary M., 1989. "Evaluating the performance of public enterprises in Pakistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 160, The World Bank.
  10. Nalebuff, Barry J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1983. "Information, Competition, and Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 278-83, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Clarke, George R.G. & Cull, Robert, 2005. "Bank privatization in Argentina: A model of political constraints and differential outcomes," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 133-155, October.
  2. Khaleghian, Peyvand & Gupta, Monica Das, 2005. "Public management and the essential public health functions," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1083-1099, July.
  3. Recanatini, Francesca & Wallsten, Scott J. & Lixin Colin Xu, 2000. "Surveying surveys and questioning questions - learning from World Bank experience," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2307, The World Bank.
  4. Aivazian, Varouj A. & Ge, Ying & Qiu, Jiaping, 2005. "Can corporatization improve the performance of state-owned enterprises even without privatization?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 11(5), pages 791-808, October.
  5. Clarke, George R.G. & Cull, Robert & Shirley, Mary M., 2005. "Bank privatization in developing countries: A summary of lessons and findings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(8-9), pages 1905-1930, August.
  6. Michael Klien, 2014. "Corporatization and the Behavior of Public Firms: How Shifting Control Rights Affects Political Interference in Water Prices," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 44(4), pages 393-422, June.
  7. Cook, Michael L. & Chaddad, Fabio R., 2000. "Agroindustrialization of the global agrifood economy: bridging development economics and agribusiness research," Agricultural Economics: The Journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 23(3), September.
  8. Andres, Luis Alberto & Guasch, Jose Luis & Azumendi, Sebastian Lopez, 2011. "Governance in state-owned enterprises revisited : the cases of water and electricity in Latin America and the Caribbean," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5747, The World Bank.
  9. Buchner, Susanne & Gonzalez, Luis G. & Guth, Werner & Levati, M. Vittoria, 2004. "Incentive contracts versus trust in three-person ultimatum games: an experimental study," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 673-694, September.
  10. Jan, Stephen, 2003. "A perspective on the analysis of credible commitment and myopia in health sector decision making," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 269-278, March.
  11. O'Connor, Neale G. & Deng, Johnny & Luo, Yadong, 2006. "Political constraints, organization design and performance measurement in China's state-owned enterprises," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 157-177, February.
  12. Clarke, George R. G. & Gebreab, Frew A. & Mgombelo, Henry R., 2003. "Telecommunications reform in Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3036, The World Bank.
  13. Eid, Florence, 2001. "Hospital governance and incentive design : the case of corporatized public hospitals in Lebanon," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2727, The World Bank.
  14. Hu, Fang & Tan, Weiqiang & Xin, Qingquan & Yang, Sixian, 2013. "How do market forces affect executive compensation in Chinese state-owned enterprises?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 78-87.
  15. Cook, Michael L. & Chaddad, Fabio R., 2000. "Agroindustrialization of the global agrifood economy: bridging development economics and agribusiness research," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 207-218, September.
  16. Clarke, George R. G. & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2004. "Privatization, competition, and corruption: how characteristics of bribe takers and payers affect bribes to utilities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2067-2097, August.
  17. Aivazian, Varouj A. & Ge, Ying & Qiu, Jiaping, 2005. "Corporate governance and manager turnover: An unusual social experiment," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1459-1481, June.

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