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The Privatization of Italian Savings Banks: A Role Model for Germany?

Listed author(s):
  • Elena Carletti
  • Hendrik Hakenes
  • Isabel Schnabel

The privatization of the Italian savings banks is often described as a success story. Proponents of privatization argue that a similar reform could cure the current problems in the German banking sector. In this paper, we ask whether the Italian experience can really serve as a role model for Germany. Our analysis confirms that the Italian reforms of the 1990s were a success. Banks' profitability increased, without impairing competition or the availability of banking services and loans. However, this success has to be attributed to a broad set of reforms, which went far beyond the privatization of savings banks. Moreover, Italy had a different starting point before the reforms, and the structure of the public banking sector differed markedly from Germany's. Therefore, one may question the transferability of the Italian experience to Germany. The costs and benefits of privatization should be weighed carefully against each other before abandoning the three-pillar system. Die Privatisierung italienischer Sparkassen wird häufig als Erfolgsgeschichte bezeichnet. Befürworter einer Privatisierung argumentieren, dass die gegenwärtigen Probleme im deutschen Bankensystem auf ähnlichem Wege behoben werden könnten. In diesem Aufsatz stellen wir die Frage, ob das italienische Beispiel wirklich als Vorbild für Deutschland dienen kann. Unsere Analyse bestätigt, dass die italienischen Reformen der 90er Jahre ein Erfolg waren. Die Banken wurden profitabler, ohne dass der Wettbewerb oder die Verfügbarkeit von Bankleistungen oder Krediten eingeschränkt wurden. Dieser Erfolg ist jedoch das Ergebnis eines breiten Reformprozesses, der weit über die Privatisierung der Sparkassen hinausging. Außerdem war der Ausgangspunkt vor den Reformen ein anderer als in Deutschland, und der öffentliche Bankensektor wies andere Strukturen auf. Daher kann man die Übertragbarkeit der italienischen Erfahrung auf Deutschland in Frage stellen. Kosten und Nutzen einer Privatisierung sollten sorgfältig gegeneinander abgewogen werden, bevor man das "Drei-Säulen-System" aufgibt.

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Article provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its journal Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung.

Volume (Year): 74 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 32-50

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Handle: RePEc:diw:diwvjh:74-4-3
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  1. Hendrik Hakenes & Isabel Schnabel, 2006. "The Threat of Capital Drain: A Rationale for Public Banks?," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2006_11, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  2. International Monetary Fund, 2004. "Germany's Three-Pillar Banking System; Cross-Country Perspectives in Europe," IMF Occasional Papers 233, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Amel, Dean & Barnes, Colleen & Panetta, Fabio & Salleo, Carmelo, 2004. "Consolidation and efficiency in the financial sector: A review of the international evidence," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 2493-2519, October.
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