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Information, Incentives, and Commitment: An Empirical Analysis of Contracts between Government and State Enterprises


  • Shirley, Mary M
  • Xu, Lixin Colin


This article analyzes the experience with performance contracts between developing country governments and the managers of their state owned enterprises. It identifies how problems of information asymmetry, incentives, and commitment can lead to shirking. It applies this conceptual framework to a sample of 12 contracts with monopoly state enterprises in six developing countries and finds that all suffer from serious contracting problems and there is no pattern of improved performance that can be attributed to the contracts. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Shirley, Mary M & Xu, Lixin Colin, 1998. "Information, Incentives, and Commitment: An Empirical Analysis of Contracts between Government and State Enterprises," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 358-378, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:14:y:1998:i:2:p:358-78

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nalebuff, Barry J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1983. "Information, Competition, and Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 278-283, May.
    2. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Using Cost Observation to Regulate Firms," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 614-641, June.
    3. Xavier Freixas & Roger Guesnerie & Jean Tirole, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 173-191.
    4. Shirley, Mary M., 1989. "Evaluating the performance of public enterprises in Pakistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 160, The World Bank.
    5. David E. M. Sappington, 1991. "Incentives in Principal-Agent Relationships," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 45-66, Spring.
    6. 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.
    7. John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116, January.
    8. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1994. "Politicians and Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 995-1025.
    9. Nellis, J.R., 1989. "Contract Plans And Public Enterprise Performance," World Bank - Discussion Papers 48, World Bank.
    10. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Ajay Chhibber & Swati Gupta, "undated". "Public Sector Undertakings: Bharat’s other Ratnas," Working Papers 2017-6, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    4. repec:kap:asiapa:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10490-016-9477-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. repec:spr:manint:v:48:y:2008:i:3:d:10.1007_s11575-008-0017-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 44(4), pages 393-422, June.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Sangeetha Gunasekar & Jayati Sarkar, 2014. "Does autonomy matter in state owned enterprises? Evidence from performance contracts in India," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2014-034, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Cook, Michael L. & Chaddad, Fabio R., 2000. "Agroindustrialization of the global agrifood economy: bridging development economics and agribusiness research," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 23(3), September.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. Khaleghian, Peyvand & Gupta, Monica Das, 2005. "Public management and the essential public health functions," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1083-1099, July.
    17. Sergei Guriev & William L. Megginson, 2006. "Privatization: What We have Learned: World Bank's ABCDE 2006," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/1quv2b21ai9, Sciences Po.
    18. Sylvain Rossiaud, 2015. "L’ouverture de l’amont pétrolier à des compagnies privées. Un cadre d’analyse en termes d’économie des coûts de transaction," Post-Print hal-01162793, HAL.
    19. Clarke,George R.*Gebreab, Frew A.*Mgombelo, Henr, 2003. "Telecommunications reform in Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3036, The World Bank.
    20. Chhibber, Ajay & Gupta, Swati, 2017. "Bolder Disinvestment or Better Performance Contracts? Which Way Forward for India's State-Owned Enterprises," Working Papers 17/205, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. 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.
    24. Ajay Chhibber & Swati Gupta, 2017. "Bolder Divestment Not Better Performance Contracts are the Solution for India's Public Sector," Working Papers 2017-19, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    25. 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.

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