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Holdups, Quality Choice, and the Achilles' Heel in Government Contracting

  • Dieter Bös
  • Christoph Lülfesmann

This paper investigates a procurement relationship between a welfare-oriented government and a private supplier. The agents face several versions of the trading good which differ in quality and production costs, and the differences between those items are undescribable ex ante. In presence of this `quality-choice problem', no initial contract may induce efficient cost-reducing investments of the supplier. In contrast, a first-best result is always attainable in private procurement where the buyer maximizes profit rather than welfare. We identify the government's welfare objective as its Achilles' heel: equilibrium trade prices differ in public and private procurement, and private governance can lead to more efficient investment decisions even though renegotiation ensures the ex-post efficient trade decision in either regime.

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Paper provided by University of Bonn, Germany in its series Bonn Econ Discussion Papers with number bgse28_2001.

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Length: 35
Date of creation: Aug 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bon:bonedp:bgse28_2001
Contact details of provider: Postal: Bonn Graduate School of Economics, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24 - 26, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Fax: +49 228 73 6884
Web page: http://www.bgse.uni-bonn.de

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  1. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," NBER Working Papers 5744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1998. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," NBER Working Papers 6726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Mathias Dewatripont & Philippe Aghion & Patrick Rey, 1994. "Renegotiation design with unverifiable information," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9591, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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  8. Edlin, Aaron S & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1996. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 478-501, June.
  9. Megginson, William L & Nash, Robert C & van Randenborgh, Matthias, 1994. " The Financial and Operating Performance of Newly Privatized Firms: An International Empirical Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 403-52, June.
  10. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  11. Lülfesmann Christoph, 2001. "Incomplete Contracts. Non-Contractible Quality, and Renegotiation," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-47, June.
  12. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1994. "Politicians and Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 995-1025, November.
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  15. Segal, Ilya, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82, January.
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  17. Klaus M. Schmidt, 1990. "The Costs and Benefits of Privatization," Discussion Paper Serie A 287, University of Bonn, Germany.
  18. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1993. "Investments, Holdup, and the Form of Market Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 811-37, September.
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