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Banks, Firms, Bad Debts and Bankruptcy in Hungary 1991-4

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  • J Bonin
  • M Schaffer

Abstract

The paper examines Hungary's experience with banking and bankruptcy reform in the period 1992-94. The first part of the paper uses enterprise-level data to show that in 1992, the same year in which the amount of classified loans in the state-owned commercial banks grew enormously, the proportion of total bank credit held by highly-unprofitable firms hardly changed. The inference from this is that the rapid growth of bad debt in 1992 was not the result of a "flow problem" (new bad lending) but rather represented the emergence of an inherited "stock problem" (pre-existing loans to inherited troubled clients). The paper then considers Hungary's 1992 bankruptcy reform, and in particular the novel "automatic trigger" which required firms to file for bankruptcy if they had a payable of any size, owed to anybody, overdue 90 days or more. The paper argues that the bankruptcy experiment was flawed on two counts. First, one of the key motivations for introducing the automatic trigger - a perceived problem with financial discipline and with interenterprise credit in particular - was largely unfounded. Second, the automatic trigger experiment was costly because the impact on firms which were forced to file for bankruptcy led to chains of disrupted trade relations which rippled through the economy. Evidence from a 1994 survey of 200 manufacturing firms shows that a majority of the surveyed firms had been involved in bankruptcies as creditors, and had lost not only sales but also suppliers as a result. The last part of the paper looks at the Hungarian government's bank recapitalization and enterprise bailout programs, arguing that they were poorly structured, overly bureaucratic, and susceptible to lobbying by firms looking to be "rescued". The paper concludes with a number of lessons: don't "shake things up" without being sure of the possible consequences; don't overestimate the capacities of bureaucratic procedures and undeveloped asset markets when designing debt workout programs; and don't underestimate the ability of market agents (banks and firms) to enforce financial discipline on each other if incentives are properly structured.

Suggested Citation

  • J Bonin & M Schaffer, 1995. "Banks, Firms, Bad Debts and Bankruptcy in Hungary 1991-4," CEP Discussion Papers dp0234, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0234
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Baer, Herbert L. & Gray, Cheryl W., 1995. "Debt as a control device in transitional economies : the experiences of Hungary and Poland," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1480, The World Bank.
    2. Kornai, Janos, 1993. "The Evolution of Financial Discipline under the Postsocialist System," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(3), pages 315-336.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dittus, Peter, 1996. "Why East European banks don't want equity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 655-662, April.
    2. Akhmed Akhmedov & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2004. "Opportunistic Political Cycles: Test in a Young Democracy Setting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1301-1338.
    3. Rumen Dobrinsky, 1996. "Enterprise restructuring and adjustment in the transition to market economy: lessons from the experience of Central and Eastern Europe," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 4(2), pages 389-410, October.
    4. Shumei Gao and Mark E. Schaffer & Shumei Gao and Mark E. Schaffer, 1998. "Financial Discipline in the Enterprise Sector in Transition Countries: How Does China Compare?," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 124, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    5. J. Kornai & E. Maskin & G. Roland., 2004. "Understanding the Soft Budget Constraint," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 12.
    6. J. Gacs, 2000. "Macroeconomic Developments in Hungary and the Accession Process," Working Papers ir00013, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
    7. Miklos Szanyi, 2002. "Bankruptcy regulations, policy credibility and asset transfers in Hungary," IWE Working Papers 130, Institute for World Economics - Centre for Economic and Regional Studies- Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    8. Brada, Josef C. & Kutan, Ali M., 1999. "The end of moderate inflation in three transition economies?," ZEI Working Papers B 21-1999, University of Bonn, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies.
    9. Emilio Colombo, 2001. "Determinants of corporate capital structure: evidence from Hungarian firms," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(13), pages 1689-1701.
    10. Schaffer, Mark E., 1998. "Do Firms in Transition Economies Have Soft Budget Constraints? A Reconsideration of Concepts and Evidence," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 80-103, March.
    11. Peter R Haiss & Gerhard Fink, 1998. "Seven Years of Financial Market Reform in Central Europe," Chapters in SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum.
    12. Baer, Herbert L. & Gray, Cheryl W., 1995. "Debt as a control device in transitional economies : the experiences of Hungary and Poland," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1480, The World Bank.
    13. Debora Revoltella & Peter R. Haiss & Gerhard Fink, 1998. "Corporate Governance in Central and Eastern Europe - Transition management is a tough job," SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum, number 3 edited by Morten Balling.
    14. Debora Revoltella, 1998. "Financing Firms in East European Countries: an assymetric information and agency costs approach," Chapters in SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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