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Soft Budget Constraint Theories: From Centralization to the Market

  • Maskin, Eric
  • Xu, Cheng-Gang

This Paper surveys the theoretical literature on the effect of soft budget constraints (SBC) on economies in transition from centralization to capitalism; it also reviews our understanding of SBC in general. It focuses on the conception of the SBC syndrome as a commitment problem. We show that the two features of SBC in centralized economies ex post renegotiation of firms’ financial plans and a close administrative relationship between firms and the centre are intrinsically related. We examine a series of theories (based on the commitment-problem approach) that explain shortage, lack of innovation in centralized economies, devolution, and banking reform in transition economies. Moreover, we argue that SBC also bear on major issues in economics, such as the determination of the boundaries and capital structure of a firm. Finally, we show that SBC theory sheds light on financial crises and economic growth.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2715.

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Date of creation: Mar 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2715
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