Enterprise adjustment in Poland: evidence from a survey of 200 private, privatised, and state-owned firms
This paper reports the main findings from a survey of some 200 Polish firms carried out at the end of 1993. The central focus is on the relationship between different emerging forms of ownership and the extent and nature of enterprise level adjustments taking place. Four broad categories of enterprises that distinguish the main ownership forms that characterize Polish industry were included in the survey: (a) traditional state-owned enterprises, (b) corporatized state-owned enterprises that have been converted into joint stock companies but whose shares are now owned by the State Treasury; (c) former state-owned firms that have been privatized; and (d) privately-owned firms which were established de novo. Some of the main findings from the survey are as follows. Growth and investment in 1993 were widely diffused through the economy, but rather more concentrated in the private sector and especially in de novo private firms, while financial distress as revealed by low profit margins was concentrated in the state-owned sector. The survey suggests that all firms in Poland have experienced a considerable increase in competition, and have faced the need radically to restructure their patterns of input purchases and marketing strategy. In general, de novo private firms have led the way, and changes have been fewer and less deep in the state-owned sector. Developments on the labor side in our sample are rather modest, and to be heavily oriented to satisfy the preferences of insiders, especially workers. Overmanning remains rife in both the state-owned and privatized sector, and differences between the two groups of firms in wage determination appear to stem more from the operation of the excess wage tax than from differences in motivation. Behavior in the de novo private firms is, however, clearly different, with a concern to hire not fire, and with lower employee influence. With respect to finance, we find that privatized and especially de novo private firms are financially relatively healthy, with higher profits and fewer bad debts than the state-owned firms. Although almost half of private sector firms hold no bank debt, bank credit is flowing fastest to these firms and in general they report the fewest problems in servicing it. Overdue trade credit is common among all ownership groups but more so among state firms; however, the flow problem is not serious, and volumes of total and overdue trade credit are comparable to West European levels. The main method by which severely financially-distressed firms, nearly all of which are state-owned, finance their losses is by running up tax arrears; financing by banks and by trade credit is much less significant.
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