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Debt as a control device in transitional economies : the experiences of Hungary and Poland

  • Baer, Herbert L.
  • Gray, Cheryl W.
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    The basic economic challenge in the transition from socialism to capitalism is creating incentive structures and institutions that promote enterprise change and restructuring. This is the motivation for most of the reforms debated during the transition - whether privatization, demonopolization, trade reform, or financial sector reform. Most research on corporate governance and privatization has focused on the role of owners - whether on the problems inherent in the separation of ownership and management (most Western literature) or on the need for true owners who represents the interests of capital (most literature on transition economies). But debt is also an important control device, as Western literature on corporate finance increasingly recognizes. The authors explore debt's role as a control device in transition economies, focusing especially on Hungary and Poland, which are relatively far along in the reform process. They ask, first, in what ways creditors exert control over firms in advanced market economies and how such control interacts with that exerted by equity holders. They then ask whether creditors in Central and Eastern European countries play similar roles and, if not, what roles they should play, and what can be done to give them the capacity and incentives to play those roles. They focus on three fundamental requirements for debt to function as a control device: information, proper incentives for creditors (including banks, suppliers, and government), and an efficient legal framework for debt collection (including collateral, workout, and bankruptcy regimes). While both countries are making progress in all three areas, there is still much to be done. Hungary and Poland illustrate only two of many approaches. Other transitional economies, such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Russia, are following different approaches that should be explored in future analysis.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1480.

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    Date of creation: 30 Jun 1995
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1480
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    1. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1991. " The Theory of Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(1), pages 297-355, March.
    2. Aghion, P. & Hart, O. & Moore, J., 1992. "The Economics of Bankruptcy Reform," Working papers 92-11, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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    4. Stewart C. Myers, 1989. "Still searching for optimal capital structure," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 33, pages 80-105.
    5. J Bonin & M Schaffer, 1995. "Banks, Firms, Bad Debts and Bankruptcy in Hungary 1991-4," CEP Discussion Papers dp0234, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Hoshi, Takeo & Kashyap, Anil & Scharfstein, David, 1990. "The role of banks in reducing the costs of financial distress in Japan," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 67-88, September.
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    8. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1992. " Liquidation Values and Debt Capacity: A Market Equilibrium Approach," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1343-66, September.
    9. George A. Akerlof & Paul M. Romer, 1993. "Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(2), pages 1-74.
    10. Ronald I. McKinnon, 1991. "Financial Control in the Transition from Classical Socialism to a Market Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 107-122, Fall.
    11. Gilson, Stuart C., 1990. "Bankruptcy, boards, banks, and blockholders : Evidence on changes in corporate ownership and control when firms default," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 355-387, October.
    12. Gilson, Stuart C., 1989. "Management turnover and financial distress," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 241-262, December.
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