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Why privatize? : the case of Argentina's public provincial banks

Listed author(s):
  • Clarke, George R.
  • Cull, Robert

Argentina has been a leader among developing countries in restructuring its banking sector. The authors analyze the performance of those banks before and after privatization and estimate fiscal savings associated with privatizingArgentina's banks rather than keeping them public and later recapitalizing them. The authors describe the process of privatization, including the creation of residual entities for the assets and liabilities of public provincial banks that private buyers found unattractive and the creation of a special fund (the Fondo Fiduciario) to convert the short-term liabilities of the residual entities into longer-term obligations. They argue that the Fondo, created through cooperation between the Argentine federal government and the World Bank, was key in making privatization of the banks politically feasible. Argentina privatized roughly half of its public provincial banks. The Argentine experience suggests that bank privatization may succeed only when accompanied by a sound, incentive-compatible system of prudential regulation. The regulatory environment affects a bank s solvency. Improved regulation and supervision alone does not deliver the same benefits as improved regulation and supervision with privatization. The provincial banks that remained in the public sector did not demonstrate the same performance gains as privatized provincial banks. The decision to maintain a public provincial bank is a costly one. Policymakers should expect privatization to pass through some or all of the following steps: 1) With respect to pre-privatization audits, expect losses hidden in these banks to be larger than those indicated in prior audits. 2) If residual entities are created, expect them to hold a large share of the old public provincial bank, if the quality of its loan portfolio was low. 3) Do not expect the price paid for the privatized entity (the so-called good bank) to be great, at least compared with assets and liabilities in the residual entity. 4) If the residual entity is large, the province will be confronted with substantial short-term liabilities. But with assistance and an aggressive asset recovery strategy, governments should be able to navigate their way through short-term difficulty. 5) The costs of privatization are less than the costs of future recapitalization, even if the near-term management of the residual entity does not go well.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1972.

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Date of creation: 30 Sep 1998
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1972
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  1. Talley, Samuel H. & Mas, Ignacio, 1990. "Deposit insurance in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 548, The World Bank.
  2. Robert G. King & Ross Levine, 1993. "Finance and Growth: Schumpeter Might Be Right," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 717-737.
  3. Levine, Ross & Zervos, Sara, 1998. "Stock Markets, Banks, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 537-558, June.
  4. Jeffert Aberbanellv & John Bonin, 1997. "Bank Privatization in Poland: The Case of Bank Slaki," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 4, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  5. Cull, Robert J., 1997. "Financial sector adjustment lending : a mid-course analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1804, The World Bank.
  6. Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross & DEC, 1994. "The financial system and public enterprise reform : concepts and cases," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1319, The World Bank.
  7. Martin D. D. Evans, 1998. "Dividend Variability and Stock Market Swings," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(4), pages 711-740.
  8. King, Robert G. & Levine, Ross, 1992. "Financial indicators and growth in a cross section of countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 819, The World Bank.
  9. King, Robert G. & Levine, Ross, 1993. "Finance, entrepreneurship and growth: Theory and evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 513-542, December.
  10. Quirk, James & Terasawa, Katsuaki, 1991. "Choosing a government discount rate: An alternative approach," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 16-28, January.
  11. Abarbanell, Jeffery S. & Bonin, John P., 1997. "Bank Privatization in Poland: The Case of Bank Slaski," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 31-61, August.
  12. Clarke, George R.G. & Cull, Robert, 1998. "The political economy of privatization : an empirical analysis of bank privatization in Argentina," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1962, The World Bank.
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