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Problems of Bank Lending in Bulgaria: Information Asymmetry and Institutional Learning


  • Kenneth Koford
  • Adrian E. Tschoegl


Why are there such severe problems in lending in the transition countries? This research took a microeconomic and institutional look at part of the problem. We conducted interviews in Bulgaria and Hungary and sought answers to two questions. First, how do banks making "normal" loans insure that they were making "good" loans? Second, how do banks get their money back on loans that have turned bad? Clearly, weaknesses at either stage could explain both past loan failures and present reluctance to lend. The bankers we spoke to reported significant difficulties at both stages of the credit process. First, the bankers reported difficulties in accumulating the information to evaluate borrowers and their projects. The bankers also reported problems with encouraging borrowers to repay and difficulties with seizing collateral, and using legal action in collecting bad debts. Although many of the problems are universal problems of bank lending, many seemed specific to transition economies in general and Bulgaria in particular. We identified specific problems with obtaining and using the evidence about borrowers that might have been available. Bulgarian bankers were often less than fully effective in collecting all available information, or in considering later how they could improve their methods of evaluating clients. One method that more banks might usefully adopt is systematic review of loan losses and the incorporation of lessons learned into the training of new loan officers. In addition, there were serious difficulties in sharing information about borrowers among bankers and between bankers and other firms. Some relaxation of bank secrecy would be appropriate. We also identified policy areas where improvement appears appropriate. Reputation can be effective in ensuring that borrowers fulfill their contracts. However, there is a general lack of credit reporting institutions to share information about credit-worthiness; this need to be remedied. The heavy reliance on collateral imposes high costs on borrowers and lenders. For collateral to work properly, banks must be able to perfect the collateral and to dispose of it quickly. Finally, fraud against banks was common, but typically went unpunished; prosecutors were apparently not interested in such cases. Bankers and prosecutors must make the prosecution of bank fraud a priority. We base our findings on the 24 banking interviews we conducted in Bulgaria. We also conducted 12 interviews in Hungary. Bankers were surprisingly candid in describing most of their problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth Koford & Adrian E. Tschoegl, 1997. "Problems of Bank Lending in Bulgaria: Information Asymmetry and Institutional Learning," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-41, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:pennin:97-41

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William Hallagan, 1997. "Speed And Sequencing Of Market Reforms: The Case Of Banking In Latvia," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(2), pages 24-34, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sõrg, Mart, 2003. "Reformation of the Estonian banking system," Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Diskussionspapiere 02/2003, University of Greifswald, Faculty of Law and Economics.
    2. Berlemann, Michael & Nenovsky, Nikolay, 2003. "Lending of first versus lending of last resort: The Bulgarian financial crisis of 1996/1997," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 11/03, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
    3. Adrian E. Tschoegl, 2000. "The Key to Risk Management: Management," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 99-42, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
    4. Größl, Ingrid, 2005. "The interplay of legal and social norms and the failure of the bank credit market in Bulgaria," Discussion Papers 04, University of Hamburg, Centre for Economic and Sociological Studies (CESS/ZÖSS).
    5. Sõrg, Mart & Tuusis, Danel, 2008. "Foreign banks increase the social orientation of Estonian financial sector," Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Diskussionspapiere 01/2008, University of Greifswald, Faculty of Law and Economics.
    6. K. Dimitrova & Nikolay Nenovsky, 2003. "Deposits insurance during EU accession," Post-Print halshs-00259788, HAL.
    7. Koford, Kenneth & Miller, Jeffrey B., 2006. "Contract enforcement in the early transition of an unstable economy," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 1-23, March.
    8. Hainz, Christa, 2003. "Bank competition and credit markets in transition economies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 223-245, June.
    9. Chen, Anlin & Kao, Lanfeng, 2011. "Effect of collateral characteristics on bank performance: Evidence from collateralized stocks in Taiwan," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 300-309, February.
    10. Koford, Kenneth, 2000. "Citizen restraints on "Leviathan" government: transition politics in Bulgaria," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 307-338, June.
    11. Albert Park & Minggao Shen, 2002. "A Refinancing Model of Decentralization with Empirical Evidence from China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 461, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    12. Christa Hainz, 2004. "Are Transition Countries Overbanked? The Effect of Institutions on Bank Market Entry," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(2), pages 237-256, May.

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