Privatization in Central East Europe: can it be designed?

According to general understanding, privatization in Central East Europe does not simply mean the transfer of individual firms from state hands to other proprietors, but it is the precondition and the main instrument of rebuilding the whole economic system. Thus, the task is not to fit in state owned enterprises into a functioning market but to create this new integration mechanism parallel with and by the mean of a wide-ranging change of ownership structure. One of the basic dilemmas of the transformation is, whether it is possible to build up the frameworks of a decentralized market mechanism applying a comprehensive, homogeneous privatization strategy, carried out by centralized governmental institutions. In other words: can privatization be designed?
Based on the Hungarian experience, in comparison with Czech-Slovakia and Poland, this paper will argue that all governments have tried to do so. Nevertheless, their attempts to design ownership changes have been successful at a different degree - not (only) in terms of privatized assets or enterprises but in terms of the impact of programs, guidelines and centralized decision making on the transformation of the proprietary structure. The degree of "design" will be characterized by the stability versus shifts of governmental privatization policies and the relationship between the programs declared and the empirical changes.

In: Institutional Design in New Democracies, A. Lijphart, C.H. Waisman eds., Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1996. 177-194.

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