DP544 | Privatization in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia

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Several East European countries are embarking on major programmes both to expand their private sectors by encouraging new firm formation, and to transfer much of the existing state sector into private ownership. This paper studies the early experience of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia in these areas, and reviews in detail their privatization plans for the three years 1991-3. All three countries envisage that about half the existing state sector will be in private hands by 1994 an extremely rapid rate of ownership change. While all countries will use a mixture of privatization methods, Hungary intends to sell its state firms, while the other two countries will also give away to the population a substantial fraction of the shares in the largest firms. Both approaches involve some very difficult problems. In the case of sales, it is uncertain how rapidly these can take place if a `reasonable' share price is to be maintained. In the case of giving away shares, which in practice requires some important institutional developments such as the creation of Privatization Funds (as suggested in Poland), the main difficulty is likely to be associated with the sheer administrative complexity of the privatization process.