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Privatisation in Bulgaria: strategies, methods, results and conclusions

Radostina Bakardjieva and Christoph Sowada

No S-16, Finanzwissenschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge : Specials series: Industrial and social policies in countries in transition from Universität Potsdam, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Abstract: Privatisation in Central and Eastern Europe can be defined as the transfer of property rights from the State to private owners. The transfers are carried out so as to vest the new private owners with the full property rights of use and disposal over their property, these rights being guaranteed by the legal framework established by the rule of law. In Bulgaria, one can distinguish between three main stages in the process of privatisation. Each was shaped by the conflicting resolutions of frequently changing governments and meant to serve different political goals. The first stage (1990-1993) is characterised by the blockade of legal privatisation, as ‘spontaneous privatisation’ was accorded high priority. As in other former socialist countries, great emphasis was placed on the so-called commercialisation of state-owned enterprises. This did not involve the actual transfer of State property into private hands, but rather the independent transformation of state-owned enterprises into joint-stock companies, as well as the establishment of subsidiary companies.1 The goals of introducing more efficient structures and applying modern methods of production by transferring property to a more suitable management were not achieved. The second stage (1993-1995) is a cash privatisation, which laid the foundation for an employee/management buy-out, aided by the legal provisions granting concessions in the payment of instalments. The most important factor in the third stage of the process of privatisation in Bulgaria was the adoption of the mass privatisation model as an alternative method of procedure. In 1996, legal regulations for mass privatisation were introduced and a privatisation fund was established. In the meantime, the process has evolved into its fourth stage, during which a strategy of privatisation has been formulated under the supervision of a monetary council, and various agreements with the IMF and the World Bank are being adhered to. Privatisation is the decisive factor in the structural reforms of East European countries. The problem of converting State property into more effective forms of property management has been exacerbated by the additional demand of carrying out the far-reaching structural changes as swiftly as possible. The expectation that a large part of State property would be privatised within a short time in Bulgaria, has not been met for a number of reasons. When the reforms began, the private sector was too weakly developed to become a catalyst for structural changes. Until 1995 there were no laws regulating the stock exchange or securities and bonds - the capital market was practically non-existent. Moreover, the various political parties could not agree upon the various models and objectives of privatisation. The population itself had no capital. The restitution of private ownership which will not be discussed in further detail was limited to the smallest businesses, traders and workshops. Furthermore, the Privatisation Agency and State authorities employed to initiate the privatisation process lacked experience. Another problem hindering privatisation was that the laws passed lacked precision and were constantly subject to change.

Date: 1999-07
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