Decentralization of Banks in Eastern Europe
And the Soviet Union
As Soviet communism collapsed in Eastern Europe in 1989, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe began the unprecedented transition from a centralized command economy to a market economy. The stages of transition included, liberalization, stabilization and privatization. All of these steps required decentralization of government assets and financial institutions. One of the most crucial parts of the transition was the decentralization of the banking system, which wiped out the centrally planned Soviet and Eastern European societies. Unlike most banking systems in market economies, the bank in the centrally planned economies acted as administrative agencies and had almost no common features with any commercial bank. These countries had to accomplish hundreds of years of economic evolution in a matter of a few years. In this paper I want to discuss how the command economy banks were decentralized and the causes of bank failure after decentralization. The second aspect I want to talk about is how laws and regulations were used to recover banks failure and eventually lead to a functioning system of commercial banks. All of the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe share a common political, economic and social background. The Soviet communism was implemented in the Eastern and Central European countries in the late 1930's and early 1940's. This change in government resulted in the transformation of the existing pre World War I political, economic and social structures of the countries. Existing governments were replaced with administrations that controlled the various regions through a standardized set of rules and formal norms that removed all social connections from the earlier years. Under these new rules all political, economic and social activities were controlled by a state dominated single party. When the party fell in 1989, the newly freed countries all took a separate path politically and economically. The main elements that all the countries had in common were the need to decentralize the government agencies and form an adequate banking system. (Lavigne) Within the communist system, the banking system was based around a single Central bank which performed both the central bank operations and extended credit to industry within the country. The central bank was assisted by savings banks which collected deposits. No commercial banks existed. The bank was property of the government and only the central planner could decide on capital allocation and production levels. The functions of money did not exist within the command economies. Within the governing area, money was simply used as an accounting tool. The currency was based on convertible rubles and had no use outside of the council for mutual economic assistance trade zone countries. When more currency was needed, they simply printed more money (Lavigne). There were no interest rates to be effected by money supply, prices or demand. The bank was property of the government and only the central planner decided the ways in which money was dispersed throughout the country. Money passed through the economy through a planned central economy where resource efficiency was not a priority. The plan allocated cash to the specialized banks that represented each sector of the economy. Loans were given without consideration on whether or not they could be repaid. These loans were simply issued to industries to cover losses and production requirement failures. This type of the policy encouraged poor management, inconsistent repayment plans and reduced money circulation (Boone). Once the government decentralized, the one bank system was transformed to a two tier banking system. This two tiered system broke the one bank system into a Central bank and independent commercial banks. The system was switched from a scenario where there was no outside money, to a system that...
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