September 30, 2004

Banks, public and private

Nice round-up from Brookings tackling one of the more interesting problems global development: the status of state-owned financial institutions. (Er, I did say "interesting," not "exciting.") Everyone knows that privately-owned banks work better than state-owned banks; the tricky part is how to make that transition. Devil in the details, innit. The experience in Russia, Pakistan, and elsewhere would tell us that government fire sales usually end badly, and what's needed is some sort of properly functioning legal framework already in place. The Brookings conference, meanwhile, tells us that how you sell off the banks matters too.

All this reminds me, I'm not sure what's happening to the banking system in Iraq—it might be worth finding out. The military government nationalized commercial banks way back when, though under Saddam Hussein there were a few private banks, and under the coalition a few more opened up. But, if I'm not mistaken, the central bank is still state-owned, and the banking industry in general is not open to foreign investors (although the CPA page says otherwise, I think that's out of date, but I'm not sure.) In fact, there's not much good reporting on how Iraq's financial institutions are holding up, and how the "shock therapy" treatment is turning out. I know that's the least of Iraq's problems right now, but still.
-- Brad Plumer 3:12 AM || ||