Nikitin (2000) also analyzes the interaction between firms and the government. Basing on the dynamic game theoretical model of the non-payment crisis in the transition economy the author suggests that such crises result from the lack of faith in the disinflation policy. Firms expected that in the end the government would resort to offsets for firms, which accumulated payment arrears. According to the model, the firm takes the decision to terminate deliveries to defaulters taking into account a number of parameters, including the costs related to the withdrawal from the system of non-payments, the length of planning horizon, and the discounting factor.
It shall be noted that the existing models are based on the assumption that there exists a direct relation between non-payments and the availability of credit resources. The measures undertaken by the authorities in the sphere of monetary policies are the regulating factor. Contraction of bank crediting, tight monetary policies, and disinflation policy are among the factors behind the insolvency of enterprises most often mentioned in the literature on the question.
Model 2: Short Term Cash Gaps
The phenomenon of overdue indebtedness per se may be interpreted in many different ways. First of all, this phenomenon inevitably accompanies the functioning of commercial credit mechanisms: overdue indebtedness (sometimes on a large scale) is registered in practically all developed economies (this point of view is emphasized by Schaffer, 1998).
The transition period in the former Soviet Union and East European countries is characterized by a sharp contraction of participation of banks in the economic operations of the real sector, although this process may hardly be defined as a contraction of crediting. There were no crediting in the market terms in the planned economic systems. Banks mostly functioned as payment systems and solved the liquidity problems, while enterprises were not concerned with the repayment of bank loans. Therefore, the term “contraction of crediting” shall rather be understood as the marketization of crediting, what inevitably resulted in the flow of bank resources to sectors with highest capital productivity and minimal non-repayment risks. The GKO market has been such a sector of the financial market for a long time.
According to this hypothesis, small amounts of crediting, high interest rates, unpredictable inflation accounted for the fact that enterprises were unable to cover short term cash gaps occurring in the process of their economic operations at the expense of short term loans obtained on the financial market, what resulted in widespread commercial (commodity) credits.
The spreading of commercial credits may become attractive also in the situation, where mutual commercial credits cost less than banking credits. In any case, one of the enterprises would additionally benefit economizing on bank interest (in case the commodity credit is free).
Mutual profitability of commercial credit is the precondition for such a situation to emerge. In case one counteragent is a net creditor and the other contracting party is a net debtor the crediting party may seek benefits by maintaining its output volumes, retain (expand) its sales markets, etc. In both cases this party will pursue long term goals at the expense of short term ones, since the creditor in fact refrains from the chance to invest its financial resources on better terms.
However, in real life commercial crediting is complicated, first, by wider economic relations (the number of interacting enterprises is as a rule more than two, while the process of production and consumption is more complex); and, second, the asymmetry of information and the hazard of partners’ unscrupulousness. On the other hand, long term partners may more easily resort to mutual crediting (deliveries on terms of deferred payments) than banks, since their long term business relations allow to minimize the risk of adverse selection.
The spreading of commercial credit may result in a number of effects. First, such crediting affects prices. As goods are delivered on terms of deferred payment, on the one hand, the seller may include interest on the commercial credit in the price, on the other hand, the elasticity of demand at contractual price may lower due to uncertain terms of credit repayment.
The less important role played by money and prices may emerge as the second effect resulting from the spread of commodity crediting, since it may facilitate the spreading of non-monetary payments (barter). In other words, the transaction demand for money declines. This fact accounts for the opportunity to produce and consume more (at least as measured in nominal contractual prices) than the money supply allows. At the same time, the function of money as a standard of value becomes less important. Enterprises are free to set any price of their products, since in this situation their goal function is not profit, but output. However, the reporting is still conducted in nominal prices, what results in the fact that enterprises suffer from excessive indicators of profitability due to growing tax liabilities. However, in case of tax evasion this price regulator also loses in importance.
In case exchange proportions are more important than prices, there emerges another problem, i.e. that of complicated control over the financial standing of both the enterprise itself and its counteragents. In this situation there arises the possibility that enterprises may continue their operations at the expense of decumulation of both their internal capitals and the capitals of its counteragents. Enterprises actually operating at a loss may prolong their existence by borrowing raw materials and showing negative profitability.
In the situation of mass mutual commodity crediting such fundamental indicators as profitability and non-repaid indebtedness, which, as a rule, are open for partners, in a certain sense can not perform their function as a reflection of their financial standing. As a result, it becomes more difficult to distinguish between “good” and “bad” firms. The same factor is responsible for the banks resorting to credit rationing apprehending adverse selection.
Therefore, commercial credit per se generates in a number of negative consequences: decreasing importance of money and prices, substitution of the goal function, decreasing importance of a number of financial indicators, more complicated monitoring of counteragents, and, as a result, the emergence of the potential for actual subsidizing of loss-making enterprises and further contraction of bank crediting.
In case production chains do not include loss-making enterprises and the problems related to asymmetric information do not aggravate, the contraction of bank crediting and resulting spread of non-payments do not present a systemic problem, since in this case non-payments are just late payments.
A. Calvo and Fabrizio Coricelli (1994) adhere to the view that non-payments are characteristic both for loss-making and profitable enterprises. The authors argue that tighter monetary policy pursued by the government affects the process of enterprise restructuring (their adaptation to market environment and the opportunity to reject insolvent traditional customers). According to the authors, non-payments are a systemic phenomenon, a necessary attribute of the economic equilibrium, a sort of equiponderant response of the system to the contraction of liquidity. In other words, on weak financial market sharp contraction of liquidity (liquid resources of enterprises) may result in an equilibrium, where inter-enterprise transaction progressively demonetize and non-payments become a norm. The authors argue that there exists a relation between the level of liquidity in the economy and payment arrears. Although the authors do not call for more moderate monetary policy, they observe that too tight monetary policies may result in negative consequences4.
Perotti (1998) advances a similar point of view while analyzing the impact of the tightness of monetary policies on non-payments. The author argues that the relation between the number of enterprises striving to restructure and the tightening of monetary policies may be described in terms of the Laffer curve. The control of inflation rates forces enterprises to resort to internal financial resources refraining from bank credits.
The impact of non-payments on implementation of monetary policies and the effectiveness of equilibrium with non-payments were studied in Denisova (1999), Guriev, Pospelov, Shaposhnik (2000), Varshavski (2000). As a rule, these models view inter-enterprise payment arrears as a tool substituting bank credits. However, it shall be noted that in spite of the visible significance of bank crediting in the maintenance of current liquidity of enterprises the expansion of this process does not bring desired results in case real loss-making, often defined as non-market production5, is the source of insolvency.
In case the economic chain includes loss-making enterprises, payment arrears may become a source for the existence of ineffective enterprises, what shall be attributed to a model of another type.
Model 3: Subsidies to Ineffective Enterprises
An enterprise begins to operate at a loss when it is not able to sell its products at a price covering costs and yielding a profit, or in other words, there is no effective demand for its products.
The solvency of any enterprise depend on the wish and resources of potential customers to purchase its products. The lack of demand for the products means that either the potential buyer is insolvent, or that these products are non-competitive (in terms of their prices, quality). Sales problems encountered by an enterprise result in the fact that it can not settle with its creditors and therefore decreases the (effective) demand for the products of its suppliers. Therefore, in case the buyer is another enterprise, the solvency of the former will depend, among other factors, on the wish and resources of the customers of the latter enterprise to purchase the products of the first enterprise. Ultimately, the solvency of any enterprise depends on resources allocated by its customers, as well as by the consumers (up to the final consumers), of goods produced by its buyers (in case they themselves are producers) for purchase of its products. In case such an enterprise is a link in a chain of production relations it may trigger the chain of payment arrears, especially if suppliers have no possibility to change the partner. Any changes in demand occurring in the production chain render all its preceding links insolvent (in the short run).
It shall be noted that in contradistinction to the Soviet planned economy, the market economy is more resistant to various demand shocks due to its higher mobility, diversification, and lesser degree of monopolization. The lack of mobility observed in the Soviet planned economy was hazardous to the functioning of enterprises, since many of them proved to be inadequate to the new realities emerging in the process of transition to the market economy.
The enterprises failing to sell their products are potential bankrupts. In the environment, where contract enforcement mechanisms are in place, such enterprises are subjected to bankruptcy proceedings or restructuring in case they fail to settle with creditors. If such enterprises continue to exist, their losses shall be financed by someone else, otherwise they stop to fulfil their payment obligations (in this case their debts are financed by non-payments to creditors). In this case non-payments, according to Rostowski (1993), turn into the “channel” of financing of “bad” firms. Therefore, the problem of non-payments is often attributed to loss-making enterprises6.
Seemingly, under the market economy there always exists a number of ineffective enterprises, therefore the problem of eliminating mass payment arrears may not be tied to the complete extinction of loss-making enterprises. However, the state may limit the adverse impact of non-payments generated by ineffective sectors on the economy at large by implementing structural economic policies. According to the third model, losses may generate payment arrears in case the enterprise finances negative results of its economic operations at the expense of non-payments to its creditors. In this case it is of no importance what factor is responsible for loss-making. It is important that losses develop in non-payments, which may be characterized as “bad debts” in contradistinction to “late payments.”
It shall be noted that often hypotheses indicating sources of non-payment fail to explain their persistent growth. It remains unclear why the creditors of loss-making enterprises continue to deliver their products to defaulters practically for free, thus creating potential for long term persistence of indebtedness.
Macroeconomic Interaction Model. Cumulative Growth of Non-Payments
The preceding sections focused on the sources of payment arrears, strategies observed in the behavior of enterprises with “net non-payments” (balance of overdue payables and receivables). However, all three micro-economic models described above fail to explain the specific phenomenon of “non-voluntary” and cumulative growth in the amounts of overdue indebtedness. Such a phenomenon may also be observed in developed market economies in periods of credit crunch (Kindleberger, 1996).
In other words, in the situation where non-payments prevail, there may exist enterprises not necessarily having “net non-payments,” which, however, are involved in the process of “transfer” of payment arrears and therefore registering a certain level of overall overdue indebtedness (equal to the amount of overdue payables and receivables). It shall be once more emphasized that while these enterprises may generate no payment arrears, they are involved in the process of their redistribution.
The processes of growth in non-payments caused both by the factors described in the framework of three above models, and by the cumulative growth in indebtedness may be studied in the framework of the general equilibrium model. However, this presentation focuses on the factors behind the initial generation of non-payments and leaves outside the processes of payment arrears spreading.
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