Interesting to see that Poland wants to squeeze out more income from its state-owned enterprise (SOE) sector in the face of slowing economic growth and financing pressures.
Warsaw wants to double next year’s dividends from stakes in firms ranging from copper mines to utility providers to banks.
Fellow euro zone aspirant Lithuania has also embarked on reforms aimed at increasing dividends sixfold from what UBS has dubbed “the forgotten side of the government balance sheet”. It wants to emulate countries such as Sweden and Singapore where such companies are managed at arm’s length from the state and run along strict corporate standards to consistently grow profits.
The impetus isn’t entirely ideological. Poland and Lithuania are desperately trying to balance their books and under European Commission rules, privatisation proceeds cannot be taken into account when calculating the budget deficit but SOE dividends can.
But “sweating” government assets to yield higher profits doesn’t always come easy for central and eastern Europe. After all, this is a region where state ownership has been synonymous with inefficiency and stagnation.