Privatization in Estonia
MAIT MILJAN AND KUINO TÜRK
Having lost their political identity in 1940, the people of Estonia gradually lost their capitalist economic philosophy, work ethics, and the forms of ownership that had predominated during the period of independence: 1918-1940. In 1991, after independence and national statehood were reestablished, Estonians began to consider seriously the need for a transition to a capitalist economy model and for the privatization of assets that had been expropriated by the Soviet Union and kept under governmental control. No formula or panacea could be recommended to speed up the process of transition; rather, all decisions had to be preceded by extensive discussions and analyses to keep the costs of errors and bad decisions as low as possible.
In Estonia, privatization was seen as a vehicle for the transfer of ownership rights from the government to individuals. It was agreed nationwide that privatization should involve the creation of opportunities for developing and expanding the private sector and for minimizing the role of the government. This goal was to be achieved by the sale of properties owned by the national or local governments in accordance with the Constitution of Estonia and laws based on it and by transferring assets to private owners, so the assets could be operated by individuals or legal entities that represent the rights and interests of the owners.
Experience with privatization revealed that Estonia needs strongly committed entrepreneurs, on the one hand, and know-how and capital investments, on the other hand, to restructure its obsolete, inefficient factories and enterprises and to create productive jobs. It has also indicated that a stable parliamentary democracy is essential for developing a market economy in Estonia. Furthermore, no matter how quickly people expect changes to occur, the evolution of a market