QUESTION: Which national banks are state-owned?

question / pregunta: 

I know that the majority of the world's national banks, such as the Federal Reserve in the U.S. and the Bank of England are privately owned central banks that borrow money from international banking corporations. But a few countries, like Libya and China, have banks that are wholly owned by the state, which prints its own national currency. Other than these two, are there any other countries that follow this model? Where do I start looking to find out what percentage of ownership a state has in its national bank?


Answer posted by:
jim miller

A possible start would be to search: privatization, in the site search or publications pages of organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. IMF gets 16 hits, including State-Owned Banks, Stability, Privatization, and Growth. But the World Bank gets 100,000+ hits for the site search: privatization; 19,000+ for: privatization banks statistics; and 201 even for: "privatizing banks" statistics. An easily compiled figure for worldwide public vs. privately owned banks seems to be very elusive, based on many searches I have tried. But I hope there are some RadRef librarians that have a bit more experience than I do - with both statistics and with public documents. Possibly, might help, because it includes state as well as federal websites, reports, studies, etc. and gets "about 225 results" for the search: "financial sector" privatization worldwide statistics.


Thanks, I gave it a try. But since the goal of the IMF is to encourage the privatization of all aspects of each country's economy, not just their banking, it comes up in so many hits that it is impossible to sort through. The problem is that who actually owns these banks is intentionally obscured. This leads to most people thinking, for example, that the Federal Reserve is publicly-owned when it isn't. I think this question is very timely, seeing as how one of the first actions of the Libyan "rebels" was to set up a privately-owned central bank to challenge Quadaffi's state-owned bank which helped fund development projects for the Libyan people. This is why I'm so interested in the question-by identifying which countries have state-owned banks it's possible to see where the next regime change is likely to be targeted.

more possible searches (mainly at large libraries)

Quite possibly the best way to try to find even a rough estimate (since as you wisely noted, there is no clear-cut agreement on just what really IS "government owned"), is to do an extensive search in commercial academic databases for articles about government ownership of banks. This will no doubt require going in person to a large public university to get on-campus guest access, unless you are already a student or staff member and can login to an e-resources proxy server.

For example, Factiva gets 213 hits for the search: "government owned banks" and "market share". Factiva defaults to full text search, but it tends to be fairly short news articles. Compare Business Source Complete, which defaults to title, journal title, abstract, and subjects; and gets only 2 hits for that same search. But if you "Select a field" TX-all text, it gets 96 hits. The "proximity search" in full text: "government owned banks" n50 "market share" gets only 4 hits, so you may even do better looking in the default fields TI, SO, AB, and SU) for just "government owned banks" (56 hits) and either skim through them or use the "refine results" suggestions at left to limit the search - or even to suggest other words to try in new searches.

It's possible that U.S. congressional hearings might have included testimony on government owned banks in other countries. In LexisNexis Congressional (probably under its new name Proquest Congressional, in many large academic libraries), you can use "Advanced search" to search full text. The search: "government owned banks" gets only 5 hits, but: "government owned" w/30 banks gets 46. You can change the list display to "Expanded list", to see where the words were found, and to go to that part of the full text. The search: "public sector" w/40 international w/40 banks gets 59 hits. But this will get many irrelevant hits, where public sector agencies and private banks are both mentioned. Also, in congressional hearings, the Key words are indexes only in big blocks of text, and you may have to use CTRL-F to get to the words in those long documents.

The Library of Congress Thomas Multicongess search gets 10 hits for: government owned banks, where words are near each other. Public banks get 116 hits, with the words near each other. State owned banks gets 54 with the words near each other. The fulltext has the highlighted words, and many of them look like they are talking about private banks and OTHER public or government entities or programs.

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