Posts tagged ‘debt guarantees’

21/02/2014

* Local-government debt: Bridging the fiscal chasm | The Economist

This article provides support for the views of Charlene Chu, expert on China’s shadow debt – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ffcabcec-7900-11e3-b381-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2tsNdwlvq.  She was one of the key interviewees in Robert Peston‘s recent BBC2 show on “How China Fooled the World”. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03w7gxt

“CHINA’S provincial administrations are often referred to as “local” governments. But the phrase does not do them justice. The province of Guangdong, for example, boasts more than 105m people and a GDP worth more than $1 trillion. Only 11 countries (including China itself) have a bigger population and only 15 have a larger economy.

Equally impressive is the scale of provincial debts. At the end of 2013 China’s national auditor revealed that the liabilities of local governments had grown to 10.9 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion) by the middle of last year, or 17.9 trillion yuan if various debt guarantees were added. That was equivalent to about a third of China’s GDP. These “local” debts, in other words, had grown fast enough to become a national burden and an international concern.

The audit documented the size of the problem, but revealed little about its location. The debts were all discussed at an aggregate, countrywide level. No provinces were singled out for blame or praise. In the past few weeks, however, almost all of the provincial-level governments have published audits of their own. As well as shedding light on the problem, this information may help to solve it. In principle, the least provident governments are now exposed to public scrutiny. Fiscal shame may help prevent a fiscal fright.

But identifying the most indebted province is not as easy as it sounds. The figures can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways. The coastal provinces of Jiangsu (just north of Shanghai) and Guangdong (just north of Hong Kong) owe the most, accounting for 14% of the total between them. But these two provinces also have the largest economies, generating over 19% of the country’s GDP.

Relative to the size of their economies, the poor western provinces of Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu bear some of the heaviest burdens, along with the western municipality of Chongqing, which is renowned for its heavy public investment (see chart). The province with the biggest fiscal chasm to cross, however, is Guizhou (whose impressive Balinghe bridge is pictured above). It had liabilities in mid-2013 equivalent to over 80% of its GDP over the previous four quarters.

These figures include money China’s provincial governments have borrowed themselves and other institutions’ debts that they have guaranteed. Sometimes this debt is guaranteed explicitly. Often, the backing is implicit. By the end of 2012 Chongqing had explicitly guaranteed debts worth 18% of its GDP. Gansu, for its part, had implicitly backed borrowings worth 20%.”

via Local-government debt: Bridging the fiscal chasm | The Economist.

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