Local government debt to be unearthed

Business | Reuters, Bloomberg, and Avery Chen 7 Mar 2019

China Development Bank will play a new role in resolving hidden and off-balance sheet local government debt which has been a focus for top policymakers as the country works to curb financial risks.

China's largest policy bank is working with the Ministry of Finance on specific cases of hidden local government debt, the bank's president Zheng Zhijie said. CDB hopes the central government will coordinate a national policy, he added.

China's state planner also said that the government will implement measures to further boost domestic consumption this year.

Private consumption is a key driver of China's economy, which grew at the slowest pace in almost three decades last year on a mix of domestic and global factors including its trade war with the United States.

China will boost the incomes of urban and rural residents, and domestic consumption is expected to continue to expand and to upgrade, said Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

The country is confident of meeting its economic growth target in 2019, NDRC chairman He Lifeng said. He and Ning were speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament.

"There will be more to come," Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said when asked whether China will roll out more stimulus policies to boost its auto industry. The measures will "not necessarily" be fiscal support, he said.

The program will continue in 2019 in order to ease local governments' interest burdens, Premier Li Keqiang said in his opening speech at the Great Hall of the People. Beijing encourages addressing local government financing vehicles' debt problems appropriately with market-based ways, the premier added.

S&P found mainland property developers have issued US$22.8 billion (HK$177 billion) offshore bonds so far this year, representing a 36 percent year on year increase, hitting a record high.

Some 300 cities in mainland saw 40.26 percent month-to-month or 30.36 percent year-on-year decline in construction land sales revenue last month, with the number of transactions falling 929 month-to-month, or 275 year-on-year, according to Tospur Real Estate Consulting.

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