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China orders banks to refinance local debts – Why?

TL;DR

  • China is grappling with soaring local government debt, posing threats to its fiscal stability.
  • This surge in debt arises from a worsening property market, aggressive infrastructure spending, and pandemic-related costs.
  • To counter this, China directed state-owned banks to refinance local debts by extending loan terms and reducing interest rates.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is wrestling with an escalating dilemma: a skyrocketing local government debt, jeopardizing its fiscal stability.

This debt has arisen from a cocktail of a deteriorating property market, aggressive infrastructure investments, and pandemic-related expenditures.

Now, China has stepped in, instructing its state-owned banks to act, but what are the real motives behind this strategic move?

Beijing’s Firefighting Maneuver

Amid a teetering economy, China’s recent strategy has been to mandate state-owned banks to refinance the current local government debt. This refinancing means swapping out existing loans with longer-term ones that have more favorable, reduced interest rates.

In 2022, local government debt soared to an astounding 92 trillion yuan ($12.58 trillion), representing a staggering 76% of China’s economic output. This figure marked a significant increase from the 62.2% recorded in 2019.

Local governments have extensively leveraged financing vehicles (LGFVs) to pool resources for infrastructure projects. These ventures often receive nudges from Beijing itself, particularly when the central government aims to inject vitality into the economy.

However, drained financial reservoirs complicate China’s endeavors to rejuvenate an economy that shows signs of stagnation. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), sensing the impending crisis, has directed primary state lenders to make pivotal changes.

These changes encompass the elongation of loan terms, revision of repayment blueprints, and trimming of interest rates for outstanding LGFV loans.

The Impending Debt Avalanche

LGFVs are about to face their most challenging phase. A research note from UBS illuminates the gravity of the situation. Over 2.1 trillion yuan worth of LGFV bonds are slated to mature in the initial half of 2023.

This is followed by another chunk of 1.75 trillion yuan during 2023’s latter half and a 1.69 trillion yuan load for the early months of 2024. This level of maturation exerts unprecedented pressure.

China’s central bank, foreseeing these liquidity chokepoints, is designing an emergency toolkit in collaboration with banks.

This will enable the provision of swift loans to LGFVs, mitigating short-term liquidity strains. However, this isn’t a free pass. LGFVs are expected to settle these loans within a span of two years.

In regions classified as “high-risk,” local governments may need to offer a portion of their stakes in state-owned enterprises to banks. This is a bargaining chip, leveraging ownership for banking assistance in refinancing their loans.

But, What’s At Stake?

The exponential growth of local debt has presented China with a complex puzzle. However, the central government’s tactics appear cautious, as they navigate the treacherous waters of debt resolution.

The underlying concern here is the risk of moral hazard. If Beijing consistently bails out local governments or state entities, it might inadvertently encourage investors to embrace even riskier ventures, assuming a safety net always exists.

Furthermore, the property crisis exacerbates municipal pressures. With property developers facing financial distress and unable to invest in more land – a crucial revenue source for local governments – the burden intensifies.

A significant fraction of these beleaguered companies are private developers, accentuating the gravity of the situation. So, when China commands its banks to refinance local debts, it’s more than a mere administrative directive.

It’s a reflection of a nation grappling with multifaceted economic challenges, attempting to navigate a path to stability, all while ensuring that its vast, intricate financial machinery remains well-oiled and operational.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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