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Big Spenders In Beijing?

发布者: chrislau2001 | 发布时间: 2008-9-9 14:10| 查看数: 985| 评论数: 2|

It's official: China's economy is slowing. This year, the mainland economy is forecast to expand 9.9% in real terms, down from 11.9% last year. The Ministry of Finance is hard at work on a fiscal stimulus package, and the State Council could approve it within a matter of weeks. A spending splurge isn't, however, the right move for China today.

As Japan learned in the 1990s, fiscal stimulus packages aren't cost-free. A large-scale spending program could waste fiscal ammunition that may well be needed in the future. What's more, China's economy is still growing at a healthy clip. Domestic demand is still pretty robust. There is strong appetite for bank loans, suggesting that the investment slowdown is caused more by the unwillingness of banks to lend, rather than any lack of investment appetite in corporate China. While China's export growth has slowed, it is still growing at 7% in year-on-year, inflation-adjusted terms. Next year's GDP growth is expected to slow to 8.6%, from this year's 9.9%.

But Beijing is under pressure from various quarters to roll out the spending as soon as possible. Policy makers who worry about unemployment will argue that spending is needed to create jobs. Businessmen who run big infrastructure projects will jump on board looking for some juicy contracts. Others argue they can stimulate private consumption with tax rebates.

Tax cuts are already in the works. These measures are meant to support long-term social policy goals however, rather than spark a short-term stimulus. The starting level for personal income tax, for instance, will likely be raised again, taking more low-income wage earners out of the tax base. Additional value-added tax rebates for exporters are also likely, given that textile exporters have already received them.

Meanwhile, more spending may well be on the way. The Economic Observer reported late last month that the nation's top economic body, the Central Economic and Finance Working Group, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, is considering a possible package worth 220 billion yuan ($31 billion) for the second half of the year. That's 0.7% of 2007's GDP, a sizeable chunk. But the portion reportedly aimed at infrastructure, 35 billion yuan ($5 billion), is less than 0.5% of total fixed asset investment last year. Other money has been allocated to other government priorities, including health, education and R&D.

China today is in healthy fiscal shape. Its total official outstanding debt is low, at 15.7% of GDP at year end 2007. Officially, the country ran a budget surplus of 0.7% of GDP last year. The international debt markets would certainly welcome China if it wanted to borrow there.

But that doesn't make this kind of stimulus a good idea. China certainly can do the preparatory work now, but the country would likely be better off waiting until a serious slowdown appears -- say, when the economy slows to under 8% annual growth -- before rolling out a big fiscal stimulus.

At that time, policy makers should channel money into supporting consumption, not infrastructure, as much as they can. Sure, there are areas -- like the railways and power transmission -- that need a chunk of investment. But China's greatest need is to break its reliance upon investment and transform itself into a consumer-driven economy. A spending package could help by funding social welfare, as well as the education and health sectors, to free up private income. More schools and hospitals could be built and renovated, especially in rural areas. Unemployment insurance could be expanded. The more tax breaks and transfers go to those with a greater marginal propensity to consume, the bigger the economic boost.

Beijing could also opt for a monetary, rather than fiscal, boost as its first response. If Beijing relaxed all bank loan quotas, it's likely that lending would increase dramatically to meet demand. Moreover, allowing the liquidity that has been built up on the central bank's balance sheet to leak back into the commercial financial system would provide ample low-cost capital. It is hard to imagine a U.S.-style credit crunch in China, even if property prices were to sharply correct.

China's economy is slowing for sure, but it's not falling off a cliff. The Ministry of Finance needs to weigh carefully the benefits of a fiscal stimulus package that would erode today's budget surpluses and leave China in a weaker position when the downturn really arrives. As America learned in the 1930s, and Japan more recently, big spending packages can sometimes only make things worse.

最新评论

chrislau2001 发表于 2008-9-9 14:10:39

加大公共开支并非刺激经济增长良策

这可是官方消息:中国的经济增长正在减缓。今年,中国大陆经济预计实际增长9.9%,较上年的11.9%有所下滑。财政部正在抓紧制定一套财政刺激方案,一旦出台,国务院可能几周内就会予以批准。不过,大幅增加开支当前对中国而言并非良策。

正如日本在上世纪90年代得到的教训一样,财政刺激措施并非全无代价。大规模开支计划可能会浪费将来有可能急需的财力。此外,中国的经济增长依然强劲。国内需求仍相当旺盛。对银行贷款的需求很大,这表明投资减缓更多是缘于银行不愿放贷,而不是中国企业界缺乏投资欲望。虽然中国的出口增长有所减缓,但经通胀因素调整后的年增长率仍然达到7%。明年的国内生产总值(GDP)增幅预计将从今年的9.9%减缓至8.6%。

但中国政府面临着要尽快增加开支的多方面压力。担心就业情况的决策者会坚持认为,需要加大开支以创造工作机会。经营大型基础设施项目的商人也会随声附和,以期获得大有油水的合同。还有一些人则认为可以通过减税刺激民间消费。

减税已经在计划中了。不过这类措施意在支持长期的社会政策目标,而不是对经济进行短期刺激。举例来说,个人所得税的起征点可能会再次提高,将更多的低收入劳动者从税基中剔除。出口商也可能获得更多的增值税退税,因为纺织品出口商已经获得了退税。

与此同时,更多的开支项目可能已经在计划中。《经济观察报》上月底报道,中国最高经济机构中央财经工作领导小组(国务院总理温家宝任组长)正考虑在下半年推出一项人民币2,200亿元(310亿美元)的财政刺激措施。这笔支出相当于2007年GDP的0.7%,规模相当可观。但用于基础设施建设的部分据报道为人民币350亿元(50亿美元),不到去年全国固定资产投资总额的0.5%。其余资金将用于政府确定的其他优先领域,如医疗、教育和科技研发等。

中国当前的财政状况良好。政府未偿债务总额较低,2007年底时相当于GDP的15.7%。中国去年的财政盈余相当于GDP的0.7%。如果中国想从国际债务市场融资,肯定会是个受欢迎的对象。

但这并不意味着此类经济刺激方案就是好主意。中国当然可以从现在开始着手准备,但如果等到出现严重的经济减缓(比如说年增长率降至8%以下)再推出大规模财政刺激措施,效果可能会更好。

到那时,决策者们应将财政刺激资金尽可能多地用于支持消费,而非进行基础设施建设。当然,铁路和电力传输等领域仍需要大笔投资。但中国最需要的是打破对投资的依赖,向消费拉动型经济转变。政府的开支计划可以通过向社会福利以及教育和医疗领域提供资金来释放个人收入。政府可以修建和翻新更多的学校和医院,尤其是在农村地区。可以扩大失业保险的覆盖范围。有更高消费倾向的人获得的税收减免越多,对经济的提振作用就越大。

中国政府还可以将货币政策手段而非财政手段作为刺激经济的第一选择。如果政府放宽银行贷款限额,贷款量很可能在市场需求的推动下急剧增长。此外,允许央行资产负债表上积累的流动资金回流到商业金融系统中去,就能向社会提供充足的低成本资金。就算中国的房价大幅回落,也很难想像美国式的信贷危机会在中国发生。

中国经济增速正在减缓是毫无疑问的,但并没有达到危险的地步。财政部需要仔细权衡财政刺激政策的利弊。实施财政刺激会消耗掉当前的财政盈余,让中国在经济低迷真的来临时处于不利地位。正如美国在上世纪30年代和日本近年来所学到的,大规模开支计划有时只会让情况变得更糟。
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