China local government debt "out of control"

China Featured - April 17th, 2013
thumb

China’s local governments are “out of control,” an official from the Chinese accounting association has said amid debt concerns raised by international institutions and rating agencies.

Zhang Ke, head of top Chinese accounting firm ShineWing, said his firm had mostly stopped signing off local government bond issues and warned that China’s debt could spark a bigger financial crisis than the US property crash, reports Financial Times.

“We audited some local government bond issues and found them very dangerous, so we pulled out,” said Mr. Zhang. “Most don’t have strong debt servicing abilities. Things could become very serious,” he said.

“It is already out of control,” he added. “A crisis is possible. But since the debt is being rolled over and is long-term, the timing of its explosion is uncertain”.

The statement echoes fears raised by the International Monetary Fund and other investment banks as local government debts soared to between Rmb10 trillion and Rmb20 trillion ($1.6 trillion and $3.2 trillion), which accounts to 20-40% of the size of the economy, according to the Financial Times.

Last week, Fitch Ratings downgraded China’s sovereign credit rating for the first time in over a decade.

Local government debts soared after 2008, when Beijing has loosened borrowing constraints to soften the impact of the global financial crisis.