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谢国忠

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麻省理工学院经济学博士

个性介绍: 1960年出生于上海,1983年毕业于上海同济大学路桥系,1987年获麻省理工学院土木工程学硕士,1990年获麻省理工学院经济学博士。同年加入世界银行,担任经济分析员。在世行的五年时间,谢国忠所参与的项目涉及拉美、南亚及东亚地区,并负责处理该银行于印尼的工商业发展项目,以及其他亚太地区国家的电讯及电力发展项目。1995年,加入新加坡的Macquarie Bank,担任企业财务部的联席董事。1997年加入摩根士丹利,任亚太区经济学家,2006年9月辞去该职务。

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谢国忠:熊猫经济  

2009-05-04 23:59:23|  分类: 言论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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熊猫经济

2009-05-04 

Pandanomics

Investors hoping for a return of the bubble years shouldn't be fooled by China's enticing loan growth figures

Andy Xie
Updated on May 04, 2009

Bynow, most people are longing for the good old bubble days. Wasn't itnice? Everything was going up and people were getting rich for noreason whatsoever. So many people now trapped in structured productsare pinning all their hopes on a bubble revival to release them fromlooming poverty. All eyes are on China's eye-popping loan growthfigures. Imagine if all that money goes into the stock and propertymarket. ("Wow, all that panda juice! We're saved!" a friend remarked tome). Are Chinese banks the kung fu pandas coming to the rescue?

Thejuice may not be as sweet as you think. As far as I can tell, it hasgone mostly into propping up corporate balance sheets. Loans toproperty developers have been extended; that is, the collateral isunsold apartments. Receivables have been discounted. And, triangulardebts have been replaced with bank loans. The balance sheet expansionof the banking system is to support the corporate sector's balancesheet expansion. In the four months between December 2008 and March2009, bank loans rose by 5.4 trillion yuan (HK$6.14 trillion), or 18per cent. Enterprise deposits, which had stalled due to deterioratingsales, rose by 2.3 trillion yuan during the same period. The money isprobably loans coming back to banks as deposits. The difference betweenthe loan and enterprise deposit growth, 3.1 trillion yuan, is probablythe amount that has flowed out of the corporate sector into other partsof the economy.

Why do enterprises borrow and then deposit themoney back? First, shifting the triangular obligations to the bankingbalance sheet is a big part. If one can discount receivables at 100 percent, one would of course exchange that for a bank deposit. Second,local governments and enterprises are worried that the credit policycould be tightened. Hence, they secure credit by receiving disbursementnow and deposit the money back for future expenditure. Third, theborrowing cost in some cases is lower than the deposit interest rate.Many private businesses have been arbitraging this opportunity.

Aftersubtracting the round-trip lending, the "real" loan growth has averaged775 billion yuan, which is high but not that shocking. In other words,the loan surge is a liquidity phenomenon so far. A significant chunk ofthe "real" lending may have gone into paying wage arrears. An unknownamount of the lending has flowed into the stock market. Subtractingthese from the 3.1 trillion yuan, the money that has flowed into thereal economy appears to have been quite limited.

The loan"surge" may have stabilised the corporate balance sheet, eased socialtension by paying workers, and nursed a mini stock market bubble toease the pain of retail investors.

But this is far fromcreating real demand. And it shouldn't. The corporate sector alreadysuffers from overcapacity. Why should they pump loans into capacityexpansion?

Releasing liquidity to stabilise the economy is ashort-term solution. It can't solve China's economic problems. China'sinvest-and-export model has reached a turning point. Its spectacularexport growth in the past five years has been partly due to the globalbubble. As the bubble deflates, China's exports are normalising. Moreseriously, China's base is simply too big, relative to the world, togrow rapidly in future. This suggests that, unless a new growth modelis found soon, China may experience low growth for years to come.

Chinais an export-driven economy. If the global economy stays low, which islikely for the next five years, China must undertake big changes toachieve high growth through a different model. The key is to boosthousehold demand.

However, household demand is low, becausehousehold income and wealth are low. Unless both causes are addressed,talk of a stimulus is wishful thinking. China has been trying tostimulate consumption for a decade. If stimulus is the solution, itwould have happened already. Consumption coupons, for example, have atemporary and localised impact.

Even filling up the social security fund or providing universal health care wouldn't solve the problem.

Twopolicies could change the situation immediately. First, China shouldaim to lower property prices to 1-1/2 months' salary per square metre.This level is not low by international standards but would reduce thefinancial burden on households enormously. Now, when a city-dwellingman wants to marry, three generations have to pool money for a homedown payment. Such a heavy financial burden severely cuts intohousehold consumption.

The government is in a position toreduce property prices. More than half of the purchase cost goes to thegovernment in land costs and taxes.

Second, the governmentcan distribute its shares in listed state-owned enterprises to thehousehold sector. Such a large transfer would make everyone astakeholder in the market economy, which would ensure stability fordecades to come.

The wealth transfer could sustain highconsumption growth for years, which would result in a good labourmarket and rising wages, further fuelling consumption.

Chinahas cards to play to bring back high growth despite a sluggish globaleconomy. But it takes real reform. That takes time. I suspect many arehoping for the easy way out: talk it up, investors jump in, and we areback at the races. But, this time, I'm afraid it's different. Onlyreforms can bring back high growth and the bull market. Panda kung fumoves won't work.

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