PBOC’s Pan Sees Growth Improving and Local Debt Risks Manageable

China’s economy and property market have shown signs of improvement and local government debt risks are “manageable,” according to central bank chief Pan Gongsheng.

(Bloomberg) — China’s economy and property market have shown signs of improvement and local government debt risks are “manageable,” according to central bank chief Pan Gongsheng.

Indicators including industrial production and services activity showed positive trends in the economy, the governor and party chief of the People’s Bank of China said in a speech Saturday at the International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco. 

The real estate market in many regions has “shown signs of recovery” following the relaxation of mortgage rules, Pan said. China’s local government debt risk is “structural and generally manageable,” he said.

The country will improve the business environment for private firms and step up efforts to attract foreign investment and stabilize trade, he said, without announcing any specific new measures. 

Monetary policy will make better use of both aggregate and structural tools, Pan said according to a separate statement from the PBOC, referring to broad moves that affect overall liquidity and targeted ones to aid certain industries. China will seek more sustainable growth while maintaining a “reasonable” expansion pace, he said. 

Global central bankers and finance minsters have gathered in Marrakech to discuss the outlook for the world economy amid rising geopolitical tensions — including a new war in the Middle East. 

In one of his highest-profile overseas trips since taking office in July, the governor on Friday met Janet Yellen for talks that a Treasury spokesman described as “substantive and productive.”

Official data on Friday showed consumer prices unexpectedly slowed to the brink of deflation, though other recent indicators such as exports have suggested the slowdown may be moderating. Authorities have so far avoided rolling out a significant stimulus package to boost the economy and instead have focused on more incremental policies. 

Pan said China’s financial sector remains resilient and risks are “well under control.” China will strictly control new borrowing by local government financing vehicles and set up a mechanism to rein in their debt expansion.

Economically more developed eastern provinces are able to resolve their local government debt issues on their own, Pan said. Provinces in central and western regions can restructure their financing platforms, sell assets to repay debt and negotiate with financial institutions, he said.

On debt restructuring talks with low-income countries, Pan said China has played an active role in addressing global debt distress and made important contributions to the debt treatment of Zambia. 

Pan also said he hopes the IMF’s quota review will increase the voice and representation of developing countries. Quota realignment is fundamental to IMF governance reform, he said.

Other highlights of Pan’s speech:

  • “Youth employment has significantly improved,” Pan said, adding that overall employment is stable
  • China’s fiscal expenditure has increased at a faster but reasonable pace, while the issuance of special local government bonds — a major source of infrastructure funding — has picked up
  • Global inflation may stay higher for longer, though China’s consumer prices remain stable
  • Global financial stability risks are on the rise, and monetary policy uncertainties are increasing due to complex trends in major economies

(Updates with additional comments.)

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