China tightens grips on local government hidden debt

China tightens grips on local government hidden debt

China tightens grips on local government hidden debt
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China is stepping up restrictions on financing to local government financing vehicles (LGFVs) to mitigate risks from hidden debt, the official Securities Times reported on Monday.

Several banks and insurers are connecting their systems with a platform of the Ministry of Finance that monitors liability and expenditure of LGFVs, the newspaper said, citing industry sources.

Local governments have been under pressure to boost economic growth through infrastructure spending via LGFVs, but the risk of defaults has raised jitters in financial markets as Beijing has signalled it will allow some heavily-indebted LGFVs to fail.

In future, banks and insurers will refrain from providing fresh liquidity to those platforms that enjoy implicit guarantees from local governments, and will prevent hidden debts from increasing, the report said.

Some projects backed by local governments have already been halted after failing to obtain bank loans due to tighter scrutiny, it said.

Local government debt outstanding stood at 25.7 trillion yuan ($3.97 trillion) at the end of 2020, public data shows, but LGFVs have accumulated massive hidden debt that threatens financial stability, analysts say.

Nomura estimated in a note in April that local government hidden debts reached 45 trillion yuan at end-2020.

China’s state planner said in March it would firmly check increases in hidden local government debts, as well as take “proactive and prudent” steps to address existing hidden debts.

($1 = 6.4808 )

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