China Shouldn’t Withdraw Stimulus Rapidly, World Bank Warns
A pedestrian walks past mining equipment in Liaoning province, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China Shouldn’t Withdraw Stimulus Rapidly, World Bank Warns


China should maintain accommodative monetary policy and avoid any “significant contraction” in fiscal policy next year to keep its economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic on track, according to the World Bank.

“A premature policy exit and excessive tightening could derail the recovery,” the World Bank said in its latest economic update on China, released Wednesday. It predicts the world’s second-largest economy will grow 2% this year and 7.9% in 2021, and said the biggest risk to the outlook remains a resurgence of coronavirus.

The World Bank says next year’s acceleration will be driven by rising private-sector investment in manufacturing and stronger household spending. China’s ruling Communist party signaled at an annual economic conference last week that it will reduce some stimulus measures as the economy has returned to growth, adding that it will avoid “sharp turns” in policy.

Beijing still has room to expand government spending even after China’s fiscal deficit grew to 5.9% of gross domestic product in the first 11 months of 2020, up from 3.5% last year, the World Bank report said.

“China could use its fiscal space to hedge against downside risks to growth and ensure a smooth rotation from public to private demand,” it said, calling for more spending on social services and green investment.

Beijing should also increase the role of direct fiscal transfers to local governments to help them cover spending on energy efficient buildings, reforestation, electric vehicle and urban flood-control infrastructure. “General transfers should be expanded further toward a fully-funded financing pool for universal basic public services,” the World Bank added.

On monetary policy, the report advised Beijing to take an “accommodative” stance focusing on targeted measures, rather than “general monetary tightening” in order to contain asset price inflation and speculative investment.

The World Bank estimates that monetary and fiscal stimulus implemented to combat the economic effects of the pandemic in China this year raised total debt levels in the economy by 27 percentage points to 288% of GDP at the end of the third quarter. External debt was equivalent to 20% of GDP, it said.

The reported predicts that net exports will make almost no contribution to growth next year, after a large increase in 2020 that has swelled China’s trade surplus.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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