Friday, April 3, 2020

China to Ramp Up Spending to Revive Economy, Could Cut Growth Target—Sources

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BEIJING—China is set to unleash trillions of yuan of fiscal stimulus to revive an economy expected to shrink for the first time in four decades amid the coronavirus pandemic, while a planned growth target is likely to be cut, according to four policy sources.

The ramped-up spending will aim to spur infrastructure investment, backed by as much as 2.8 trillion yuan ($394 billion) of local government special bonds, said the sources. The national budget deficit ratio could rise to record levels, they added.

Beijing is likely to have to lower its economic growth target for 2020 given the prolonged impact of the pandemic, according to the sources involved in internal policy discussions who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Chinese leaders are considering proposals from advisers to cut it to as low as 5 percent from the original target of around 6 percent agreed in December, they added.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the top state planner, the finance ministry and the central bank did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The measures come at a time when private-sector analysts are slashing their growth forecasts for China to lows not seen since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, with a sharp contraction expected in the first quarter.

China’s growth hit a near 30-year low of 6.1 percent in 2019, and the landscape has darkened significantly this year as the virus outbreak and strict containment have severely disrupted businesses.

“When the economy is suffering a big shock, it’s necessary to step up fiscal policy support given that monetary policy will have limited effectiveness,” a policy source said.

Higher spending could push the 2020 budget deficit ratio to as high as 3.5 percent—up from last year’s 2.8 percent, the sources said.

The government has long kept a 3 percent ceiling on the annual budget deficit ratio, which was last reached in 2017, and a level of 3.5 percent would be the highest on record, analysts said.

On March 16, National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Mao Shengyong said at a…

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