"The East Asia and Pacific Region has not been spared the full fury of the economic storm." – East Asia & Pacific Update
|China’s stimulus package, announced this week, focuses on more than just building up the industrial and export capacity. Some investments will also be in housing, schools, and health facilities.|
China announced a massive stimulus package of 4 trillion Yuan (US$570 billion) this week, to aid its ailing economy. The move was quickly welcomed by World Bank President Robert Zoellick: "China is well positioned given its current account surplus and budget position to have fiscal expansion," said the World Bank chief at a news conference. "I am delighted that China decided not only to undertake these steps, but to announce it before the G20 summit," he added.
Basically, I think that the package is very good. It is not as big as it looks at first glance, but then the economy is not as bad as many people think. Real retail sales for October came in at 17 percent growth rate, down trivially from 18 percent in September. Exports in October were up 19.2 percent over the year before. There is definitely evidence of a slowing economy, but nothing too dramatic has happened so far. Worrying signs, such as a sharp drop in growth of electricity demand in October, suggest that heavy industry is slowing. And imports for processing have slowed to a 2-3 percent growth rate, indicating that processing exports will slow down sharply. We have said for some time that China needed to be ready with a stimulus package toward the end of 2008 as global conditions would likely lead to a slowdown, and that time has come. I see the current move as precautionary, in light of some worrisome signals, rather than as reactive to a highly deteriorated situation (as suggested in some of the Western press coverage).
|Although exports have slowed down, they contributed to China's GDP growth in 2008. But in this gloomy global economy, some factories will close and workers will lose jobs as it slows down further.|
The details of the third quarter report provided some good news. Exports are slowing gradually, but still contributed to the GDP growth in 2008. Retail sales growth hit its highest level in nine years and was at 18% in real terms in September. So far, Chinese consumption is holding up. And the easing of inflation to under 5% means that the government has scope to loosen monetary and fiscal policy. The government is planning to respond to the potential for further growth declines with accelerated spending on reconstruction of the earthquake-affected areas and with infrastructure projects more generally.
The World Bank released the China Quarterly Update —of which I’m the lead author, full disclosure here-- today at a press launch in our Beijing office. The economic journalists noticed that the Bank’s projection for GDP growth in 2008 is now 9.8 percent, more than 2 percentage points lower than the outcome in 2007.
Last week China reported its first quarter GDP data. Consumer inflation for the quarter was 8%, which is too high, but we already knew that. The main news was that GDP growth came in at 10.6% year-on-year. This is down from last year’s 11.7% rate, but higher than most forecasts for 2008 (including the Bank’
The year 2007 was an important milestone in modern economic history. While the U.S. grew well, China contributed more to global GDP growth than the U.S. did. That pattern is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Roughly speaking, the U.S. economy is about four times the size of China’s. If the U.S.