Business / Economy

Local govt bonds get huge boost

By ZHAO YINAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-02 07:31

State Council decides to allow up to 300 billion yuan to be invested from social security fund 

China is to allow up to 300 billion yuan (nearly $48 billion) from the nation's social security fund to be invested in local government bonds and other financial instruments this year, more than double the amount in 2014.

The decision made on Wednesday at an executive meeting of the State Council, or cabinet, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, paves the way for future bond issuance by local governments.

The social security fund stood at 1.5 trillion yuan at the end of last year, Wang Zhongmin, vice-chairman of the National Council for Social Security Fund, said in January.

It is the first time that China has allowed the fund to be used to invest in local government bonds.

The fund's maximum ratio permitted for investment has been increased from 10 percent to 20 percent of its total assets.

Local government debt was 17.9 trillion yuan as of June 2013, according to the National Audit Office.

The fund will also be encouraged to invest in leading local corporations, including private companies, in an attempt to enhance the return on capital.

More capital will be used to support projects such as affordable houses and the construction of urban infrastructure. The fund will also be allowed to invest in interbank deposits.

A statement released after the meeting described the social security fund as an important source to ensure people's living standards, adding that money should be invested in a wide range of financial products to reduce risk and increase revenue.

Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, said last month that the current regulation has restrained investment by the social security fund in national debt or bank deposits, ensuring the security of capital but also deflating its value.

He said the government is considering allowing institutional investors to run the pension fund, a major part of the social security fund, to buy financial products with a high return and low risk.

Zheng Wei, a professor at Peking University's School of Economics, said plans to improve returns on the fund's investment are needed urgently, with current ways of managing the money being barely sustainable as the proportion of elderly people rises.

The social security fund profited by the investment of 139 billion yuan last year, with an 11.4 percent return on this, thanks to a surge in share prices at the end of the year, according to the National Council for Social Security Fund. The rate of return last year outperformed the 6.2 percent recorded in 2013.

In an attempt to boost e-commerce and related industries, Wednesday's meeting also agreed to cut tax for online shop owners by replacing the business tax with a value-added tax and by encouraging venture capital funds to invest in startup e-commerce companies.

Describing e-commerce as an integration of traditional manufacturing and Internet-based business, the meeting recognized that the sector is an important factor in the nation's Internet Plus initiative, a plan proposed by Premier Li to upgrade traditional industries with Internet advantages.

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