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Credit system monopoly fear rises
( 2003-08-04 07:57) (China Daily)

Chinese experts and credit management firms are calling for concerted effort among various government agencies while building the country's badly needed social credit system.

They have expressed worries over rivalry within the government and suspicions that the central bank is attempting to monopolize credit data and services, which they warn would only hamper China's effort to restore confidence in commercial credit.

A handful of government agencies, including the State Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, are reportedly drafting their own social credit system plans in a bid, insiders say, to grasp leadership in the country's massive campaign to build a social credit system that spans from database compilation and business credit management to fostering a credit-valuing culture and related legislation.

The newly established Ministry of Commerce appears to be leading the charge. Insiders say the National Leadership Team on Regulating the Market Economic System -- the decision-making body authorized by the State Council to oversee the construction of the social credit system -- is based at the ministry.

"No matter who the regulators are, we will toe the line,'' said a senior manager at a major credit management firm. "We just hope it's decided as early as possible.''

Much dissatisfaction is focused on the central People's Bank of China (PBOC), which is reportedly considering setting up a credit management bureau within its structure and, more to the frustration of credit management firms, has drafted a credit management regulation they say is likely to lead to a monopoly.

Insiders say the regulation, which was completed last year, requires credit management companies to have a minimum of 100 million yuan (US$12 million) in registered capital -- a threshold none of China's some 500 credit management firms -- most of them privately-owned, can presently meet.

"It's unfair,'' said a manager at a private credit management firm. "We've been in the business for 10 years but we don't see why we need that much registered capital.''

Some media reports said the PBOC was putting together a credit management firm with investments from the four largest State-owned commercial banks, which would presumably have no problem meeting the capital requirement.

And the new firm will likely be given enviable access to what is said to be China's largest credit information database, covering more than 300 cities, that the central bank has built up over the years.

A PBOC official declined to comment, but reiterated earlier statements that it is building an "enterprise and individual credit management system.''

Analysts say a social credit system is badly needed in China where debt defaults are commonplace and many companies have a "give-me-a-good-rating-and-tell-me-how-much-you-want'' attitude towards credit rating firms.

And legislation is currently the most urgent task, as China still has no law specifically governing credit management issues.

It is crucial to the development of consumer credit and account sales that have a growing contribution to economic growth, said Pu Xiaolei, deputy director of the Credit Management Department under the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation -- the Ministry of Commerce's think tank.

It took the United States 20 years to promulgate its 17 credit-related laws, 16 of which are still in effect.

"But the question is if we can also afford 20 years?'' Pu said.

The government is working on amendments to existing laws that may clash with new legislation, but it is not being done quickly enough, he said.

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