China should curb money flows into property, state firms: PBOC economist

Residential buildings are seen in Hong Kong, China July 6, 2016. Picture taken July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING (Reuters) - China should take steps to curb the flow of capital into the property market and state-owned companies to help slow the rise of debt levels in the economy, Ma Jun, the central bank’s chief economist, told the China Business News in an interview.

China’s total debt load rose to 250 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, and the IMF has warned that the high corporate debt ratio of 145 percent of GDP could lead to slower economic growth if not addressed.

China cannot reduce leverage ratios too hastily as that could hurt economic growth and employment, but it must find ways to slow down the rise in debt levels in the long run, Ma said in the interview published on the paper’s website on Monday.

Ma identified the property sector and state-owned enterprises as key drivers of high debt levels in the economy over recent years.

“We should take a lot of measures to curb excessive bubbles in the real estate sector, curb the flow of excessive financial resources into the real estate sector,” Ma said.

China needs to prevent state-owned enterprises from channeling “cheap money” into inefficient investment, he said.

Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Eric Meijer