Monday, April 1, 2013

China's Demography and its Implications

China's Demography and its Implications. By Il Houng Lee, Qingjun Xu, and Murtaza Syed
IMF Working Paper No. 13/82
Mar 28, 2013

Summary: In coming decades, China will undergo a notable demographic transformation, with its old-age dependency ratio doubling to 24 percent by 2030 and rising even more precipitously thereafter. This paper uses the permanent income hypothesis to reassess national savings behavior, with greater prominence and more careful consideration given to the role played by changing demography. We use a forward-looking and dynamic approach that considers the entire population distribution. We find that this not only holds up well empirically but may also be superior to the static dependency ratios typically employed in the literature. Going further, we simulate global savings behavior based on our framework and find that China’s demographics should have induced a negative current account in the 2000s and a positive one in the 2010s given the rising share of prime savers, only turning negative around 2045. The opposite is true for the United States and Western Europe. The observed divergence in current account outcomes from the simulated path appears to have been partly policy induced. Over the next couple of decades, individual countries’ convergence toward the simulated savings pattern will be influenced by their past divergences and future policy choices. Other implications arising from China’s demography, including the growth model, the pension system, the labor market, and the public finances are also briefly reviewed.

China’s Path to Consumer-Based Growth: Reorienting Investment and Enhancing Efficiency

China’s Path to Consumer-Based Growth: Reorienting Investment and Enhancing Efficiency. By Il Houng Lee, Murtaza Syed, and Liu Xueyan (Xueyan Liu???)
IMF Working Paper No. 13/83
March 29, 2013

Summary: This paper proposes a possible framework for identifying excessive investment. Based on this method, it finds evidence that some types of investment are becoming excessive in China, particularly in inland provinces. In these regions, private consumption has on average become more dependent on investment (rather than vice versa) and the impact is relatively short-lived, necessitating ever higher levels of investment to maintain economic activity. By contrast, private consumption has become more self-sustaining in coastal provinces, in large part because investment here tends to benefit household incomes more than corporates. If existing trends continue, valuable resources could be wasted at a time when China’s ability to finance investment is facing increasing constraints due to dwindling land, labor, and government resources and becoming more reliant on liquidity expansion, with attendant risks of financial instability and asset bubbles. Thus, investment should not be indiscriminately directed toward urbanization or industrialization of Western regions but shifted toward sectors with greater and more lasting spillovers to household income and consumption. In this context, investment in agriculture and services is found to be superior to that in manufacturing and real estate. Financial reform would facilitate such a reorientation, helping China to enhance capital efficiency and keep growth buoyant even as aggregate investment is lowered to sustainable levels.