The debt-to-GDP ratio of China’s southern island province of Hainan stood at more than 45 percent last year, according to a recent audit, highlighting the elevated level of indebtedness some local governments face.

Several other local authorities have also published reports that showed the key debt measurement hovering between 25-38 percent.

China’s local debt, which the central audit office has put at 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) as of the end of 2010, has long been a worry for investors concerned that slower economic growth could trigger a wave of defaults and hit the banking sector.

The audit of Hainan, often dubbed China’s Hawaii because of its tropical climate and picturesque beaches, showed total outstanding debt was at 95.3 billion yuan at the end of last year. That was equivalent to 46 percent of its GDP, based on the latest available data.

Jilin province in Northeast China said its debt pile was at 303.3 billion yuan while the region of Ningxia said its total debt stood at 62.2 billion yuan. Both figures are equivalent to over 35 percent of their GDP.

Other local governments that have released their audits include the region of Guangxi, as well as Shandong, Anhui, Henan and Hunan provinces and Beijing and Chongqing municipalities.

The state auditor required local governments earlier this year to do audits of their own indebtedness, but it is up to the governments whether they publish the results publicly.

Caing.com, the website of news magazine Caixin, reported on Wednesday that 10 local governments said tax revenues would not be enough to meet their debt obligations, meaning the governments would have to tap other revenue sources, such as land sales, to cover for the shortfall.

Most local governments that have published their audits channeled borrowed funds into general construction, road and land development projects, it said.

Hunan province said it borrowed more than 289 billion yuan last year, accounting for two-thirds of its total outstanding debt, to fund city development and transportation projects.

 
SOURCE: China Daily
 
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