Financial Discipline in the Enterprise Sector in Transition Countries: How Does China Compare?
This paper makes some selective comparisons of the empirical evidence relating to financial discipline and soft budget constraints in the enterprise sector in China and the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (CEEFSU). The paper finds that: (1) in both CEEFSU countries and China, budgetary subsidies have fallen as prices have been liberalized, and the budgetary subsidies which remain are not clear evidence of soft budget constraints; (2) firms in both CEEFSU countries and China typically impose hard budget constraints on each other; levels of trade credit in China were roughly constant in 1994-96, implying inflows have approximately equalled outflows, i.e. inter-enterprise debts are being paid; the level of total trade credit observed in China, at about 20-25% of GDP, is similar to that observed not only in CEEFSU countries but also in developed Western economies; (3) in a comparison of bank financing of Chinese and Hungarian firms, Chinese banks were providing poorly-performing firms with new financing, whereas in Hungary, banks were reducing their exposure to bad firms; and (4) tax arrears in CEEFSU economies have emerged as a major source of soft budget constraints in recent years, but enterprise-level data for China show that as of the early 1990s, tax arrears were not an important source of financing for loss-making Chinese firms.
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