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China’s big fiscal package may be starting to work
“ONLY when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire,” says a Chinese proverb. With the world economy in its worst crisis in 70 years, every country needs to do its bit to rekindle global demand. The American government, which plans to run a budget deficit of 12% of GDP this year, has called on its Group of 20 partners to do more. Is China one of the misers? Its budget, published last week, showed that it plans to run a deficit of only 3% of GDP. Was the 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) infrastructure package unveiled last November, worth 14% of GDP, a sham?
Beijing’s stimulus is smaller than the number announced last year, but it is still the biggest in the world. The fact that America is set to run a budget deficit four times the size of China’s as a share of GDP does not mean its demand stimulus is bigger; America started this year with a much bigger deficit. America’s deficit will increase by more than China’s this year, largely because it is suffering a deeper recession which will depress tax revenue. The correct measure of a fiscal stimulus is the change in the budget deficit adjusted for the impact of the economic cycle.