GLOBAL CHINA INITIATIVE

The Global China Initiative (GCI) examines the extent to which Chinese overseas economic activity and engagement with international institutions fosters a more stable, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable world economy.

GLOBAL CHINA RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT

The current narrative on debt sustainability often ignores the issue of what a government owns (assets) versus what a government owes (liabilities). While conventional approaches largely focus on the liability side, the kinds of assets a country is trying to build are vital to development and debt sustainability.

A new working paper by Yan Wang and Yinyin Xu voices concerns from the Global South that the prevailing debt sustainability analysis (DSA) framework has ignored public assets. Following a descriptive review of debt issues in Africa, Wang and Xu point to the importance of the public sector balance sheet in understanding debt sustainability. Their analysis reviews the role of 3,126 completed infrastructure projects, co-financed and jointly built by China and host countries, focusing on whether and to what extent the projects addressed infrastructure bottlenecks. Wang and Xu argue these completed projects form part of a country’s public operational assets that generate essential social services, jobs, government revenues, exports and growth.

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