Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Case for Individual Bankruptcy in China (2)

Right after the earthquakes in 2008, I wrote a post advocating for China to establish a individual bankrupty system. In that post, I gave cultural, economic and legal reasons in favor of such a system, in addition to China's fairly new Enterprise Bankruptcy Law.

One Chinese lawmaker, Shi Ying, who is a deputy to the Chinese National People's Congress, submitted a bill to the NPC which is in session now. She is also calling for the the establishment of a personal bankruptcy system for victims of the earthquakes in Sichuan Province.

In an interview, she lamented the tough situations that some of the victims are in because they are still on the hook to pay their mortgages even though their houses/apartments have been demolished by the earthquakes.

She states:

"If there is a personal insolvency system, we can declare someone is bankruptcy according to a fixed standard. And the bank can take all his or her assets except minimal living necessities for the family, and the debt is thus cleared..."

I think she is right on. The earthquakes were an act of God, and it is unreasonable for them to carry the debt for something that ceased to exist. If they had got into financial trouble due to their own irresponsbile spending, they'd have a weaker argument for personal bankruptcy to discharge their debt. But, the situation is far from that. Allowing them to declare bankruptcy will truly be a relief and a second chance to start all over again.

In addition to personal benefits for the earthquake victims, allowing personal bankruptcy to this group of people could also serve as opportunity for China to test the waters, so to speak, in anticipation of a full-fledged system that can go countrywide. Testdriving economic and/or political programs and policies is not a new thing to the Chinese authorities. Look at what happened to Shenzhen, whose success has built the foundation for more special econmic zones to be established. Permitting earthquake victims to declare personal bankruptcy could potentially build a model for the rest of the country.

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