BEIJING, Oct. 10 -- Senior officials of Asian economies have voiced concerns over a possible debt default by the U.S. government due to political dysfunction in Washington, warning of the adverse impact it could bring to the global community.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned a U.S. debt default could shake the global financial system and cause it to enter uncharted waters, Singaporean newspaper Straits Times reported on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, senior officials from China and Japan, the two largest U.S. foreign creditors who together hold more than 2.4 trillion U.S. dollars of U.S. Treasury bonds, expressed concerns.
On Monday, Chinese Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao told reporters in Beijing that it was Washington's responsibility to avoid a debt default and ensure the safety of Chinese investments in the United States. The following day, Japanese finance minister Taro Aso said the U.S. must avoid a scenario in which it cannot pay its debts.
In the U.S., the government collects about 70 U.S. cents in taxes for every dollar of expenditure. As a result, it has to borrow money -- home and abroad -- to pay its bills. But the U.S. Congress has put a limit on government debt and lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties, who had forced a U.S. government shutdown, have not reached an agreement to raise the ceiling.
On Sunday in a television interview, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the 16.7-trillion-U.S.-dollar debt limit, which was reached by lawmakers in May, must be raised by Oct. 17. If not, it could damage the U.S. government's credit standing.
Despite warnings and concerns, analysts are somewhat playing down the possibility of a default, saying the U.S. will manage to avoid defaulting and reach a deal to raise the debt limit with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, just as they did in August 2011.
"The debt limit of the U.S. was raised from less than 10 trillion U.S. dollars to 16.7 trillion U.S. dollars in recent years, but this has come with the expansion of its economy, and they match," said Tan Yalin, China Forex Investment Research Institute president.
Tan expected the limit to be raised as usual. "After all, the U.S. debt problem is not a new topic," Tan said.
Jia Xiudong, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told Xinhua on Thursday that he also believed the parties would compromise and come to an agreement.
"The two parties are still negotiating, and both of them know what the consequences of a default are," said Jia, who expected the talks to be difficult but "flexible."
Steven A. Hess, senior vice president with U.S. ratings agency Moody's, said in a credit outlook report, released on Monday, that the agency expected the U.S. government to continue to pay the interest and principal on its debt, even if the limit is not raised.
"The reputational cost of a U.S. government default is too great and both political parties in the United States have stated they are against a government default," said Hess.
Olivier Blanchard, IMF Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department, viewed the default as a low probability risk, but were it to happen, it would have major consequences. He said that the effects of any failure to repay the debt would be felt right away, leading to potentially major disruptions in financial markets both in the United States and abroad.
Blanchard said that a prolonged failure to lift the debt ceiling would lead to an extreme fiscal consolidation and almost surely derail the U.S. recovery.