As matriculants celebrate passing with flying colors, South Africa has once again received an unimpressive report card from Fitch.
The global rating agency assigned SA a BB Rating on Friday, maintaining a ‘stable outlook.’
A BB rating signifies a country’s elevated vulnerability to default risk amid adverse changes in business or economic conditions over time. However, the level also recognizes the existence of the business or financial flexibility, which supports the servicing of debt.
According to Fitch, load shedding and logistical challenges had significantly affected South Africa’s economic growth.
Weighing in, independent economic analyst Professor Bonke Dumisa said the rating was no surprise.
“Fitch’s reaffirmation of a BB Rating for South Africa is not surprising, it is reasonable given our serious load shedding problems and the many transport logistics challenges, which have seriously crippled the South African economy,” Dumisa told The Citizen.
Dumisa explained that Fitch’s BB rating formed part of the agency’s sub-investment grading, popularly known as “junk status.”
The major negative implication of junk status is that we pay higher interest rates because we’re considered ‘less creditworthy’ than countries which are in higher investment grades,” Dumisa explained.
A rock and a hard place
According to the economic analyst, Fitch is not the first rating agency to assign SA a junk status – Standard & Poors (S&P) and Moody’s had done the same.
Rating agencies may decide, upon assessing an entity’s creditworthiness, whether to assign a positive or negative outlook. Fitch’s BB rating affirmed SA’s stable outlook.
Dumisa said the negative or positive outlook assigned by rating agencies didn’t make much of a difference to a country’s sub-investment grading.
Likening the outlook to being stuck between a rock and a hard place, Dumisa said: “You are in prison; should we place you in C-Max Prison or Medium Prison?”
“We cannot expect any credit rating improvements shortly until our load shedding problems and [logistics challenges] have been effectively dealt with.”
The National Treasury has noted Fitch’s rating, saying the government would focus on raising GDP growth by improving the provision of electricity and logistics and enhancing the delivery of infrastructure.
“Fiscal policy continues to support this approach by stabilizing debt and debt-service costs,” National Treasury said in a statement.
“Government reiterates that fiscal consolidation will be implemented through spending reductions, efficiency measures across government and moderate tax revenue measures.”