Former Member of Parliament for Okaikwei North North ,Issah Fuseini, has told credit rating agencies that the world is not in normal times hence, they should be mindful of what goes into the ratings of countries especially African nations.
He explained on the Key Points on TV3 Saturday February 12 that the pandemic has negatively impacted Ghana’s economy and economies around the world, a situation that should inform the agencies on how to carry out their ratings currently.
“Pre pandemic era we didn’t have issues with the rating agencies. We have been faced with critical situations now. We are not in normal times,” the former member of the Finance Committee of Parliament said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has also tackled international credit rating agencies during the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.
Mr Akufo-Addo indicated that the work of the rating agencies has affected the cost and access to capital markets for African countries, and has, during this COVID period, resulted in the downgrading of many African countries, exacerbating even more their funding challenges
He called on Member States of the African Union to work collectively to reform the global financial architecture, as well as build and strengthen the Union’s financial institutions.
Delivering his second report to the Assembly, on Sunday, 6th February 2022, in his capacity as AU Champion for Financial Institutions, President Akufo-Addo noted that the AU is currently engaged in the process of establishing four (4) financial institutions (AUFIs), namely the African Central Bank (ACB), the African Investment Bank (AIB), the African Monetary Fund (AMF), and the Pan African Stock Exchange (PASE).
According to the President, “the major challenges towards the establishment of the AUFIs include the slow rate of signature and ratification of the legal instruments, and the limited capacity of Member States to finance the establishment of the AUFIs. Regrettably, none of the AUFIs has reached the minimum number of ratifications required for the enabling legal instruments to enter into force, and, thereby, facilitate their substantive establishment.”
This, he explained, is detrimental to the operationalisation of the African Monetary Institute, which is the first step towards the establishment of the African Central Bank.
President Akufo-Addo, thus, presented a number of recommendations to the AU Assembly for its adoption and endorsement, which, he said, “would be critical towards the establishment of the AUFIs”. They have been captured in the Draft Assembly Decision that will be submitted to Your Excellencies for consideration and adoption.
“We value this commitment to additional resources, of which our continent is in dire need. It is unfortunate, however, that the only proposal that has been put on the table by the European countries so far is to re-channel these SDRs through only one institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he said.
President Akufo-Addo continued, “The IMF should not be the sole beneficiary of such rechanneling. We believe that our own continental institutions, such as the African Development Bank (AFDB) and Afreximbank, should be recipients of the recycling of these SDRs. Our Finance Ministers and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) have advocated for the use of regional development agencies to be included in this rechanneling.”
He told the Assembly that African Finance Ministers, with UNECA, have consistently championed the allocation of SDRs to capitalize AFDB and AfreximBank, to help establish an African Stability Mechanism, and to initiate a Liquidity Support Facility (LSF).
“We need to guard against the continuing consequential stranglehold of the rating agencies, which has affected the cost and access to capital markets for African countries, and has, during this COVID period, resulted in the downgrading of many African countries, exacerbating even more their funding challenges,” President Akufo-Addo said.
His comments come at a time the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance has said Moody’s downgrade of the local economy to Caa1 smacks of contradiction.
In a statement issued on Sunday February 6 reacting to the downgrade on Friday February 4, the Ministry said the government finds it difficult to understand the international credit rating agency’s assertion of the deterioration of Ghana’s institutional strength given Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy in Africa.
Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) on Friday February 4 downgraded the Government of Ghana’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings to Caa1 from B3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.
But the statement by the Ministry of Finance said “According to Moody’s, the downgrade is due to ‘increasingly difficult task government faces in addressing the intertwined liquidity and debt challenges, pandemic induced revenue underperformance, tight funding conditions on international markets materially decreasing governance and institutional strength and inflexibility in the government budget.’
“[Government] believes that the recent fiscal consolidation measures as announced by the Finance Minister and the 2022 budget which is anchored on debt sustainability and a positive primary balance largely addresses these concerns. we are at odds to understand Moody’s assertion of the deterioration of Ghana’s institutional strength given Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy in Africa.”
“In a clearly contradictory manner, Moody’s justifies the stable outlook despite the downgrade to Caa1 by acknowledging government’s strong track record in delivering effective fiscal polices and the maintenance of a variety of funding sources,” portions of the government’s statement said.Press-Release-on-moodys-ratingDownload
Below is the full statement by Moody’s announcing the downgrade of Ghana…
Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has on Friday February 4 downgraded the Government of Ghana’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings to Caa1 from B3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.
Moody’s has also downgraded the senior unsecured MTN programme ratings to (P)Caa1 from (P)B3 and the backed senior unsecured debt rating to B3 from B1.
The downgrade to Caa1 reflects the increasingly difficult task the government faces addressing its intertwined liquidity and debt challenges. Weak revenue generation constrains government’s budget flexibility and tight funding conditions on international markets have forced the government to rely on costly debt with shorter maturity.
Moody’s estimates that interest payments will absorb more than half the government’s revenue over the foreseeable future, which is exceptionally high compared to peers at all rating levels. As a remedy, the government has proposed sharp fiscal consolidation and a switch to borrowings from external partners on more favourable terms.
However, the strategy comes with sizeable implementation risks, especially in a still-fragile post-pandemic environment and while international market creditors price in very wide risk premia. While Ghana’s external buffers and moderate external debt amortization schedule in the next few years afford the government a window of opportunity to deliver on its strategy, balance of payments pressures will build up the longer government’s large financing requirements have to rely on domestic sources.
The stable outlook balances Ghana’s significant fiscal challenges, large refinancing needs and constraints on access to funding against the government’s pre-pandemic track record of relatively effective policy delivery and maintenance of a variety of funding sources. Ghana’s institutional framework and dynamic economy remain key credit supports, with economic growth forecasts of around 5% over the medium term.
Concurrent to the rating downgrade, Moody’s has also downgraded Ghana’s bond enhanced by a partial guarantee from the International Development Association (IDA, Aaa stable) to B3 from B1, reflecting a blended expected loss now consistent with a one-notch uplift on the issuer rating.
Finally, Moody’s has lowered Ghana’s local currency (LC) and foreign currency (FC) country ceiling to respectively B1 and B2 from Ba3 and B1.
Non-diversifiable risks are appropriately captured in a LC ceiling three notches above the sovereign rating, taking into account relatively predictable institutions and government actions, low domestic political, and geopolitical risk; balanced against a large government footprint in the economy and the financial system and current account deficits.
The FC country ceiling is maintained one notch below the LC country ceiling, reflecting constraints on capital account openness and fiscal policy effectiveness against robust foreign exchange reserves buffers and an average monetary policy effectiveness.
RATIONALE FOR THE RATING DOWNGRADE TO Caa1: DEBT AFFORDABILITY WORSENS, GOVERNMENT DEBT STILL ON AN UPWARD TREND
Moody’s projects that Ghana’s government debt ratios will continue to deteriorate in the next few years with extremely weak debt affordability significantly constraining policymaking.Moody’s estimates that government debt ended 2021 at 80% of GDP while interest payments alone consumed half of government revenue that year (positioning Ghana with the second largest ratio among Moody’s rated sovereigns).
Given Ghana’s still low average income at about $6000 per capita at Purchasing Power Parity and demands on social spending, very weak debt affordability constrains the government’s scope of policy action, intensifying the policy trade-off between servicing debt and delivering services to the Ghanaian population.Moody’s projects that the government will improve its primary balance by a cumulative 3% of GDP over 2022-24.
The government’s own fiscal consolidation plan presented in November 2021 sets more ambitious targets, supported by new revenue measures worth 3% of GDP, some of which have since been opposed in Parliament. The government has announced a 20% cut in primary spending, equivalent to a 4% cut on a year-on-year basis or 16% in real terms, to compensate for any shortcoming in the government’s revenue measures package.
Such an unprecedented fiscal tightening will be socially, economically, and politically challenging to implement.
Moreover, Moody’s factors in further fiscal pressure from interest payments in the short term as the deterioration in funding conditions recently observed is unlikely to reverse until the government demonstrates to investors that significant fiscal consolidation is underway.
Both domestic and external factors underpin Moody’s assumption that debt costs will remain high, including high inflation (at 12.6% most recently) and Moody’s expectation of tighter monetary policy globally. Ghana’s borrowing needs remaining elevated, at around 30% of GDP annually, mean higher borrowing rates will quickly translate into higher interest costs.https://6e7445895bf88a8688fd6f63d2f8fa2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Ultimately, Moody’s expects that a higher interest bill in 2022 and 2023 will offset the improvement in the government’s primary balance, thereby maintaining double-digit fiscal deficits (in cash terms) with a concomitant increase in the government’s debt burden.
WEAKER GOVERNMENT LIQUIDITY POSITION; EXTERNAL PRESSURES TO MOUNT THE LONGER FINANCING OPTIONS REMAIN CONSTRAINED
The government of Ghana’s capacity to access sufficient funding sources at manageable costs to meet large funding needs has deteriorated. The government’s external funding options have narrowed and, for the time being, appear limited to official sector sources or financing secured with the support of the official sector. This implies a greater reliance on domestic borrowing, primarily sourced from the banking sector at a cost that has recently increased to high levels.
Ghana’s fiscal reserves, including in the various petroleum funds remain very small and therefore not suited to provide funding in times of stress.Ghana’s constraints on external funding come at a time when external debt service requirements in foreign currency are contained, thereby limiting short-term government liquidity risks. Foreign exchange reserves at $9.3 billion as of October 2021 according to the IMF (equivalent to 8 months of imports) provide a buffer to meet external debt flows.
However, over the medium term, the government’s external liquidity profile will likely erode unless Ghana is able to restore its access to a wider range of external borrowing sources, including international markets. This, in turn, will rely on the ability of the government to demonstrate a track record of delivering on its fiscal consolidation objectives.
RATIONALE FOR THE STABLE OUTLOOK
The stable outlook balances Ghana’s significant fiscal challenges, large financing needs and funding constraints against the government’s pre-pandemic track record of relatively effective policies and maintenance of a variety of funding sources. On the downside, the constraints to policymaking posed by interest payments absorbing such a large proportion of the budget, risk undermining growth and, over time, social stability.
However, while the capacity of the government to reduce its borrowing needs is limited, in 2022-23 refinancing will be primarily for local currency debt, providing a time-window for the government to deliver on its fiscal consolidation strategy and engender confidence that may restore its access to a broader range of external funding sources.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s institutional framework and dynamic economy remain key credit supports. The government built a track record of meeting fiscal targets in the years preceding the pandemic-related shock in 2020, managing to consolidate its primary balance by 4.5% of GDP between 2016 and 2019.
Improvements to Ghana’s personal and property tax systems and customs will likely continue and help the government in its efforts to improve tax compliance. Finally, the country’s strong growth potential from multiple sources both in the oil and non-oil sectors underpins Moody’s expectation for growth in the range of 4.5-6% over the medium term.
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE CONSIDERATIONS
Ghana’s ESG Credit Impact Score is highly negative (CIS-4), reflecting its high exposure to social risks. Resilience to environmental and social risks is weak, constrained by low wealth and high debt levels.Ghana’s credit profile is moderately exposed to environmental risks (E-3 issuer profile score).
The cocoa sector is a large contributor to GDP, exports and employment and being demanding in water, it exposes the country to climate changes and especially droughts. Ghana is exposed to water management risks stemming from a lack of access to potable water in some areas. The weight of the agricultural sector exposes the economy to weather-related disruptions and the effects of climate change.
The exposure to social risk is high (S-4 issuer profile score), driven by limited access to quality housing and education, especially in rural areas. Risks related to health and safety and access to basic services are moderately negative. While the government has put in place measures aimed at reducing poverty and inequality and strengthening social safety nets, its fiscal challenges constrain its scope for meaningful reduction in social risks given more than half of government revenue is consumed by interest payments.
Governance is highly negative with a G-4 issuer profile score. Overall, Ghana’s institutions have shown some effectiveness. Moody’s has lowered the governance issuer profile score to reflect domestic revenue mobilisation challenges and significant constraints on fiscal policy effectiveness reflected by very weak debt affordability.
The authorities have undertaken some institutional reforms on the revenue and competitiveness front, which will take some time to produce results.GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 5,799 (2020 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)Real GDP growth (% change): 0.4% (2020 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 10.5% (2020 Actual) Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -10.8% (2020 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)Current Account Balance/GDP: -3.1% (2020 Actual) (also known as External Balance)External debt/GDP: 45.7 (2020 Actual)Economic resiliency: ba3Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.
On 01 February 2022, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the government of Ghana.
The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer’s institutions and governance strength, have decreased. The issuer’s fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has decreased.
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS
Moody’s could downgrade Ghana’s ratings if it expected that the government will face heightened difficulty in covering its funding needs, increasing the likelihood of default.
This could be evident in a sharper increase in interest rates than currently expected by Moody’s and could result from underperforming fiscal results. Moreover, there would be downward pressure on the ratings should Ghana’s currency, the cedi, weaken significantly with limited scope for a reversal.
Conversely, Moody’s would likely upgrade Ghana’s ratings if fiscal consolidation proceeded more rapidly, resulting in much more favourable funding conditions for the government and indicating stronger policy credibility.
Evidence that government’s funding options have broadened sustainably would also provide a path back to a higher rating level.The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Ratings Methodology published in November 2019 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1158631
By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana