March 22, 2018

Fitch is giving South Africa a chance to address issues - National Treasury

26 November 2017, 01:06 | Lionel James

Global credit ratings agency has downgraded South Africa to junk status

S&P downgrades South Africa as rand slides

The finance ministry says the new policy will be "decisive", aiming to increase the sustainability of its fiscal system.

In response Treasury said on Thursday Fitch's decision not to change the country's credit ratings would give it an opportunity to deal with the issues that led to the downgrade in April.

Disappointment over the failure to lower borrowing costs was however not enough of a deterrent for thousands of people who thronged malls on Friday, armed with credit cards, in South Africa's version of the "Black Friday" annual shopping craze which originated in the United States but is now a global phenomenon.

South Africa's unemployment stands at 28 percent, whilst GDP growth has slowed to 1 percent annually.

"We expect that offsetting fiscal measures will be proposed in the forthcoming 2018 budget in February next year, but these may be insufficient to stabilize public finances in the near term, contrary to our previous expectations".

S&P's downgrade comes amidst the rising political tensions within South Africa, as the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) is under fire for its institutionalized corruption, the ongoing white genocide, and sheer negligence of the basic laws of economics. This is one rung above junk status.

The outlook on both the foreign currency and local currency ratings is stable.

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She notes that despite South Africa falling off the JP Morgan Emerging Markets Index earlier this year‚ the hunt for yield didn't suppress global investors' appetite for South African bonds. "Altogether, these promise a faster and larger rise in government debt-to-GDP than previously expected", it said.

The government has since appointed a judicial commission of inquiry into the causes of a 50 billion rand ($3.6 billion) revenue shortfall and to investigate a possible erosion into the nation's revenue collection capability.

This has left the ZAR exchange rate now vying with the New Zealand Dollar to be the worst-performing major currency in the 2nd half of 2017, with political turbulence, high public debt and low business confidence leaving the Rand floundering.

In a statement on Friday released just after 11pm, S&P said the downgrade "reflects our opinion of further deterioration of South Africa's economic outlook and its public finances".

Why is the South African Rand (ZAR) the Worst Performing Currency of 2017?

Jabu Mabuza, convenor of the CEO Initiative, said that all the negative ratings actions that the country has suffered "could and should have been avoided", had the required structural reforms needed to sustain inclusive economic growth been implemented in the interests of all South Africans.

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