SA committed to economic reform, says Treasury after S&P lowers outlook to 'negative'

S&P on Friday revised SA's economic outlook from stable to negative.
S&P on Friday revised SA's economic outlook from stable to negative.
Image: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

The government remains committed to implementing much-needed economic reforms to revive economic growth in the country, the National Treasury said on Saturday after ratings agency S&P lowered its outlook for the country to “negative”. 

S&P late on Friday affirmed SA’s long term foreign currency debt rating at “BB” and local currency debt rating at “BB+” but revised the outlook to negative from stable.

The country’s foreign and local credit ratings by S&P remain below investment grade.

According to S&P, the outlook revision indicates that SA’s debt metrics are rapidly worsening as a result of the country’s very low GDP growth and high fiscal deficits.

The agency stated that unless government takes measures to control the fiscal deficit and fast-track the implementation of reforms, debt is unlikely to stabilise within S&P’s three-year forecast period.

The Treasury said in a statement on Saturday the government fully recognised S&P’s assessment of the challenges and opportunities that the country faced in the immediate to long term and that it remained committed to placing public finances on a sustainable path while aiming for inclusive economic growth.

“The agency acknowledges the work the government has started doing to restore the credibility of the country’s weakened institutions (e.g. the reinvigoration of the National Prosecuting Authority and SA Revenue Service). Furthermore, the agency acknowledges the credibility of the SA Reserve Bank and the flexible exchange rate regime to be key strengths supporting the country’s ratings.

“Meaningful progress has been achieved on the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September 2018. Government remains committed to implementing much needed economic reforms in order to revive the country’s economic growth. Furthermore, government reiterates that the growth in the public-sector wage bill needs to be addressed in order to reduce the debt burden,” the Treasury said in its response.

It added: “Government, labour, business and civil society need to work hand-in-hand as difficult decisions that imply short-term costs for the economy and fiscus need to be made in order to turn the tide around.”

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