Economist Kwamena Essilfie Adjaye has said Ghana must be concerned about the downgrading of its economy by the various international ratings agencies.
?The ratings matter a lot for prospective investors,? the Interim Chairman of the Ghana Growth Development Platform (GGDP)?a group of non-partisan economists told Morning Starr?s Kafui Dey on Starr 103.5FM.
?It doesn?t matter what we in Ghana think of the ratings and changes in the ratings by the ratings agencies.
?They have their means of collecting data from nations and corporations and they review the ratings and occasionally when they feel conditions merit a change in the rating, they change the rating, so it matters a great deal,? Mr Adjaye said.
He advised that: ?We as a nation should be concerned that the assessment of economic conditions, or prospects has been decreased by Moody?s or Standard & Poor?s or Fitch, whichever one will come out with a revision and we should use these releases when we have downgrades to look seriously at what they propose as the factors or the reasons for the downgrading and address them.?
Ratings agency Moody?s recently downgraded Ghana?s sovereign rating to B3 with a negative outlook in its latest release.
Ghana?s rating has been lowered one step to B3, six levels below investment grade by the ratings agency.
Moody?s said the key drivers informing its decision are:
1) Deteriorating debt dynamics as reflected by an increasing debt burden due to large fiscal imbalances and a sharp weakening of the country?s national currency, combined with reduced debt affordability stemming from a high cost of funding in the domestic market;
2) Increased government liquidity risks, as the government faces large gross borrowing requirements amid more difficult domestic and external funding conditions.
?The negative outlook reflects further downside risk to the country?s debt dynamics and liquidity pressure in the short-term if the country?s policies fail to successfully contain its fiscal deficit, stabilize its currency and address current impediments to higher economic growth,? Moody?s said.
The move was the second downgrade by Moody?s in less than a year for a nation that is receiving $940 million loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Fitch Ratings also affirmed Ghana?s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at ?B? with negative outlooks, a statement from the rating agency said.
Also, Standard and Poor?s assesses Ghana at an equivalent B-.
Fitch has also affirmed Ghana?s short-term foreign currency IDR at ?B? and Country Ceiling at ?B?.
Fitch?s rating came right on the heels of the downgrading by Moody?s.
According to the latest Fitch ratings, the key drivers for its decision were due to the fact that ?the IMF board is expected to approve Ghana?s USD940m Extended Credit Facility in April, which should provide some easing of severe external and fiscal financing pressures. However, Ghana?s track record of increasing spending ahead of the elections in 2008 and 2012 raises concerns about the government?s ability and willingness to meet the ambitious fiscal consolidation targets set out by the IMF.?
It added: ?The IMF programme is intended to provide financing, policy direction and monitoring and addresses Ghana?s key credit weakness through prioritising fiscal consolidation, raising revenue and improving Central Bank credibility.
?Ahead of the programme, the authorities have introduced VAT on petroleum products, agreed to a modest public sector wage increase as well as maintaining the National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy and a special import levy. Commitment to the programme should result in a recovery of donor inflows, foreign investment in the domestic bond market and reduce domestic funding costs over time.
?Fiscal consolidation proved challenging for a second consecutive year in 2014, with revenue underperformance resulting in a higher than targeted deficit of 9.4% of GDP (8.5% in the budget) and well above the ?B? median of 4.8%. In response to lower oil prices, the Minister of Finance released a
revised budget in mid-March. To compensate for lower revenue, expenditure on goods and services as well as capital projects has been reduced. The government expects the deficit to narrow to 7.5% of GDP in 2015. This is higher than the deficit target of 6.5% announced in the 2015 budget in December 2014. The projected fiscal deficit is consistent with the agreements reached with the IMF. Fitch forecasts a fiscal deficit of 8% of GDP in 2015, due to continued revenue underperformance.
?The IMF projects that the deficit will narrow to 3.5% of GDP by 2017. Fitch considers this too optimistic given the deepening electricity crisis, which could drag growth lower, as well as the pressure that the upcoming elections will likely exert on spending. Rising government debt, which increased to 67% at end-2014 from 47% in 2012, combined with increased reliance on domestic debt (45% of total), where yields have averaged 23% since mid-2012 has led to a steady rise in the interest burden. Interest costs as a percentage of GDP rose to 7% in 2014 from 2.5% in 2011 and now account for one-third of government revenue, the highest of Fitch-rated sub-Saharan African sovereigns. Ghana?s external position is vulnerable. Gross international reserves fell to USD4.9bn or 2.9 months of current external payments (CXP) in January 2015 from USD5.5bn at end-2014, partly due to increased seasonal demands for foreign exchange.?
?The Cedi has continued to depreciate sharply, falling 10% since January 2015, and news of a potential IMF programme has done little to support the currency,? Fitch said, adding, ?with 55% of the debt stock denominated in foreign currency, this external vulnerability could be quickly transmitted to the public finances. Ghana?s growth prospects have been undermined by its fiscal and external imbalances. Fitch expects GDP growth to moderate to 3.4% in 2015 against an average of 8.6% for the previous five years and well below the ?B? median. Growth is being dragged lower by a severe power crisis and macroeconomic instability. Weaker growth will in turn complicate fiscal consolidation.?
The statement continued: ?Ghana scores MPI 3 in Fitch?s Macro Prudential Risk Monitor ? signalling a high level of potential systemic risk ? due to the sharp acceleration in credit growth in 2014 to 40% y-o-y. The increase is concentrated in the electricity sector and financial services, and partly reflects the impact of cedi depreciation on trade finance loans, particularly oil imports. Credit growth is expected to moderate this year, but the extent will depend on whether the cedi depreciates further and the need to finance fuel imports. A decade of growth above 7% has resulted in an improvement in social indicators. However, per capita income and measures of human development are still weak relative to ?B? peers. Per capita income of USD1,445 in 2014 is 40% of the ?B? median. The ratings are supported by Ghana?s strong governance record and long democratic history.?
According to Mr Adjaye, Ghana?s economic difficulties are so obvious without the ratings agencies talking about them. ?Frankly we don?t need Moody?s to be telling us that our economy is in difficult straits, we all know that and what we?ve been saying in effect is that it?s not really improving,? he said.