oody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has today 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.
Original story on Africa Eye Report