If this week's budget marks the bottom of the slide in the country's fiscal position, the best case scenario for a return to investment grade by the world's three leading ratings agencies - Moody's, Fitch and S&P - is a path that could take as long as three years, according to economists. South Korea was among the fastest to escape from junk status, taking 12 months to get back to investment grade after the emerging-market crisis in the late '90s. Romania, on the other hand, took six years to return to investment grade after the 2008 global financial crisis. The removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minster in December 2015 nudged South Africa towards junk territory. Moody's downgraded South Africa's foreign currency debt to junk but kept local currency debt at investment grade, which saved the country being kicked off major bond indices. Konrad Reuss, S&P Global Ratings MD for sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa, said S&P had a stable outlook on the country, and at its last rating, i...

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