on borrowed time
What if SA is cut to junk?
SA is on the verge of being junked by Moody’s. The severity of the pain such a move will cause depends on various factors, including the degree to which a downgrade is already priced into the markets
A year ago, after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s first state of the nation address, ratings agency Moody’s upgraded SA’s credit outlook from "negative" to "stable", and suggested the country may enter a virtuous cycle of economic growth, fiscal prudence and mounting social cohesion. Both Fitch and S&P Global Ratings had junked SA’s rating in the first week of April 2017, immediately after the axing of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, but Moody’s has kept SA’s ratings on the last rung of the investment-grade ladder all along. This follows an established pattern: Moody’s has been inclined to give the country the benefit of the doubt despite repeated fiscal and growth disappointments. In November 2017, S&P kicked SA deeper into junk territory after former finance minister Malusi Gigaba’s disastrous medium-term budget policy statement, but Moody’s put SA on a 90-day review to first assess the outcome of the ANC’s December elective congress. When Ramaphosa was elected, Moody’s patien...