Rating agency Standard & Poor’s continued its focus on the Caribbean with a note on Barbados’ public finances. Below in full, highlighting mine:
Barbados Outlook Revised To Negative On Deteriorating Public Finances; ‘BBB’ And ‘A-3’ Foreign Currency Ratings Affirmed
— We believe the timeliness and magnitude of Barbados’ fiscal consolidation is uncertain because of a worse-than-anticipated economic recession.
— We’re revising the outlook on Barbados to negative from stable.
— We’re affirming the ‘BBB’ long-term and ‘A-3’ short-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings.
— The negative outlook reflects the possibility of a downgrade if the authorities fail to consolidate the general government deficit (estimated at 7.1% of GDP in 2009) and to curb the rising debt. We forecast net government debt at 52% of GDP this year, up from 42% just three years ago.
NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2009–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it revised its outlook on Barbados to negative from stable. At the same time, we affirmed the ‘BBB’ long-term foreign and ‘BBB+’ long-term local sovereign credit ratings. The short-term ratings remain at ‘A-3’ for foreign currency and ‘A-2’ for local currency. The transfer and convertibility assessment for Barbados is ‘BBB+’.
“The outlook revision on Barbados to negative is due to our view that the timeliness and magnitude of the government’s fiscal consolidation, necessary to preserve Barbados’ credit fundamentals at the current ‘BBB’ level, is uncertain because of a worse-than-anticipated economic recession in the country,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Olga Kalinina. Results for the first three quarters of 2009 underscore a rapid deterioration in Barbados’ public finances, at a faster rate than we had previously assumed, and a sharper economic contraction. We have revised Barbados’ real GDP estimate to negative 4.8% in 2009 (from our previous estimate of negative 2.5%), with a further decline of 1% expected in 2010, before a return to growth in 2011.
Also, we have made a significant revision to our expectations for the government’s fiscal deficits, both for 2009 (based on three quarters of 2009 data) and for the last three years (based on new information on the off-budget activities). We now expect the general government deficit at 7.1% of GDP in fiscal 2009 (ending March 31, 2010), up from 5.6% last year, 6% in 2007, and 3.8% in 2006. This encompasses the central government deficit of 9.1% of GDP (including 0.5% of off-budget deficit) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) surplus of 2%.
Our projections incorporate an assumption of a gradual reduction in the fiscal deficits starting in 2010, although the debt is likely to peak in 2010 at 55% of GDP (on a net basis), before starting to decline in 2011. We note that there is support across the political spectrum, private sector, and unions for fiscal tightening and that the government is preparing a medium-term framework to address the situation. The risk to our projections, however, is the timeliness and efficiency of the anticipated measures amid a slowing economy and rising unemployment.
The negative outlook reflects the possibility of a downgrade if the authorities fail to contain fiscal deficit widening this year and reduce fiscal deficits starting in 2010. Conversely, rapid consolidation of public finances, most probably accompanied by a return of foreign investment, would restore strength to Barbados’ balance sheet and support the stable outlook. We will closely watch the trends in Barbados’ international reserve levels in order to identify any potential stress on its external liquidity position and currency peg.