Credit rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s lowered South Africa’s sovereign ratings further into junk on Friday on rising debt and more likely weakening in the fiscal strength, while S&P Global affirmed on hopes that credit strength will offset them.Fitch expects the country’s GDP to remain below 2019 levels even in 2022 as the debt pile adds pressure to public finances in Africa’s most industrialized economy.Moody’s as well as Fitch’s outlook on the country’s sovereign ratings is negative, making further downgrades more likely in the future.Fitch downgraded South Africa to ‘BB-‘ from ‘BB’, while Moody’s lowered it to ‘Ba2’ from ‘Ba1’.In March, Moody’s became the last of the big three international ratings firms to downgrade South Africa to sub-investment grade, after S&P Global and Fitch moved there in 2017.With the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s tax revenue fell as the economy contracted, while spending to contain the spread of the virus and cushion its impact on the poor increased.At last month’s mid-term budget, the National Treasury forecast South Africa would record a budget deficit of over 15% of GDP in the fiscal year ending March 2021, the highest in post-apartheid history.However, S&P Global affirmed its ratings, while keeping its outlook on the country stable on the assumption that while the economy faces a sharp COVID-19-related contraction in 2020, it should rebound from 2021.
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