S&P refuses to upgrade India, retains BBB- rating
NEW DELHI: Global rating agency Standard and Poor on Friday retained India’s sovereign rating at BBB- with a stable outlook.
“This is the lowest of all investment-grade sovereigns that we rate,” it said, while taking a favourable view of reforms including fiscal consolidation taken by the government in the past one year. The government, however, said that this is in line with Moody’s with minor difference.
“We are affirming our ‘BBB-’ long-term and ‘A-3’ short-term sovereign credit ratings on India,” S&P Global Ratings said in a statement, adding that its ratings were constrained by India’s low wealth levels, measured by GDP per capita, which it estimated at $2,000 in 2017.
Bullish on growth
“The stable outlook reflects our view that over the next two years growth will remain strong, India will maintain its sound external accounts position and fiscal deficits will remain broadly in line with our expectations,” it said.
Commenting on the S&P rating, Minister for Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal said, “All in all it is a very satisfying report. It shows that economy is strong and is improving further, as per their projection pace of development will accelerate further in 2018-2020.”
“Traditionally, Moody’s has been first followed by S&P and Fitch in terms of ratings,” he added.
He said, “We expect the economic decline to have reversed in the next quarter. The slowdown has been a temporary phenomenon largely due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.”
The ratings, which keep India at the lowest investment grade, come days after Moody’s raised India’s sovereign ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed the outlook on the rating to stable from positive.
The rating upgrade by Moody’s was the first in 14 years and the government was keeping its fingers crossed for a similar upgrade by S&P after reforms such as the Insolvency Code, Goods and Services Tax and efforts to curb black money through demonetisation.
India’s position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report jumped up by 30 notches this year to 100.
Speaking to reporters, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Subhash Chandra Garg said, “The assessment is in line with Moody’s. There is a minor difference between the two ratings, only of a notch or a stage up.” “We hope S&P had taken an overall view like Moody’s had. The current status of play might have affected their views,” Garg added.
“Confidence and GDP growth in 2017 appear to have been hit by the sudden demonetisation exercise in late 2016,” S&P, however, noted, adding that the roll out of GST also led to some one-off teething problems that have dampened growth.
Garg said that the lowering of debt-to-GDP ratio has been a long standing policy of the government.
He said, “The debt-to-GDP ratio lowering has been a policy issue for a while. This is the year of transition and the government is committed to stay on the course of fiscal consolidation.”
“In the medium term, we anticipate that growth will be supported by the planned recapitalisation of state-owned banks, which is likely to spur on new lending within the economy,” the S&P report said, adding that public sector-led investments in infrastructure and removal of barriers through GST will also support growth.