Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

The threat of a junk rating

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Credit ratings by agencies are never very objective and their long-term outlook is also seldom accurate. Sovereign ratings, in particular those which are not solicited, are generally unreliable and often biased. But rating agencies do draw attention to critical issues that should not be ignored.

Standard & Poor’s announced on Friday that it had maintained India‚Äôs rating at BBB- with a long-term negative outlook. This assessment is based on three major considerations. The budget deficit, government debt and the current account deficit (CAD) are too high.

The fiscal deficit has been at the centre of debate and action for more than six months and the finance minister has brought it down from 5.7 percent last year to 4.8 percent in 2013-14 with the assurance that it will be brought down further. But there are still doubts.

Debt is not yet a big problem for India though it has its ramifications. Going by the IMF, government debt in Japan is 236 percent of GDP, 107 percent in the United States and 88 percent in the United Kingdom. For India, it is 67 percent with a foreign debt component at 4.7 per cent of GDP. Debt has a cost. In the current year, for example, interest payments by the central government would be 3.7 trillion rupees, which would be 22 percent of the total expenditure or two-thirds of the budget deficit.

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