Moody’s Cuts India’s Sovereign Rating, Maintains Negative Outlook

Global ratings agency Moody’s on Monday downgraded India’s foreign currency and local currency long term issuer ratings to Baa3 from Baa2. The agency has also maintained a negative outlook on India. It comes as India is already fighting rising cases of coronavirus in the past few weeks.

“The decision to downgrade India’s ratings reflects Moody’s view that the country’s policy making institutions will be challenged in enacting and implementing policies which effectively mitigate the risks of a sustained period of relatively low growth, significant further deterioration in the general government fiscal position and stress in the financial sector,” Moody’s said on Monday.

“While today’s action is taken in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it was not driven by the impact of the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic amplifies vulnerabilities in India’s credit profile that were present and building prior to the shock, and which motivated the assignment of a negative outlook last year,” it added.

The negative outlook reflects dominant, mutually-reinforcing, downside risks from deeper stresses in the economy and financial system that could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength, the agency said.

Moody’s also lowered India’s long-term foreign-currency bond and bank deposit ceilings to Baa2 and Baa3, from Baa1 and Baa2, respectively. The short-term foreign-currency bond ceiling remains unchanged at Prime-2, and the short-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling was lowered to Prime-3 from Prime-2. The long-term local currency bond and bank deposit ceilings were lowered to A2 from A1.

“India faces a prolonged period of slower growth relative to the country’s potential, rising debt, further weakening of debt affordability and persistent stress in parts of the financial system, all of which the country’s policy making institutions will be challenged to mitigate and contain,” Moody’s said.

In November 2017, Moody’s had upgraded India’s ratings to Baa2 based on the expectation that effective implementation of key reforms would strengthen the sovereign’s credit profile through a gradual but persistent improvement in economic, institutional and fiscal strength. Since then, implementation of these reforms has been relatively weak and has not resulted in material credit improvements, indicating limited policy effectiveness, the agency said.

While the government responded to the growth slowdown prior to the coronavirus outbreak with a series of measures aimed at stimulating domestic demand, and recently announced a support package aimed at supporting India’s most vulnerable households and small businesses, Moody’s does not expect that these measures will durably restore real GDP growth to rates around 8 per cent, which had seemed within reach just a few years ago.

Meanwhile, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 3.1 per cent in the final quarter of financial year 2019-20, lowest in 44 quarters, according to the government data released on Friday. Overall growth for FY20 slumped to 4.2 per cent – lowest since FY09 when GDP was 3.09 per cent – compared to 6.1 per cent in FY19.