‘No further downgrades expected, but if they occur, don’t burn me at the stake’

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told a briefing after his speech in Parliament that he expected robust discussions with ratings agencies in the coming days.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers 2020 Budget Speech in Parliament, Cape Town, on 26 February 2020. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN – Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Wednesday said he did not expect any further downgrades for South Africa, but said that if it did happen, he should not be burned at the stake.

Mboweni and Treasury officials were due to talk to Fitch ratings agency after the tabling of the mid-term budget policy statement.

He told a briefing after his speech in Parliament that he expected robust discussions with ratings agencies in the coming days.

Moody’s ratings agency downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to “junk” status in March.

Mboweni said the government was doing what it could in very difficult circumstances.

“I do not expect any further downgrades, but if those do occur, do not burn me at the stake.”

Treasury traditionally talks to the big three international credit rating agencies in the wake of budget announcements.

“We can’t hide the numbers that we see before us from the ratings agencies.

“Ours is to engage in robust conversation and debate with them – and the numbers are what they are.”

More downgrades would tip South Africa further into junk status, with serious implications for the economy.

“I don’t see any reason why they would want to downgrade us – in particular because we are pursuing an active scenario to control the situation… to close the mouth of the hippopotamus.”

Mboweni said the ratings agencies would make their own assessment.

“They will reach their own conclusions but we are of the view that there’s no need for further downgrades of South Africa at all – I think we’ve been punished enough, during a pandemic nogal – I think the numbers and the analysis will speak for itself.”

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