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S&P affirms Bermuda’s A+ ratings

Standard & Poor’s: the ratings agency has affirmed Bermuda’s credit rating at A+

There is at least a one-in-three chance that Bermuda’s credit ratings could be raised a notch within the next year.That is according to Standard & Poor’s, which has affirmed the island’s A+ ratings, with an outlook that remains positive.The current ratings place Bermuda alongside the likes of Japan, China and Chile.S&P said the island could move up a notch if there are positive economic developments during the next 12 months, such as the start of a new one-time construction project, continued momentum in tourism, or expansion of the international financial services sector, together with the Government remaining disciplined and fiscally prudent.The agency’s country ratings analyse how likely it is that a country will default on its sovereign debt, based on a number of factors.The affirmation of the island’s ratings was welcomed by Curtis Dickinson, Minister of Finance. He said: “According to S&P, the outlook remains positive, as they believe there is a chance the government could reach fiscal balance, which combined with growth in external government asset values in line with historical averages, could put Bermuda on a path towards building a sustainable net creditor position.”He is pleased S&P views the island in a positive light “given the action taken by this Government to purchase the Caroline Bay loans”.He was referring to the $170 million borrowed to honour a government guarantee to the lenders of the resort project at Morgan’s Point.In addition to the affirmation of the island’s long-term sovereign credit and senior unsecured debt ratings, the A-1 short-term rating and AA+ transfer and convertibility assessment have also been affirmed.In its ratings report, S&P said the Government is in a net debtor position for this fiscal year, and is likely to remain so in 2020-2021. The sell-off of equity markets in late 2018 lowered the value of Bermuda’s external government assets, and that, together with the unexpected increase in debt as a result of the Caroline Bay guarantee, had contributed to the net debtor position.However, S&P said: “Ongoing fiscal consolidation could produce balanced fiscal results and a declining trend in general government debt.”It said that as external asset values recover and the burden of general government debt declines, “there is a chance that Bermuda could regain its net creditor status, possibly by 2021-2022”.It said factors which cloud that outlook are the possibility of slowing US economic growth and uncertainty in Bermuda’s international financial sector.The rating agency said it expects the annual inflation rate to be below 2 per cent during the 2019-2022 period. In addition, it believes the island’s real gross domestic product growth will stay close to 1 per cent this year and in 2020.S&P noted the airport reconstruction, hotel developments and Belco refurbishment project, together with possible rising tourist arrivals, as factors that should drive economic growth through next year.Mr Dickinson said: “In the S&P report, there was recognition that the Government is on track to produce a balanced budget in the current fiscal year, and if sustained, should lower our government debt burden. There was also mention of the Government’s policymaking being effective and predictable. “These comments highlight the fact that the PLP Government remains committed to the island and its economy and demonstrates this through transparent and prudent governance.”This article has been updated to include information from S&P’s report