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On 24 November 2016, the Minister of Finance of Georgia, Dimitri Kumsishvili, stated: “Lately, Georgia is practically the only country in the world whose ratings have not worsened according to various international organisations.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of Dimitri Kumsishvili’s statement.

Three international organisations, Moody’s, Standard & Poors (S&P) and Fitch Ratings Inc, compile credit ratings of different countries. Specific ratings are calculated and changed based upon the economic conditions both inside the country as well as in its neighbourhood. The credit ratings assess the ability of the countries to repay debts and measure the risks of the non-implementation of financial obligations in a long-term perspective. These data are important indicators for assessing the investment environment of a country.

In order to verify the accuracy of Mr Kumsishvili’s statement FactCheck

looked into the 2013-2016 ratings of the countries neighbouring Georgia, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries as compiled by Moody’s, S&P and Fitch Ratings Inc.

In the period from 2013 to 2016, two out of the three aforementioned companies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings Inc, changed Georgia’s ratings. According to S&P, on the other hand, the country has been maintaining a BB- stable indicator since 2011. Georgia’s credit data perspective decreased according to Moody’s which changed its Ba3 positive forecast made in 2014 to a Ba3 stable forecast for 2016 which indicates the decrease in the ability to repay loans. Moody’s states that the reasons for the worsened forecasts are the decreased economic growth rate in Georgia, the high trade deficit, increasing external government debt and the trend of depreciation of the national currency starting from 2014. Fitch Ratings Inc has made quite similar changes in Georgia’s ratings, changing the 2014 BB positive forecast to a 2015 BB stable forecast. Fitch Ratings Inc’s study points out that the reasons for the worsened forecasts were Georgia’s decreased export capability and the drop in money transfers to the country. Another reason for changing the forecast was the 30% depreciation of the national currency of Georgia as compared to the exchange rates recorded from 2011-2013. Fitch Ratings Inc believed that the depreciation would cause the growth of external government debt and trade deficit and a decrease in the GDP per capita indicator. All this, of course, would have had influence upon the ability to repay loans.

Moody’s, Fitch Ratings Inc and S&P worsened the credit ratings of both Armenia and Azerbaijan from 2013 to 2016. Both Moody’s as well as Fitch Ratings Inc decreased the credit ratings of Russia and Turkey whilst their credit rating improved from BB+ negative to BB+ stable according to S&P. All three of the companies improved the ratings of Ukraine. From 2015 to 2016 Ukraine moved up from the inability to repay loans to B- stable in the cases of Fitch Ratings Inc and S&P whilst Moody’s gave Ukraine a Caa3 stable assessment.

Table 1:

 Current Ratings of Georgia and Other Countries in the Region

Moody's Fitch S&P
Georgia Ba3 Stable BB- Stable BB- Stable
Armenia B1 Stable B+ Stable -
Azerbaijan Ba1 Negative BB+ Negative BB+ Stable
Russia Ba1 Negative BBB- Negative BB+ Stable
Turkey Ba1 Stable BBB- Negative BB+ Stable
Ukraine Caa3 Stable B- Stable B- Stable
Source: Tradingeconomics.com

In the period from 2013 to 2016 in Eastern Europe, all three rating companies improved the ratings of Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Serbia. Only S&P assessed Albania in the given period of time, improving its ratings to B+ stable. All three companies agree that the ratings of Estonia, the Czech Republic and Macedonia did not change in the calculating period. On the other hand, however, all three of the companies also decreased the ratings of Poland and Croatia. S&P dropped the ratings of Bulgaria whilst Fitch Ratings Inc improved it. S&P also decreased the ratings of Belarus whilst Moody’s improved it. According to Moody’s, Moldova’s ratings have also worsened.

Conclusion

In the period from 2013 to 2016, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings Inc decreased Georgia’s credit ratings from positive to stable forecasts which was mainly due to the ongoing currency crisis, increased trade deficit and the decreased growth rate of the economy. In the given period, the ratings of Ukraine improved according to all three companies whilst only S&P improved the ratings of Russia and Turkey. Some of the Eastern European countries maintained their ratings without significant changes, some saw their ratings worsened whilst others showed noticeable improvements.

Based upon the analysis above, FactCheck concludes that Dimitri Kumsishvili’s statement is FALSE.