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17 Apr 2003
MOODY'S ASSIGNS Aa1/P-1 RATINGS TO COMMUNAUTE FRANCAISE DE BELGIQUE
London, 17 April 2003 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned Aa1 long-term and Prime-1
short-term issuer ratings to Communaute Française
de Belgique. These ratings are based on (i) the strengths of the
legal framework under which the entity operates, (ii) its commitment
to comply with rigorous financial targets, (iii) its moderate debt
burden, and (iv) structural positive cash balances as well as a
high level of flexibility in cash management. The ratings also
take into consideration the entity's lack of flexibility with respect
to the revenue and expenditure sides of its budget. The outlook
on the long-term rating is stable.
The Belgian communities have recently benefited from various enhancements
to their legal framework. Although CFB no longer enjoys tax flexibility,
its revenues almost exclusively comprise national taxes, with responsibility
for collection and timely remittance of these transfers falling to the
central government. These revenues are index-linked and
allocated on an annual basis irrespective of (i) the actual level of collection,
(ii) the buoyancy of the local and national economic environment,
or (iii) changes in tax rates. As they do not pass through the
central government budget, they are also immune from central government
interference or budgetary arbitrage in the event of financial pressure.
While this endows CFB with a quasi-guaranteed access to revenues,
recent changes have also released significant additional resources to
be shared amongst the communities. Finally, as a large majority
of CFB's expenditures are index-based, the recent reforms
have established a stronger correlation between the annual changes in
revenues and expenditures, thereby limiting the "scissors effect"
between both sides of the ledger. While in the past CFB's inadequate
financial framework resulted in repeated deficits, exemplified in
net borrowing exceeding its annual authorised limits, Moody's believes
that such improvements are likely to bring the entity to a balanced financial
position in the near future, and, in the medium term,
to enable it to comply with its financial targets.
The community's ratings also take into account its financial targets,
which consist in reaching a balanced position by 2004 and reducing debt
by 2005. These targets were first set by the National Council of
Finances and subsequently reaffirmed through solid commitments made by
CFB's executive. While these targets are not legally binding,
Moody's believes that, given the highly sensitive context of Belgium
federalism, political pressures are likely to play a stronger role
than legal sanctions would do in urging CFB to stay in line with its financial
As an illustration of previously insufficient financial resources,
CFB has consistently displayed large annual deficits, incurring
a net funding requirement exceeding its authorised borrowing limits.
Despite past recurrent increases, debt remains moderate and well
within CFB's repayment capacity and is targeted to decline from 2005.
Finally, CFB's ratings factor in (i) its sound liquidity position,
in the form of structurally positive and increasing cash balances,
and (ii) its flexible cash management, thanks notably to the combination
of committed credit lines and overdraft facilities covering the large
majority of its expenditure.
Communaute Française de Belgique is one of the three Belgian
communities that form part of the three-tier federal system in
Belgium, together with state government and three regions.
Unlike the regions, however, they do not correspond to a territory,
as they are based on the respective cultural and linguistic features.
CFB therefore extends beyond the border of the Walloon Region and includes
the French-speaking population of the Brussels-Capital region
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
44 20 7772 5454
No Related Data.
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