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Announcement:

Moody's Offers Cautious Assessment of Prince Edward Island's Budget

22 Jun 2015

Toronto, June 22, 2015 -- Moody's Investors Service notes that the 2015 Budget of the Province of Prince Edward Island (Aa2, stable) forecasts a deficit of CAD19.9 million (1.2% of revenue) for 2015-16. As indicated during the recent provincial election, the government has delayed the return to balanced budgets by one year compared to the plan presented in the 2014 Budget. The province now forecasts a return to balance in 2016-17, projecting a surplus of CAD11.9 million (0.7% of revenues).

The province forecasts a slightly better result in 2014-15 than previously budgeted, estimating the deficit for the year reached CAD34.7 million (2.1% of revenues) compared to a budgeted level of CAD39.7 million (2.4% of revenues). This includes a significant increase over the budgeted level for transfers from the federal government and higher dividends from crown corporations, which were able to offset unbudgeted expenses, including higher pension costs arising from new funding requirements.

Moody's notes, however, that the province's plans leave little room for negative impacts to the assumptions.

"Although the province has presented a plan of a small deficit followed by a return to balance, we approach some of the assumptions with caution as they seem to be tilted to positive. We note that the true fiscal picture of the province could change materially under different scenarios," noted Michael Yake, Moody's Vice President and lead analyst for the Province of Prince Edward Island.

With very limited tax measures introduced in the budget, revenues are expected to rise a modest 0.5% over forecasted 2014-15 levels. Federal transfers, which typically account for about 40% of the province's total revenues, are expected to fall 2.3%. This is due to the fact the province recorded a CAD35 million payment in 2014-15 in relation to its agreement to join the national securities regulator. Revenue is largely expected to increase from taxes, which are projected to rise 4.1%, related to a strengthening economy.

The province is forecasting economic growth of 2.7% in 2015, followed by 2.1% in 2016. These forecasts would suggest that Prince Edward Island's economy will be among the strongest of Canadian provinces over this period. Moody's has noted in the past that due to the province's narrow economy, focused on sectors impacted by summer weather (agriculture, tourism and food processing), it is difficult to gauge economic activity until the third quarter, leaving the province little time to adjust to unforeseen downward pressures.

"While the economy is showing signs of strengthening, we note that the forecast of real GDP growth in 2015 represents the strongest growth recorded by the province since 2006. Within this context, the high reliance on economic growth to drive provincial revenue growth creates material risks in our view", said Mr. Yake.

Total expenditures are expected to fall 0.4% from 2014-15 estimates. The province is counting on expenditure constraint to keep spending growth to a minimum. Health, for example, which represents 40% of program expenditures, is expected to rise only 1.0%. Lower spending will also be found as the province incurred non-repeating costs in 2014 related to the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference.

The province forecasts that net debt will begin to fall once surpluses are achieved. Moody's forecasts that the province's net direct and indirect debt measured 171% of revenues as of March 31, 2015. This level is expected to remain relatively stable in 2015-16 due to the small deficit financing requirements, and then slowly decrease as the province records surpluses.

As part of its normal monitoring process, Moody's will evaluate the 2015 Budget's assumptions and its potential for upside and downside risks with the context of likely impact on the province's debt burden.

This publication does not announce a credit rating action. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history.

Michael Yake
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Sub-Sovereign Group
Moody's Canada Inc.
70 York Street
Suite 1400
Toronto, ON M5J 1S9
Canada
(416) 214-1635

David Rubinoff
MD - Sub-Sovereigns
Sub-Sovereign Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Canada Inc.
70 York Street
Suite 1400
Toronto, ON M5J 1S9
Canada
(416) 214-1635

Moody's Offers Cautious Assessment of Prince Edward Island's Budget
No Related Data.
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