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16 Jan 2018
New York, January 16, 2018 -- The 2018 outlook for sovereign ratings in the Levant and North Africa
region is broadly stable, reflecting the improved global growth
dynamics, ongoing structural reforms, and winding-down
of regional conflicts, Moody's Investors Service said in a
The report, "Sovereigns -- -- Levant & North Africa:
2018 outlook stable as improving growth offsets persistent fiscal and
political risks", is now available on www.moodys.com.
Moody's subscribers can access this report via the link at the end of
this press release. The research is an update to the markets and
does not constitute a rating action.
"The improved global growth dynamics, ongoing structural reforms,
and gradual re-opening of trade routes in former conflict areas
together with a planned reconstruction drive will underpin GDP growth
in 2018.," said Elisa Parisi-Capone, a
Moody's Vice President -- Senior Analyst and co-author
of the report. "In addition, a tightening of global
financing conditions poses fiscal risks for some countries, and
elevated political risk will continue to drive event risk in the region."
As of 16 January 2018, four sovereigns in the Levant and North Africa
region hold stable rating outlooks, while one carries a positive
(Morocco) and another a negative outlook (Tunisia).
Higher global growth will drive an increase in the region's exports,
including tourism, and remittances and investment flows in 2018.
Moderate oil prices will provide further support, while the region's
five oil-importing countries are making progress toward accessing
or developing lower-cost or renewable energy sources so as to permanently
reduce their energy deficits. That said, the region's economic
potential continues to be significantly hampered by structural weaknesses,
in particular labour market inefficiencies and weak competitiveness.
In detail, Moody's expects growth in Egypt to accelerate from
4.2% in 2017 to around 5.0% by 2019 and 5.5%
by 2021, as structural reforms support more broad-based activity
compared to the mostly consumption-driven pre-reform growth
Moody's also forecasts GDP growth to pick up in Iraq, Jordan
and Lebanon in 2018 to 2.9% , 2.5% ,
In Tunisia, Moody's forecasts a slight acceleration in growth
to 2.8% in 2018 from 2.3% in 2017 based on
demand, in particular from France and Italy, and improving
investment incentives following the recent investment law and legislation
on public-private partnerships. However, the growth
trajectories of Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon continue to face significant
structural and external headwinds, despite the cyclical growth recovery.
In Morocco, the cyclical recovery is expected to moderate,
with GDP growth at 3.5% in 2018 from 3.9%
in 2017 due to a lower contribution to growth from the agriculture sector.
Moody's notes that fiscal reform programs and official liquidity
assistance mitigate exposures to higher interest rates. Nevertheless,
high debt levels, low debt affordability, large funding needs
and relatively high debt roll-over rates increase Lebanon,
Egypt, and Jordan's exposure to a sharper-than-expected
rise in interest rates. Moreover, fiscal consolidation will
be more challenging for Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon.
Improved external demand from global trading partners and increased tourism
revenue (albeit from a low base) will also support a gradual but uneven
external rebalancing, supported by broadly unchanged oil prices
of around $40-$60 per barrel in 2018 and 2019.
According to Moody's, the significant recourse to external
borrowing in the aftermath of the Arab Spring disruptions underlines mounting
regional external vulnerability risks, which are most evident in
Tunisia. Moreover, Lebanon's current account deficit will
remain elevated at 16%-17% of GDP over the next two
years, exacerbated by the refugee crisis and trade channel disruptions.
Moody's notes that elevated tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran,
lingering security risks from recent regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria,
and recurring Israeli-Palestinian tensions will shape geopolitical
risk in the Levant, whereas North Africa remains exposed to potential
policy paralysis from popular opposition to fiscal reform.
Subscribers can access the report at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1098950
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