New York, June 01, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today
downgraded the Government of India's foreign-currency and
local-currency long-term issuer ratings to Baa3 from Baa2.
Moody's has also downgraded India's local-currency
senior unsecured rating to Baa3 from Baa2, and its short-term
local-currency rating to P-3 from P-2. The
outlook remains negative.
The decision to downgrade India's ratings reflects Moody's
view that the country's policymaking institutions will be challenged
in enacting and implementing policies which effectively mitigate the risks
of a sustained period of relatively low growth, significant further
deterioration in the general government fiscal position and stress in
the financial sector.
The negative outlook reflects dominant, mutually-reinforcing,
downside risks from deeper stresses in the economy and financial system
that could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength
than Moody's currently projects.
Moody's also lowered India's long-term foreign-currency
bond and bank deposit ceilings to Baa2 and Baa3, from Baa1 and Baa2,
respectively. The short-term foreign-currency bond
ceiling remains unchanged at Prime-2, and the short-term
foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling was lowered to Prime-3
from Prime-2. The long-term local currency bond and
bank deposit ceilings were lowered to A2 from A1.
A full list of affected ratings is provided towards the end of this press
RATIONALE FOR THE RATING DOWNGRADE TO Baa3
POLICYMAKERS WILL BE CHALLENGED TO MITIGATE RISKS OF BROAD EROSION IN
INDIA's CREDIT PROFILE
India faces a prolonged period of slower growth relative to the country's
potential, rising debt, further weakening of debt affordability
and persistent stress in parts of the financial system, all of which
the country's policymaking institutions will be challenged to mitigate
Moody's upgrade of India's ratings to Baa2 in November 2017
was based on the expectation that effective implementation of key reforms
would strengthen the sovereign's credit profile through a gradual
but persistent improvement in economic, institutional and fiscal
strength. Since then, implementation of these reforms has
been relatively weak and has not resulted in material credit improvements,
indicating limited policy effectiveness.
While today's action is taken in the context of the coronavirus
pandemic, it was not driven by the impact of the pandemic.
Rather, the pandemic amplifies vulnerabilities in India's
credit profile that were present and building prior to the shock,
and which motivated the assignment of a negative outlook last year.
Slow reform momentum and constrained policy effectiveness have contributed
to a prolonged period of slow growth, compared to India's
potential, that started before the pandemic and that Moody's
expects will continue well beyond it. Real GDP growth has declined
from a high of 8.3% in fiscal 2016 (ending March 2017) to
4.2% in fiscal 2019. Moody's expects India's
real GDP to contract by 4.0% in fiscal 2020 due to the shock
from the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown measures, followed
by 8.7% growth in fiscal 2021 and closer to 6.0%
Thereafter and over the longer term, growth rates are likely to
be materially lower than in the past, due to persistent weak private
sector investment, tepid job creation and an impaired financial
system. In turn, a prolonged period of slower growth may
dampen the pace of improvements in living standards that would help support
sustained higher investment growth and consumption. While the government
responded to the growth slowdown prior to the coronavirus outbreak with
a series of measures aimed at stimulating domestic demand, and recently
announced a support package aimed at supporting India's most vulnerable
households and small businesses, Moody's does not expect that
these measures will durably restore real GDP growth to rates around 8%,
which had seemed within reach just a few years ago.
Moreover, persistent stress among banks and non-bank financial
institutions (NBFIs) weighs on growth dynamics through constrained supply
of credit for consumption and investment. Moody's does not
expect the credit crunch in India's undercapitalized financial sector
to be resolved quickly. In turn, subdued growth further challenges
the banking system's incomplete resolution of legacy non-performing
assets and governance reforms, and is likely to further weaken asset
quality and the health of banks and NBFIs.
Together with the immediate coronavirus-related policy support,
the government has announced a series of reforms aimed at enhancing productivity,
investment, employment and the ease of doing business across a variety
of sectors including agriculture, mining, defense and power.
Factor market reforms, including more flexible labor laws,
are also being pursued by some states with support from the central government.
While achieving the objectives laid out in these announcements would be
credit positive, challenges with implementation of previous reforms
suggest that the benefits to medium-term growth will likely be
less than intended.
FISCAL CONSTRAINTS POINT TO A HIGHER DEBT BURDEN FOR LONGER
In turn, lower real and nominal GDP growth over the medium term
will diminish the government's ability to reduce its debt burden,
after a significant rise as a result of the coronavirus economic shock.
A mixed track record on implementation of revenue-raising measures
lowers the prospects of fiscal policy-driven budget consolidation,
amplifying a long-standing weakness in India's credit profile.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, at an estimated 72% of
GDP in fiscal 2019, India's general government (combined central
and state governments) debt burden was 30 percentage points larger than
the Baa median. Although large private sector savings and long
government debt maturities provide some stability and resilience to shocks
to the cost of debt, interest payments comprised about 23%
of general government revenue, the highest interest burden among
Baa-rated peers and around three times the Baa median. Moody's
expects the coronavirus shock to cause the debt burden to rise higher
still, to about 84% of GDP in fiscal 2020. While it
should stabilise at that point, it is unlikely to fall materially
Measures to improve India's fiscal strength, which were at
the heart of the government's policy framework a few years ago,
have underwhelmed. Fiscal performance in recent years has been
weaker than expected, with fiscal deficit targets consistently missed
and a persistent lack of clarity on how medium-term fiscal consolidation
objectives would be achieved. Rather than beginning to fall,
the debt burden remained at around 70% of GDP.
India's high debt is a product of persistent general government fiscal
deficits, which in turn partly reflect rigidities in the government's
finances. Wages and salaries account for a large portion of total
expenditure, and low incomes add to the government's social and
development spending requirements. Achieving significant and durable
spending restraint is therefore highly challenging. These constraints
may encourage greater reliance on state-owned enterprises to meet
India's need for social and physical infrastructure which would raise
contingent liability risks to the government.
Meanwhile, India's large low-income population limits the
government's tax revenue base. Earlier prospects of a broadening
of the tax base have not materialized, even during years of more
robust growth than Moody's now projects.
Overall, with very limited room for outright fiscal consolidation,
the outlook for India's debt burden will depend on trends in nominal GDP
growth and is unlikely to decline unless growth accelerates markedly and
sustainably above 10%.
RATIONALE FOR THE NEGATIVE OUTLOOK
The negative outlook reflects mutually-reinforcing downside risks
from potentially deeper stresses in the economy and financial system that
could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength than
Moody's currently projects.
Persistent growth challenges, including weak infrastructure,
rigidities in labor, land and product markets, and rising
financial sector risks, continue to constrain the economy's
potential. These structural weaknesses may impair the economy's
recovery from domestic or external shocks, like the current one,
to a greater extent than Moody's currently assumes.
Moreover, the nature of stress among NBFIs and banks is still being
revealed and may prove deeper and broader than Moody's has assessed
The materialization of economic and financial system risks would be mutually
reinforcing as a deeper and more prolonged credit crunch would constrain
GDP growth further, which in turn would increase the pressure on
financial institutions' balance sheets.
Should the downside risks to growth and/or the financial system materialize,
negative consequences for India's fiscal strength would follow.
The longer the period of relatively subdued growth, the more likely
India's debt burden will continue to rise beyond 85% of GDP.
And the materialization of further contingent liabilities for the government,
should renewed financial support to financial institutions be needed,
would only add to the debt burden.
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE CONSIDERATIONS
Environmental considerations are material to India's rating.
The country is vulnerable to climate change through its dependence on
variable monsoon rains, given that almost one-half of the
country's farm land is not irrigated. The variability of seasonal
monsoon rainfall influences agricultural sector growth, food inflation
and rural household consumption, creating economic, fiscal
and social costs for the sovereign. Elevated levels of pollution
and rising concerns around water scarcity and management also present
Social considerations are material to India's credit profile,
though with both positive and negative influences evident their overall
impact on the rating level is limited. They mainly relate to demographics
driven by India's young and growing working age population. Between
8 and 12 million young adults will likely enter the labor force every
year through 2030. This creates both opportunities, through
a higher contribution of labor to potential growth, and social challenges,
if job creation does not keep pace with the volume of job demand and expectations
of new entrants in the labor force. More immediately, Moody's
regards the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under its ESG framework,
given the substantial implications for public health and safety.
For India, stretched healthcare services are likely to add to the
social, economic and fiscal costs of the outbreak.
Governance is material to India's credit profile and a material
factor in today's downgrade. The country's scores are
moderate on institutional factors, as measured by the Worldwide
Governance Indicators, reflecting modest government and policy effectiveness
compared with peers. Policymakers' limited success in achieving
stated objectives in recent years -- an important aspect of governance
under Moody's definitions -- together with Moody's expectation
that policymaking will remain challenged is an important driver in both
the downgrade to Baa3 and the assignment of a negative outlook.
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS
Although a rating upgrade is unlikely in the near future, Moody's
would change the outlook on India's rating to stable if outturns
and policy actions were to raise confidence that real and nominal growth
will rise to sustainably higher rates than Moody's projects,
including through measures which enhance financial stability by strengthening
the supervision, regulation and capitalization of the financial
sector. Commensurate action to halt and reverse the rise in the
debt trajectory, even slowly, would also support a stable
Further evidence that self-reinforcing economic and financial risks
are rising would put downward pressure on the rating.
GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 7,859 (2018
Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)
Real GDP growth (% change): 6.1% (FY2018 Actual)
(also known as GDP Growth)
Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 2.9%
Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -5.9%
(FY2018 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)
Current Account Balance/GDP: -2.1% (FY2018
Actual) (also known as External Balance)
External debt/GDP: 20% (FY2018 Actual)
Economic resiliency: baa1
Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been
recorded since 1983.
On 26 May 2020, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating
of the India, Government of. The main points raised during
the discussion were: The issuer's economic fundamentals, including
its economic strength, have not materially changed. The issuer's
institutions and governance strength, have materially decreased.
The issuer's fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile,
has materially decreased. The issuer's susceptibility to event
risks has not materially changed.
The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Ratings
Methodology published in November 2019 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1158631.
Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com
for a copy of this methodology.
The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used
in this credit rating action, if applicable.
LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS
..Issuer: India, Government of
....Long-term Issuer Rating (Foreign
and Local Currency), Downgraded to Baa3 from Baa2
....Long-term Senior Unsecured Debt
(Local Currency), Downgraded to Baa3 from Baa2
....Other Short-term Senior Unsecured
Debt (Local Currency), Downgraded to P-3 from P-2
....Outlook, Remains Negative
For further specification of Moody's key rating assumptions and
sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and
Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody's
Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.
For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of
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same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant
to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing
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rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may
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Moody's general principles for assessing environmental, social
and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1133569.
At least one ESG consideration was material to the credit rating action(s)
announced and described above.
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VP - Senior Credit Officer
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
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MD - Sovereign/ Sub Sovereign
Sovereign Risk Group
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Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653