Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Moody’s holds Saudi Arabia’s credit rating, says fiscal position still strong | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This undated file photo shows the Riyadh skyline. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

This undated file photo  shows the Riyadh skyline. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

This undated file photo shows the Riyadh skyline. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s fiscal position remains strong, according to global credit ratings agency Moody’s, which on Monday said it would not change the Kingdom’s credit rating.

Moody’s said Saudi Arabia’s existing assets would be able to provide a cushion against a rising budget deficit and that several measures by the Kingdom would be “forthcoming” to shore up any shortfalls. It gave the Kingdom’s finances a “stable” long-term outlook.

This follows last week’s controversial downgrade of Saudi Arabia’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) by one grade with a “negative” outlook. S&P cited the Kingdom’s rising budget deficit on the back of the the drop in oil prices over the past year as a reason for the downgrade.

However, several experts speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat criticized S&P’s decision, with one calling it “unprofessional” while maintaining that “trusted credit ratings [agencies] are the ones we should pay attention to,” in apparent reference to Moody’s.

Fahd Al-Mubarak, the governor of the country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), said the Kingdom already had in place several new projects aiming at diversifying the country’s sources of income in light of current oil prices.

The Saudi Finance Ministry meanwhile added that the country’s budget deficit was still strong in comparison to the global average, and that the country had assets to fall back on worth 100 percent of GDP.

Meanwhile, a recent IMF report said Saudi Arabia’s reserves were capable of shoring up the country’s finances for the next five years even if oil prices remained at their current levels of around 50 US dollars a barrel.

The IMF said Gulf countries’ oil revenues jumped to 729 billion dollars in 2013 from 366 billion dollars 2009, during a period when oil prices were relatively high. It said these countries had accumulated a total of 2.5 trillion dollars in reserves. The IMF said this would allow Gulf countries, which are among some of the world’s biggest oil exporters, to shore up their finances in light of the price slump.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, the World Bank’s Director for Gulf Countries Nadir Mohammed said the Saudi economy was diverse and strong enough to withstand any further shocks caused by the oil price slump.

This is not the first time S&P has courted controversy. The agency was heavily criticized for its positive ratings on the toxic assets which eventually caused the financial crisis of 2007–2008, including sub-prime mortgage-backed securities. EU officials have also accused S&P of accelerating the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis.