Poland dodges Moody's downgrade

Poland dodges Moody's downgrade
S&P handed Poland its first-ever downgrade in January
By bne IntelliNews September 11, 2016

Despite having scheduled a review, Moody’s Investors Service did not publish an update of Poland’s rating on September 9. The omission offered the country some relief after speculation had risen that the ratings agency was set to downgrade Poland due to rising worries over fiscal management and political risk.

The Polish government’s expenditure plans, alongside softening economic growth, had sparked concern ahead of the scheduled review that Moody’s might choose to follow Standard and Poor’s. S&P handed Poland its first ever downgrade in January, as it fretted over the government's bid to take a firm grip of the country's institutions. A second downgrade would have hit an already weakened zloty and sent already elevated yields spiking again.

Officials breathed a sigh of relief, therefore, when Moody's failed to issue the review. "It's certainly not the same as an outright confirmation ... but a lack of a downgrade is a lack of a downgrade," deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki commented, according to PAP.

Moody's rates Poland a notch above Fitch and two notches above S&P at 'A2', the fifth-lowest investment grade, where it has sat since 2002. Earlier this month, the rating agency offered a clear warning that it was considering a downgrade, alleging that political risks potentially could slow investment activity.

However, economic activity remains decent - if slower than forecast - and the budget performance this year has been reasonable. The key, however, is likely that Warsaw has delayed a threatened scheme to force the banks to convert forex loans. All those point gave Moody's "fewer grounds for the immediate rating action," suggest analysts at RBI.

"The lack of a downgrade confirms what I've learned in my conversations with foreign investors, that the long-term growth potential of the Polish economy is positive," Morawiecki claimed.

Polish GDP growth in the second quarter of the year was confirmed at a disappointing 3.1% by the country’s statistical office in a second preliminary estimate published on August 30. The data showed that a sharp fall in investment - largely owing to slow uptake of European Union funding - was a major driver of the poor result.

Should the trend be maintained throughout 2016, it could likely push the deficit back above 3% of GDP, a scenario pointed at by analysts a number of times in recent weeks. Polish government needs growth to be able to finance its expenditure schemes, especially after 2016, when some one-off income for the budget will not be available.