S&P Lowers Bahamas Sovereign Rating

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By the Caribbean Journal staff

Standard & Poor’s today lowered the Bahamas’ sovereign credit rating from BBB+/A-2 to BBB/A-3, calling the country’s outlook “stable.”

The ratings agency cited economic vulnerabilities given a dependence on tourism and on the US market, it said.

The ratings agency said the new action reflected the “heavier weight” its recently-revised sovereign credit rating criteria places on economic factors, which it called “relative weaknesses” for the country, despite what it described as a Bahamian track record of political and macroeconomic stability.

The firm did note the country’s high level of per-capita GDP, which is projected at almost $23,000 for 2011.

The Bahamian economy is “vulnerable,” however, to its “dependence on one sector, tourism, and one geographic, the US.”

“The stable outlook balances the risks associated with the Bahamas’ higher levels of government and external debt against our expectation for lower deficits and a generally stable external financing profile,” the firm said. “The ratings could come under pressure if the Bahamas’ fiscal deterioration persists and the economic base erodes more severely.”

S&P said it could raise the rating, however, if the government took a more proactive policy to reduce debt levels or if the country’s economic prospects strengthened, improving the Bahamas’ balance sheet.