Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed South Africa’s Baa2 government issuer ratings and changed the rating outlook from stable to negative.

National Treasury said Moody’s indicated that the decision to change the outlook to negative from stable was based on increased probability that growth will remain low for a prolonged period of time due to the structural challenges facing the mining industry and other sectors of the economy.

The other reason cited by the ratings agency was the rising risk of fiscal slippages in the face of both slower growth and increasing political pressures.

“Moody’s affirmed South Africa’s government bond ratings (foreign and local) at ‘Baa2’ respectively citing the country’s track record of sound macroeconomic policies,” the department said.

Moody’s decision must be seen in the context of weak global growth prospects, a challenging environment for emerging markets and heightened volatility in financial markets, the department said.

“Moody’s decision to affirm the rating attests to South Africa’s solid history of sound macro-economic policy management, prudent fiscal policy and strong institutions.

“This approach to policy has enhanced South Africa’s credibility and will therefore remain government’s focus, the department said.

The reappointment of Minister Pravin Gordhan as the Minister of Finance will ensure policy continuity.

“The Minister has affirmed that gvernment will stay the course of sound fiscal management and focus on fiscal consolidation and debt stabilisation in the medium term.

“He assured that any extra expenditure would only be accommodated if extra revenue is raised and any revenue raising opportunity would be carefully considered so as to ensure that it does not damage growth or affect the poor negatively,” the department said.

The department has committed to addressing Moody’s concerns about a rising risk of fiscal slippage.

“Government is aware that the country’s economic growth performance needs to be improved and thus made the resolution of the energy challenge an immediate priority.

“Focus is on implementing the National Development Plan, in particular growth-inducing initiatives that include:  investing in economic infrastructure through public private partnerships  expanding the independent power producer programme encouraging affordable, reliable and accessible broadband access,” National Treasury said.

Government is also fast-tracking economic reforms aimed at alleviating the most binding constraints to growth and to build a more competitive economy. The implementation of these reforms will ensure that challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment are addressed effectively.