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Ghana must cut fiscal, external deficits to maintain B+ rating – S&P

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marketGhana needs to make tangible fiscal and external deficit reductions if it is to maintain its B+ sovereign credit rating, Standard & Poor’s said Thursday.

The West African nation also needs to lengthen its domestic debt maturities, as well as start oil production on time, the rating agency said in a new report on the country.

“Faltering commitment to fiscal consolidation in anticipation of oil revenues, or any deterioration in donor support, would likely lead to a downgrade,” S&P said.

Ghana, which is likely to receive more than $1 billion in resources from the International Monetary Fund, now has a “window of opportunity” to reduce its imbalances, the rating agency said.

Indeed, last week, the IMF’s executive board approved a $600 million loan to Ghana to help stabilize its economy. But the country also stands to benefit from a $450 million boost to its reserves in the form of special drawing rights.

“The loans will help to fill the government’s still large financing gap and should relieve some of the pressure on domestic markets,” S&P said.

Peter Allum, the IMF’s mission chief to Ghana, said the three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility will focus on getting the country’s budget management under control before oil production starts in 2011.

Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa producer after neighboring Ivory Coast and Africa’s second-largest gold producer after South Africa.

The West African nation has been struggling with budget deficits and trade imbalances after the cost of food and fuel imports surged to record highs last year.

President John Atta-Mills aims to bring the budget deficit down to 9.4% of gross domestic product this year from 14.9% at the end of 2008.

Standard & Poor’s currently rates Ghana at B+, with a negative outlook.

Source: Dow Jones

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