(Ecofin Agency) - In a statement published on December 11, 2018, Fitch Ratings affirmed Tunisia's Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'B+' with a Negative Outlook.
Fitch explained that this is due to the high and rising public foreign debt as well as moderated growth and difficult socio-political environment.
The rating agency explained that the negative outlook reflects the persistent pressure on external liquidity due to an important need for financing, which will represent 13.2% of GDP on average yearly in 2018-2020, poor foreign currency reserves and a rise of the trade deficit.
"The lack of budgetary headroom and low external buffers amplify the economy's high susceptibility to exogenous shocks, for example from a rise in oil prices, tighter international funding conditions, weaker European demand or security risks", the agency reveals.
Fitch also indicated that the cumulated current account deficit led to a rise in the country’s foreign debt, which rose from 60.1% of GDP in 2014 to 87.5% of GDP in 2017.
Fitch Ratings also estimated that the implementation of unpopular fiscal reforms remained slow while pressures are put on syndicates for salary increase in the context of strong social discontent and an intensification of political divisions.
Therefore, the goal to reduce the public salary mass to 12.4% of GDP in 2020 against 15.6% of GDP in 2018 seems difficult to attain.
Fitch expects the country’s GDP to grow from 1.9% in 2017 to 2.6% and 2.8% in 2018 and 2019 respectively. In addition, it notes that Tunisia’s exports will be boosted by agriculture, resumption of the exploitation of phosphate and the depreciation of Tunisian dinar against the strong currencies.