Macro Notes provide analysis on key macro and geopolitical developments. They complement the existing IIF product line up, which includes Global Macro Views, Economic Views, in depth country reports and data.
Real convergence in Sub-Saharan Africa has been weak despite robust growth. We believe that low total factor productivity growth is partially responsible. Furthermore, relatively weak investment is weighing on economic activity. As population growth slows, both will be key for standard-of-living gains.
Sanctions on a highly-integrated economy such as Russia are still unprecedented. Unforeseen and unintended consequences could significantly shake up markets. The impact is likely most significant for asset managers and banking institutions. But further consequences for the underlying market infrastructure are possible.
The debate on U.S. sanctions on sovereign debt is expected to continue in '20. Low macroeconomic vulnerabilities will likely limit the impact on Russia. U.S. investors would lose out given investments in Russian domestic debt. Unintended consequences could also significantly shake up global markets.
South Africa and Mexico face significant fiscal risks from struggling SOEs. Both Eskom and Pemex are receiving sizable support from governments. Such risks prompt SARB and BANXICO to keep real rates above EM peers. A downgrade of sovereign credit ratings could lead to large portfolio outflows. However, risks to debt sustainability are higher in South Africa than Mexico.
Government debt in Sub-Saharan Africa has risen markedly in recent years. This is partly due to issuance of Eurobonds in a low interest rate environment. Debt amortization will peak in 2024-25, while financing needs remain high. As a result, these countries will need to attract significant non-resident capital. Tightening of global financial conditions could increase debt costs substantially.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to display stronger growth than other EMs. However, this has not resulted in meaningful real convergence for most. Continued high, though declining, population growth is partly responsible. Higher productivity growth is necessary to improve living standards quicker. Rising indebtedness represents the key risk to the medium-term outlook.
Looser DM monetary policy and the US-China truce drove flows to EM. 2019 saw an important rebound in portfolio flows compared to 2018. Foreign currency and local debt attracted the bulk of non-resident flows. Going forward, foreign investors will likely focus on idiosyncratic stories.
Ukraine’s new agreement with the IMF is critical for external financing, even though recent flows into domestic bonds have alleviated pressure. The agreement signals confidence in ongoing reform efforts to markets, and will lead to renewed investor interest in local government bonds.
The release of the 2019 MTBPS was a wake-up call for politicians, just like in 2017. The 2020 budget in February, union negotiations, and Eskom resolution are key. Moody’s is likely to downgrade South Africa’s rating to sub-IG sometime in 2020. A deep domestic market and low short-term and FX debt mitigate our concerns. But with deteriorating debt dynamics, South Africa is exposed to external shocks.
EU structural funds have boosted growth in Eastern Europe, allowing for strong income convergence with the rest of the EU. Cuts in the 2021-27 EU budget will lead to smaller contributions, but a sudden slowdown is unlikely, and convergence will continue.