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.
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.
Inflation is trending down in many emerging markets. This is partially due to higher central bank credibility. EM inflation has also become increasingly synchronized. Persistently lower inflation could allow for more easing. Risk of reversals and country-specific shocks remains high.
Russian authorities announced a policy pivot towards growth. National projects exceed 3% of GDP per year over 2019-24. Apart from national projects, policies will likely remain tight. We therefore expect only a modest pickup in Russia’s growth.
Weak growth has led to deteriorating debt dynamics in recent years. Falling business and consumer confidence do not point to a recovery. External imbalances remain despite weak activity and depreciation. Interest payments to non-residents have risen sharply due to high debt. The Rand is vulnerable to shifts in market sentiment and portfolio flows.
Markets were disappointed by the 2019 MTBPS announcement. Revisions to growth, deficit, and debt were worse than expected. This follows an Eskom plan lacking details on debt restructuring. Moody’s changed the outlook to negative but kept the IG rating. Key market concern is no longer the rating, but debt sustainability.