Moody's cuts Nigeria's debt rating on slow reforms

A sign for Moody's rating agency is displayed at the company headquarters in New York, September 18, 2012. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

NEW YORK – Moody's Investors Service on Tuesday cut the rating on Nigeria's government debt, saying the country has been slow to address its heavy dependence on oil.

The agency downgraded the debt rating to B2 from B1, citing the failure to find ways to expand the government's revenue base.

"The authorities' efforts to address the key structural weakness exposed by the oil price shock by broadening the non-oil revenue base have so far proven largely unsuccessful," the agency said in a statement.

Despite recent improvements in oil prices, the lack of reform leaves the country's finances "exposed to further economic or financial shocks, with interest payments very high relative to revenues and deficits elevated despite cuts in capital spending."

Nigeria depends on oil for 70 percent of state revenues and 90 percent of export earnings. The west African country slipped into recession for the first time in more than two decades in August 2016, returning to growth only this September.

READ: African Development Bank considers $400m loan for Nigeria

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presented a record 8.6 trillion naira ($24 billion, 20.8 billion euros) budget he said will support the country's economic recovery.

Buhari said the spending was a 16 percent increase over 2017, and was based on an estimated oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day at an estimate a price of $45 dollars a barrel, more than $15 per barrel less than the current price for the main international contract.

Moody's projects a general government budget deficit of 3.6 percent of GDP in 2017, down from 4.7 percent in 2016.

In 2018, the deficit is expected to decline only slightly to 3.2 percent.

The agency said debt service is taking up an increasingly large share of the government's resources.


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