Special Report

7 Countries Near Bankruptcy

7. Belarus
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Negative
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 39.6%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $17,836

Considered by many to be the last dictator in Europe, President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994. Part of Lukashenko’s reputation likely stems from his refusal to privatise state enterprises, which has discouraged foreign investment, according to the BBC.

Like several other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Belarus’s economy — and its credit rating — is largely dependent on the Russian economy. U.S. and European-imposed sanctions on Russia following the crisis in Ukraine, as well as falling oil prices in recent years, are among the major contributors to the weakening confidence in Belarus’s economy. In an attempt to counteract rampant inflation, Belarus tied its ruble to three foreign currencies in January: 40% Russian ruble, 30% U.S. dollars, and 30% euros.

Moody’s in April downgraded Belarus’s sovereign debt rating to Caa1 from B3 — Belarus is one of only seven countries with a credit rating worse than B. Ratings C and worse are associated with relatively high levels of uncertainty, and creditors can expect a 90% to 95% recovery rate — the expected percentage of principal and interest returned to lenders — in countries with Caa1 ratings.

ALSO READ: The Happiest Countries in the World

6. Argentina
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Negative
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 49.5%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $22,459

Argentina’s current fiscal woes can be tied back to the late-1980s. In 1989, The New York Times reported that inflation in the South American country was estimated at an annual rate of 12,000%. In an attempt to tame the country’s hyperinflation, the government tied its currency, the peso, to the U.S. dollar. While the peg had the desired effect and attracted foreign capital, it also hindered the Argentinian government’s ability to counteract currency appreciations that made its exports more expensive relative to the rest of the world. Rather than abandon the peg, Argentina cut wages, which helped tame inflation but also drove unemployment up and tax receipts down. In 2001, Argentina defaulted on roughly $100 billion worth of debt.

While most of the nation’s bondholders at the time agreed to debt restructuring deals, a few investors refused. After a U.S. court ruled in 2012 that Argentina could not pay its current bondholders without paying the holdouts as well, the country was forced to default in August, 2014. With elections this October, many presidential candidates are outlining their plans to revitalize Argentina’s economy by tightening monetary and fiscal policy as well as looking to the international community to finance its debt.

5. Jamaica
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Positive
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 132.8%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $8,784

While Jamaica’s credit rating of Caa2 is among the worst, it is a recent upgrade from a Caa3 rating. Moody’s also upgraded the country’s outlook to positive in May. No other country with such a poor rating has a positive outlook. Jamaica recently simplified its tax return filings, reformed tax incentives, and implemented a minimum business tax. According to Moody’s, the improved business climate supports private investment and confidence in the economy.

Still, Jamaica’s consistently high debt burden, coupled with high interest rates, have weakened the credit rating. Sovereign debt remained above 140% of GDP each year from 2009 through 2014, when it was third highest compared to other countries. Government debt fell slightly this year to an estimated 133% of GDP. However, this was still higher than all but three other countries.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.