Special Report

7 Countries Near Bankruptcy

4. Belize
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Stable
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 75.7%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $8,321

A small country in Central America, Belize is home to just over 360,000 people. It is one of the smallest economies in the world with a GDP of $1.8 billion. Borrowing heavily for infrastructure projects, Belize accumulated a total debt of over $540 million. In August 2012, the country’s central bank announced that it would not be able to make a $23 million bond payment. Due to concerns surrounding the impending debt restructuring, Moody’s downgraded the country’s government bond rating to Caa1 from B3 in early 2012. It was later downgraded further to Ca only to be upgraded back to Caa2 in April 2013, after terms of the debt restructuring were agreed upon. Belize’s Credit rating has remained stable at Caa2 since April 2013.

3. Venezuela
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Stable
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 39.6%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $16,346

Between September 2014 and January 2015, all three major credit rating companies downgraded Venezuela’s credit. Moody’s cited plummeting fuel prices as the primary factor in the downgrade. Nearly 94% of Venezuela’s export earnings come from oil. Consequently, the country’s risk of default increases substantially as fuel prices drop. Crude oil went from an average of $88.42 a barrel throughout 2014 to a mere $54.03 a barrel in December of 2014. Moody’s predicts that Venezuela’s account balance will shift from a 2% surplus of GDP in 2014 to a deficit of 2% of GDP in 2015. Despite the series of downgrades, Central Bank President Nelson Merentes expressed optimism that the Venezuelan economy would grow in 2015.

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2. Greece
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Rating Under Review
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 172.7%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $26,773

Greece was among the countries hardest-hit by the 2008 global financial crisis, and the country eventually received several large bailouts totalling 240 billion euros. Greece defaulted on $138 billion of its debt in 2012, the largest sovereign default ever recorded. Debt restructuring following the default and a return to the international bond market last year were hopeful signs of economic recovery. However, the debt restructuring accompanied severe austerity measures at a time of already grim financial hardships for many Greek residents. Since 2012, the estimated unemployment rate in Greece has remained between 24% and 25%, among the highest in the world.

This January, Greece once again returned to the international spotlight after Greek voters elected the left-wing party Syriza, which would form the eurozone’s first anti-austerity government. Greece’s finance minister under Syriza, Yanis Varoufakis, supported a stubborn rejection of the terms offered by the troika: the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. In a historic referendum in July, a majority of Greeks voted “no” to spending cuts and tax increases demanded by repayment plans. Varoufakis resigned after only six months, however, and Greece’s new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, insists that “Greece is committed to honor its financial obligations to all of its creditors in a full and timely manner.”

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1. Ukraine
> Moody’s credit rating:
> Moody’s outlook: Negative
> 2015 Gov’t debt (pct. of GDP): 94.1%
> 2015 GDP per capita (PPP): $8,278

Ukraine’s conflict with Russia over its annexation of Crimea continues to fuel the country’s financial problems. While the IMF approved Ukraine’s debt restructuring plan in March, Ukraine has the worst credit rating of any country reviewed, downgraded this year from Caa3 to Ca, the second lowest possible level. Creditors can expect a 35% to 65% recovery rate on loans issued by the country. According to Moody’s, “The likelihood of a distressed exchange, and hence a default on government debt taking place, is virtually 100%.”

The same day that Moody’s issued the downgrade, the National Bank of Ukraine announced the establishment of the Financial Stability Council. According to Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine Valeriia Gonatreva, the Council’s function will be to “take a comprehensive and systemic approach to identify and mitigate the risks threatening the stability of the banking and financial systems of the country.”

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