Why It Matters

Singapore's credit rating: Stable outlook in volatile year

Singapore finds itself in an elite club that is getting smaller.

Credit ratings agency Moody's last week reaffirmed Singapore's triple-A rating - the agency's highest rating - and maintained a stable outlook for the country.

This year, a record number of countries have had their credit ratings downgraded by top ratings agencies Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's.

Singapore is now one of just 10 economies - down from 16 a decade ago - to hold the highest score from all three major assessors.

Australia has a similar rating, but speculation is rising that this could be at risk, owing to its Budget deficit. Last week's shock third-quarter economic contraction did not help.

 
 

Other economies still riding high include Canada, Denmark, Germany and Norway.

Britain lost its last triple-A rating from Standard & Poor's after June's Brexit vote as the agency warned of economic, fiscal and constitutional risks the nation would face.

Credit ratings are used to gauge creditworthiness and measure the political as well as economic risk of investing in countries.

Some market watchers query their relevance to sovereign credit markets, especially in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Back then, ratings agencies assigned top grades to mortgage-backed securities and other investments which turned out to be highly risky.

Ratings have deteriorated around the world in a volatile year, which should push up the cost of borrowing. However, borrowing rates are also at rock-bottom levels.

Still, that debate aside, it is reassuring that Singapore's creditworthiness has remained on an even keel amid all the volatility this year.

Moody's said the economy is facing short-term challenges but its strong institutions, ample reserves and the effectiveness of government policies will help Singapore stay resilient in the longer term.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline 'Stable outlook in volatile year'. Print Edition | Subscribe