Natia Turnava: “The stable investment environment is a fact which is confirmed by the rating agencies.”
Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Natia Turnava’s statement is a MANIPULATION.
Although the credit agencies have not downgraded Georgia’s rating assessment during the pandemic period and there is a positive dynamic in terms of the investment environment assessment for the last ten years, Georgia still remains in the non-investment grade. According to the assessment of the rating agencies, some speculative risks still persist in Georgia which is naturally a negative signal for investors. The credit rating agencies assess that Georgia needs to advance by two steps in order to reach the investment grade. In the pandemic period, Georgia’s rating environment can be assessed as “critical but stable,” roughly speaking and, therefore, the statement of the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development is MANIPULATIVE.
The Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Natia Turnava, speaking about the assessment of the investment environment, stated: “The stable investment environment is a fact which is confirmed by the rating agencies.”
The investment environment or the investment climate concerns the economic, the financial and the socio-political conditions in a country or region which affect the readiness of certain individuals, banks and institutions to issue a loan or acquire shares (investments) in a specific country. A country’s credit rating gives investors information about the risk factors associated with investments in the country as well as its reliability. Dozens of agencies publish credit ratings although Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s and Fitch are the most influential and famous among them. Each credit rating agency employs its own methodology, although basic indicators are the same and include economic indicators as well as a country’s domestic and foreign policies, regional processes and the environment.
Standard & Poor’s and Fitch employ similar assessment systems: AAA is the highest rating in their assessment which is followed by AA+, AA, AA- above average – A+, A, A-, below average – BBB+, BBB, BBB-, non-investment grade speculative – BB+, BB, BB-, speculative B+, B, B-, highly vulnerable CCC, on the verge of bankruptcy CC and default D. Moody’s assessment is also similar but instead of +/- it uses digits: Aaa, Aa1, Aa2, Aa3, A1, A2, A3, Baa1, Baa2, Baa4, Ba1, Ba2, Ba3, B1, B2, B43, Caa1, Caa2, Caa3, Ca and C. Assessment levels in turn are divided into investment and non-investment grades. Table 1 shows the economic interpretation of these assessments.
Table 1: Assessments of Moody’s, S&P and Fitch and Interpretation of the Assessments
In addition, these organisations also assess a rating outlook which involves their assessments on expectations about the investment environment in a country and, therefore, the future dynamic of the assessment. The outlook can be positive, negative or neutral.
Fitch granted Georgia a BB stable assessment in August 2021 whilst S&P granted a BB negative in February 2021. Of note is that Fitch granted Georgia a BB rating with a negative outlook in April 2020, although later the outlook was upgraded again. In the case of Moody’s, Georgia has been granted a Ba2 stable assessment since 2017. Therefore, according to credit rating assessments, speculative risks persist in the Georgian economy and Georgia’s investment environment is in a non-investment grade. In the pre-pandemic period, Georgia was granted BB and Ba2 stable assessments; therefore, the pandemic situation has not substantially affected Georgia’s rating assessments. However, the country continues to be in a non-investment grade both in the pre-pandemic period as well as during the pandemic. Therefore, despite certain positive dynamics in the long-term period, the assessment of the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development that Georgia’s investment environment is stable is straightforwardly manipulative.
Table 2: Georgia’s Assessment Dynamic in 2005-2021