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In This List

Research Update: Ratings On Romania Affirmed At 'BBB-/A-3'; Outlook Stable


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Research Update: Ratings On Romania Affirmed At 'BBB-/A-3'; Outlook Stable


  • Monetary policy has withstood political pressures. The Romanian central bank has hiked rates to anchor inflation expectations and help defuse overheating risks amid a booming economy spurred by an expansionary fiscal environment.
  • Risks to institutional settings are building as political efforts to interfere with the independence of the judiciary intensify. Such interference could dismantle important checks and balances in a corruption-prone environment and deter foreign investors.
  • We are affirming our 'BBB-/A-3' long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings on Romania.
  • The outlook is stable.

Rating Action

On Aug. 31, 2018, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its 'BBB-/A-3' long- and 
short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Romania. The 
outlook is stable.


The stable outlook reflects our opinion that--although Romanian politics 
remains turbulent and is becoming increasingly interventionist--existing 
checks and balances will still be robust enough to withstand political 
attempts to interfere in the independence of institutions. In addition, while 
we foresee that Romania's twin deficits will remain elevated as a result of 
the government's pro-cyclical fiscal stance, we expect that general government 
and external debt will increase only gradually over the next two years, 
barring a major economic slowdown.

We could raise the ratings if Romania's institutional environment stabilized 
and the government made more sustained headway with budgetary consolidation, 
put net general government debt firmly on a downward trajectory, and 
strengthened its governance framework, translating into more predictable and 
stable macroeconomic growth and government finances.

We could lower the ratings if we observed policies eroding the independence of 
key institutions, undermining confidence in the stability of checks and 
balances, then precipitating public unrest and weakening foreign investor 
confidence. Moreover, we would consider a negative rating action if policy 
reversals caused general government deficits, debt, and borrowing costs to 
increase significantly or if external imbalances re-emerged such that 
Romania's widening current account deficit was increasingly financed with 


The ratings are supported by Romania's moderate external and government debt, 
and strong growth prospects. However, we estimate Romania's GDP per capita at 
just over $10,000 in 2017, the second-lowest in the EU. Low income and wealth 
levels constrain the rating, alongside Romania's continuing budget deficit, 
weak institutional and governance effectiveness, and continued political 

Institutional and Economic Profile: Political interference in institutions risks eroding checks and balances as short-term focused policies and political volatility overshadow the economic boom
  • Political instability and repeated government efforts to interfere in the judiciary could erode the independence of key institutions, create public unrest, make economic policymaking increasingly unpredictable, and unsettle foreign investor sentiment.
  • Expedient and consumption-focused fiscal policy fosters income convergence but the lack of structural reform initiatives in infrastructure and education could drag on longer term trend growth and stagnate growth potential.
  • Romania's economic growth has been strong over recent years, recently reaching levels well above potential. The economy is set to cool down from rate hikes and reduced fiscal impetus.
Continued conflict within the ruling party, PSD, has seen three prime 
ministers appointed in 14 months. The ensuing lack of visibility about the 
government's agenda and frequent revisions to the country's tax code have 
hampered businesses' ability to make long-term plans. To date, we view the 
policies of the incumbent government as predominantly short term in nature, 
focusing the available fiscal space on public sector wage and pension 
increases. Structural reform initiatives are lacking, meanwhile, to the 
detriment of the ailing infrastructure network and underperforming education 
system. Over the medium term the lack of progress in these areas could hamper 
growth and act as a deterrent for foreign investors. 

While the economy boomed in 2017 and signs of overheating increasingly 
emerged, the responsibility for macroeconomic stabilization was left to 
monetary policy, while fiscal policy remained pro-cyclical. The central bank 
withstood political pressures and tightened monetary policy to steer the 
economy toward a more balanced macroeconomic position, defusing imminent 
overheating concerns.

The government has made repeated attempts to implement legislative changes. If 
these changes go through, they could diminish checks and balances between 
institutions and potentially delay necessary structural reforms. Romania 
continues to suffer from corruption, although the anti-corruption agency 
National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has made gradual improvements in 
recent years. That said, controversial legal reforms to weaken corruption 
charges and political interference in independent institutions risk weakening 
the rule of law. Moreover, anti-corruption work and the legitimacy of the DNA 
could diminish as recent initiatives risk diluting its independence.

Fiscal stimulus and a favorable external environment sparked an economic boom 
in Romania in 2017 with the economy growing at 6.9%, the fastest in the EU. 
This high headline growth was fueled mainly by domestic demand, especially 
related to consumption boosted by double-digit wage growth and tax cuts, 
meaning higher disposable incomes. Net external demand, on the other hand, 
subtracted from growth as domestic demand pushed up imports.

Overall, Romania's average per capita growth exceeds peers'. However, we 
expect this momentum to be transitory and the future trajectory to depend on 
the degree to which Romania is successful in sustaining solid investment 
growth. This could happen via increased absorption of EU funds, which to date 
has been lackluster.

In 2018, we forecast real GDP growth to slow to about 4.3% as consumption 
growth normalizes and external demand moderates. Notably, budgetary 
constraints will limit the government's ability to fuel Romania's economy, and 
structural shortcomings will impede growth. Romania's headline unemployment 
rate declined to 4.9% in 2017, but this comes hand in hand with increasing 
shortages of skilled labor. Moreover, if rapid wage increases, which arguably 
foster convergence and may help reduce net emigration, were to continue, 
Romania's hard-won competitiveness gains could quickly erode. We also believe 
that structural reforms will be required to ensure a more robust economic 
growth trajectory through enhancing the value-adding component of Romanian 
industries, rather than relying only on cost competitiveness.

Over the medium term, GDP growth rates are set to converge toward those more 
in line with Romania's growth potential, absent stronger structural reform 
efforts. We forecast average growth of 3.5% annually in 2019-2021. Repeated 
bouts of political volatility have distracted the government's attention away 
from growth-enhancing reforms. In particular, Romania's business environment 
has deteriorated over the past three years, as indicated by the World Bank's 
Ease Of Doing Business survey and the World Economic Forum's Global 
Competitiveness Ranking, with Romania dropping by some 15 places in the 

In this vein, we observe an increasing emigration trend in the young, educated 
work force related to discontent with current trends in institutions as well 
as a perception of bleak prospects for improvements in general living 
conditions. Reasons for leaving Romania are not necessarily always salary 
related. The Romanian authorities will struggle to counter this and secure a 
more robust growth trajectory, as well as sustainably manage the dynamics of a 
rapidly aging population, unless they act to win back the sizable diaspora and 
reverse the brain drain.

Flexibility and Performance Profile: The twin deficits are widening amid fiscal and external buffers
  • Pressures on the fiscal position will persist in the absence of corrective measures.
  • Current account deficits continue to widen in nominal terms, although funding remains stable.
  • National Bank of Romania rate hikes are taming inflation this year and putting it on track to reach the 3.5% target by early 2019.
The general government budget deficit remained below 3% in 2017 thanks to 
stronger-than-expected revenue performance, supported by high nominal GDP 
growth, another year of underspending of the capital budget, and increased 
dividends from state-owned enterprises. However, double-digit wage increases 
in the public sector have tilted the structure of government spending further 
toward inflexible social- and wage-related spending and away from investment. 
Romania's large fiscal deficit, amid very rapid economic expansion, highlights 
the country's vulnerability to potential external shocks and a sudden slowdown 
in growth. The government's pro-cyclical fiscal policy is eroding fiscal gains 
hard won during the post-crisis years.

The year-end budget deficit was artificially contained, to an extent, by the 
effects of accounting measures related to VAT. This hid a wider structural 
deficit. In May 2018, the European Commission (EC) issued a warning to Romania 
about failing to take effective action to correct its structural deficit 
position. We note the authorities' strong commitment to the general government 
deficit remaining below the 3% of GDP Maastricht deficit ceiling, partly 
because a breach could jeopardize Romania's access to EU structural funds. 
Moreover, we observe that Romania is set to take on the Presidency of the 
Council of the EU in January 2019 and will seek to avoid near-term clashes 
with the EC. As such, we believe that the government will impose a series of 
fiscal consolidation measures, likely focused on further slashing its capital 
expenditure budget, and achieve a deficit of 3% for year-end 2018. On the 
revenue side, we believe that the fiscal budget will again be helped by strong 
nominal GDP growth, likely returning to double digits and providing a notable 
boost to government revenue generation.

For 2019 we forecast a deficit of 3.6% of GDP, based on likely lower growth. 
Moderating nominal GDP growth will dampen government revenue growth and reduce 
room to manoeuver on the capital spending side. In this regard, we believe 
cutting investment spending to keep the deficit in check is not sustainable, 
given Romania's infrastructure needs. Closing the gap between VAT owed and VAT 
collected--the widest in the EU according to EC data--could help reduce the 
deficit. Adding to the fiscal uncertainty are the upcoming referendums, 
presidential in 2019 and parliamentary in 2020, which could dampen political 
willingness to make necessary corrective measures. For example, a recent 
announcement made by the government on hikes in public pensions for 2020-2021 
suggests that short-term political gains could continue to influence fiscal 
strategy and direct allocation from the capital to the current spending side 
of the budget. Moreover, the government plans to make contributions to the 
second pension pillar optional. This could unlock flows to the tune of 0.8% of 
GDP into the budget, while partly diluting the long-term sustainability of the 
pension system. We believe the pressures on Romania's budget will persist over 
our forecast horizon through to 2021.

Romania's public debt burden is modest in an EU comparison. In line with our 
deficit forecast, we also expect Romania's general government debt, according 
to EU methodology, will continue to increase gradually. We forecast its debt 
could reach 38% of GDP by 2021. Moreover, its debt profile remains constrained 
by a relatively high share of foreign currency-denominated debt, as well as 
the domestic banking sector's high exposure to the government. However, the 
government continues to cover a large part of its financing needs on the 
domestic market. Importantly, the government maintains a hard currency buffer 
covering four months of gross financing needs, which provides an additional 
safeguard during periods of market turbulence. We do not expect any 
significant reductions in government debt from potential privatizations in the 
medium term. The Romanian government has seen its proposal to set up a 
Sovereign Development and Investment Fund (FSDI) recently rejected by the 
constitutional court, and the timing for the resumption of this initiative is 
not clear. This fund was intended to pool the state's shares in a number of 
state-owned enterprises, such as Hidroelectrica, to more efficiently carry out 
and finance larger investment projects. The government had aimed to create the 
FSDI outside the general government sector as defined by the European system 
of national and regional accounts.

In nominal terms, Romania's current account deficit almost doubled in 2017, 
reaching 3.4% of GDP. Robust export performance was not able to offset the 
impact of domestic demand on the import side of the trade balance. Rising 
import prices, especially for energy, also had an adverse effect on the 
current account. We anticipate that pressures on the current account will 
continue to build through 2018 and 2019 as government consumption keeps 
driving imports. Together with somewhat slowing services exports, this will 
widen the deficit. We forecast an increasing current account deficit in 
nominal terms, although as a share of GDP it could start declining after 
peaking at over 4.0% of GDP in 2019 to about 3.6% by 2021.

Positively, we observe that the funding of the current account deficit stems 
primarily from stable, non-debt-creating inflows. Surpluses on the financial 
and capital account covered about 80% of the current account deficit in 2017. 
We think this will remain the case as long as existing foreign investors keep 
re-investing earnings and boosting the country's FDI inflows. Still, we 
observe a lack of foreign greenfield investments suggesting that investors 
might be increasingly concerned about the rapid wage growth, lack of 
infrastructure development, and persisting political uncertainties. Even if 
Romania fails to notably boost its EU fund absorption capacity, however, we 
believe its external buffers will remain over our forecast horizon. Our 
base-case forecast is that Romania's external debt metrics will stay moderate. 
We estimate its net narrow external debt, our preferred measure, will average 
25% of current account receipts (CARs), while gross external financing needs 
will be less than 100% of CARs on average, throughout our forecast horizon. 
Continued external deleveraging, particularly in the financial sector--which 
used a period of low credit demand and rising deposits to repay loans to 
foreign parent companies--helped Romania achieve the fourth-lowest narrow net 
external debt ratio in the EU in 2017 (see

Romania's predominantly foreign-owned banking sector remains sound, in our 
view. The system's loan-to-deposit ratio declined to just over 76% at year-end 
2017 from its peak of 137% in 2008. Liquidity and solvency ratios remain 
strong, and banks have maintained their profitability despite low interest 
rates. Lending growth has remained positive for the past two years, with loans 
to households and loans denominated in Romanian leu increasing strongly. Most 
of the credit growth stems from mortgage loans that benefit from the 
government's Prima Casa program, designed to support first-time homebuyers 
through a 50% guarantee by the government. Nonperforming loans have shown an 
impressive decline, reducing more than threefold to less than 6% of total 
loans by Dec. 31, 2017, from over 21% at midyear 2014.

Romania continues to operate a managed float of the Romanian leu under an 
inflation-targeting regime with a target band for inflation at 2.5% (+/-1%). 
Surging inflation since the fourth quarter of 2017 prompted the National Bank 
of Romania to take assertive action, hiking rates three times in the first 
half of 2018 by a total of 75 basis points. These actions appear to have 
curbed inflation after it hit a 5.4% year-on-year peak in June. It has since 
notably calmed and we expect it will ease back toward the upper end of the 
target range by year-end 2018, although we cannot rule out further increases.

The central bank rate hikes together with its strategy to absorb the liquidity 
in the bank market has sustained the foreign exchange rate. Contrary to 
regional peer currencies, it has remained stable and avoided depreciation. We 
observe that some foreign exchange reserve outflows probably helped the leu 
and we expect that the central bank will continue its strategy of smoothening 
out foreign exchange rate volatility by moderately intervening in the market.

Key Statistics

Table 1

Romania Selected Indicators
RON mil. 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Nominal GDP (bil. LC) 595 635 669 713 767 859 947 1,028 1,109 1,196
Nominal GDP (bil. $) 172 191 200 178 189 212 235 259 294 319
GDP per capita (000s $) 8.5 9.5 10.0 9.0 9.6 10.8 12.0 13.2 15.1 16.4
Real GDP growth 1.2 3.5 3.4 3.9 4.8 6.9 4.3 3.5 3.3 3.2
Real GDP per capita growth 1.8 3.9 3.8 4.3 5.4 7.6 4.6 3.8 3.6 3.5
Real investment growth 3.6 (5.4) 3.3 7.5 (2.1) 4.7 4.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Investment/GDP 26.8 25.6 24.7 25.1 23.8 24.4 24.4 24.1 23.6 23.1
Savings/GDP 22.1 24.5 24.0 23.9 21.7 21.1 20.5 20.1 20.0 19.5
Exports/GDP 37.5 39.9 41.2 41.0 41.1 41.4 42.0 42.8 43.8 44.7
Real exports growth 1.0 19.7 8.0 4.6 8.7 9.7 9.5 9.3 9.2 9.1
Unemployment rate 6.8 7.1 6.8 6.8 5.9 4.9 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.8
Current account balance/GDP (4.8) (1.1) (0.7) (1.2) (2.1) (3.4) (3.9) (4.0) (3.6) (3.6)
Current account balance/CARs (11.2) (2.4) (1.5) (2.7) (4.5) (7.4) (8.6) (8.6) (7.7) (7.5)
CARs/GDP 42.5 45.3 45.8 46.0 45.7 45.6 45.8 46.4 47.1 48.1
Trade balance/GDP (6.9) (4.0) (4.3) (4.9) (5.4) (6.4) (6.8) (7.1) (7.4) (7.8)
Net FDI/GDP 1.9 2.0 1.8 1.8 2.6 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.0 2.0
Net portfolio equity inflow/GDP 0.1 0.6 0.3 0.1 (0.3) (0.2) (0.1) (0.1) (0.1) (0.1)
Gross external financing needs/CARs plus usable reserves 110.6 103.6 99.7 95.6 97.8 96.5 95.1 98.6 99.0 99.9
Narrow net external debt/CARs 80.4 64.1 48.5 40.1 29.0 21.6 24.7 23.4 23.5 25.3
Narrow net external debt/CAPs 72.3 62.6 47.8 39.0 27.7 20.1 22.7 21.6 21.8 23.5
Net external liabilities/CARs 164.0 141.8 113.5 114.3 102.2 91.1 90.3 85.7 80.3 79.3
Net external liabilities/CAPs 147.4 138.5 111.9 111.3 97.8 84.8 83.1 79.0 74.6 73.8
Short-term external debt by remaining maturity/CARs 72.4 57.1 51.5 43.4 37.1 29.0 25.8 23.1 20.0 19.0
Usable reserves/CAPs (months) 7.1 6.3 6.3 6.2 5.1 4.6 4.6 3.7 3.2 3.0
Usable reserves (mil. $) 46,711 48,818 43,164 38,705 39,959 44,450 40,100 40,180 40,928 41,624
FISCAL INDICATORS (%, General government)
Balance/GDP (3.7) (2.2) (1.3) (0.8) (3.0) (2.9) (3.0) (3.6) (3.4) (3.4)
Change in net debt/GDP 3.0 2.0 1.7 1.5 0.3 2.5 3.0 3.7 3.6 3.5
Primary balance/GDP (1.9) (0.4) 0.3 0.8 (1.5) (1.6) (1.7) (2.3) (2.0) (2.0)
Revenue/GDP 33.6 33.3 33.6 35.0 31.4 30.4 31.5 32.0 32.5 33.0
Expenditures/GDP 37.2 35.5 34.9 35.8 34.4 33.4 34.5 35.6 35.9 36.4
Interest /revenues 5.2 5.3 4.9 4.7 4.8 4.4 4.2 4.2 4.3 4.3
Debt/GDP 36.9 37.6 39.1 37.7 37.1 35.0 34.8 35.8 36.7 37.6
Debt/Revenue 110.0 112.7 116.4 107.8 118.1 115.0 110.4 111.8 113.1 113.9
Net debt/GDP 32.0 32.0 32.2 31.7 29.7 29.0 29.3 30.8 32.1 33.3
Liquid assets/GDP 4.9 5.6 6.9 6.0 7.4 6.0 5.4 5.0 4.6 4.3
CPI growth 3.4 3.2 1.4 (0.4) (1.1) 1.1 4.0 3.5 3.5 3.5
GDP deflator growth 4.6 3.1 1.7 2.6 2.7 4.6 5.7 4.9 4.5 4.5
Exchange rate, year-end (LC/$) 3.36 3.26 3.69 4.15 4.30 3.89 4.15 3.80 3.75 3.75
Banks' claims on resident non-gov't sector growth 1.4 (3.2) (3.0) 3.1 1.1 5.5 5.0 4.5 4.5 4.5
Banks' claims on resident non-gov't sector/GDP 38.3 34.7 32.0 31.0 29.1 27.4 26.1 25.1 24.3 23.6
Foreign currency share of claims by banks on residents 39.3 37.0 33.7 29.3 25.4 22.0 33.6 30.7 30.7 30.7
Foreign currency share of residents' bank deposits 36.4 34.1 33.1 32.4 31.3 31.8 30.0 28.0 28.0 28.0
Real effective exchange rate growth (6.0) 4.7 0.3 (3.6) (1.9) (0.8) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Savings is defined as investment plus the current account surplus (deficit). Investment is defined as expenditure on capital goods, including plant, equipment, and housing, plus the change in inventories. Banks are other depository corporations other than the central bank, whose liabilities are included in the national definition of broad money. Gross external financing needs are defined as current account payments plus short-term external debt at the end of the prior year plus nonresident deposits at the end of the prior year plus long-term external debt maturing within the year. Narrow net external debt is defined as the stock of foreign and local currency public- and private- sector borrowings from nonresidents minus official reserves minus public-sector liquid assets held by nonresidents minus financial-sector loans to, deposits with, or investments in nonresident entities. A negative number indicates net external lending. LC--Local currency. CARs--Current account receipts. FDI--Foreign direct investment. CAPs--Current account payments. The data and ratios above result from S&P Global Ratings' own calculations, drawing on national as well as international sources, reflecting S&P Global Ratings' independent view on the timeliness, coverage, accuracy, credibility, and usability of available information.

Ratings Score Snapshot

Table 2

Romania Ratings Score Snapshot
Key rating factors
Institutional assessment 4
Economic assessment 3
External assessment 2
Fiscal assessment: flexibility and performance 4
Fiscal assessment: debt burden 3
Monetary assessment 3
S&P Global Ratings' analysis of sovereign creditworthiness rests on its assessment and scoring of five key rating factors: (i) institutional assessment; (ii) economic assessment; (iii) external assessment; (iv) the average of fiscal flexibility and performance, and debt burden; and (v) monetary assessment. Each of the factors is assessed on a continuum spanning from 1 (strongest) to 6 (weakest). S&P Global Ratings' "Sovereign Rating Methodology," published on Dec18, 2017, details how we derive and combine the scores and then derive the sovereign foreign currency rating. In accordance with S&P Global Ratings' sovereign ratings methodology, a change in score does not in all cases lead to a change in the rating, nor is a change in the rating necessarily predicated on changes in one or more of the scores. In determining the final rating the committee can make use of the flexibility afforded by §15 and §§126-128 of the rating methodology.

Related Criteria

  • Criteria - Governments - Sovereigns: Sovereign Rating Methodology, Dec. 18, 2017
  • General Criteria: Methodology For Linking Long-Term And Short-Term Ratings , April 7, 2017
  • General Criteria: Use Of CreditWatch And Outlooks, Sept. 14, 2009
  • General Criteria: Methodology: Criteria For Determining Transfer And Convertibility Assessments, May 18, 2009

Related Research

  • Sovereign Ratings List, Aug. 6, 2018
  • Sovereign Ratings History, Aug. 6, 2018
  • Sovereign Ratings Score Snapshot, Aug. 2, 2018
  • Sovereign Risk Indicators, July 5, 2018. A free interactive version is available at
  • Default, Transition, and Recovery: 2017 Annual Sovereign Default Study And Rating Transitions, May 8, 2018
In accordance with our relevant policies and procedures, the Rating Committee 
was composed of analysts that are qualified to vote in the committee, with 
sufficient experience to convey the appropriate level of knowledge and 
understanding of the methodology applicable (see 'Related Criteria And 
Research'). At the onset of the committee, the chair confirmed that the 
information provided to the Rating Committee by the primary analyst had been 
distributed in a timely manner and was sufficient for Committee members to 
make an informed decision. After the primary analyst gave opening remarks and 
explained the recommendation, the Committee discussed key rating factors and 
critical issues in accordance with the relevant criteria. Qualitative and 
quantitative risk factors were considered and discussed, looking at 
track-record and forecasts.

The committee's assessment of the key rating factors is reflected in the 
Ratings Score Snapshot above.

The chair ensured every voting member was given the opportunity to articulate 
his/her opinion. The chair or designee reviewed the draft report to ensure 
consistency with the Committee decision. The views and the decision of the 
rating committee are summarized in the above rationale and outlook. The 
weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this 
rating action (see 'Related Criteria And Research'). 

Ratings List

Ratings Affirmed

 Sovereign Credit Rating                BBB-/Stable/A-3    
 Transfer & Convertibility Assessment   A-                 
 Senior Unsecured                       BBB-               
 Short-Term Debt                        A-3                

Certain terms used in this report, particularly certain adjectives used to 
express our view on rating relevant factors, have specific meanings ascribed 
to them in our criteria, and should therefore be read in conjunction with such 
criteria. Please see Ratings Criteria at for further 
information. Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of 
RatingsDirect at All ratings affected by this rating action 
can be found on S&P Global Ratings' public website at Use the Ratings search box located in the left 
column.  Alternatively, call one of the following S&P Global Ratings numbers: 
Client Support Europe (44) 20-7176-7176; London Press Office (44) 
20-7176-3605; Paris (33) 1-4420-6708; Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-225; Stockholm 
(46) 8-440-5914; or Moscow 7 (495) 783-4009.
Primary Credit Analyst:Gabriel Forss, Stockholm (46) 8-440-5933;
Secondary Contact:Karen Vartapetov, PhD, Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-225;
Research Contributor:Meenakshi Gautam, Mumbai;
Additional Contact:EMEA Sovereign and IPF;

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