ECONOMIC BRIEFS

Another agency downgrades Slovakia's risk indicator

Business information group Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) announced on April 15 it had downgraded Slovakia's risk indicator to DB4d from DB4b, citing "several inauspicious economic and political developments" as the reason behind the decision. "Although real GDP increased by 6.5 percent in 1997, this was driven mainly by heavy foreign borrowing on the part of a number of Slovak enterprises," the report said. "Although the current account deficit fell in 1997 to an estimated 7.5% of GDP from 10.2% in 1996, this was due to the introduction of an import surcharge which dampened demand for consumer goods imports," D&B continued, adding that political tensions in the country were another risk factor. "There are concerns in the West over the apparent maneuvering by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar to increase his authority through the assumption of a number of presidential powers following the departure from office of the previous president, Michal Kováč, in early March," D&B stated. Earlier last month, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Slovakia's country ceiling for foreign currency bonds and bank deposits to below investment grade. The move was soon followed by Standard & Poor's, which downgraded Slovakia's ratings' outlook to negative from stable.

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