NEW YORK, Aug.23, CMC – International Credit Rating Agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P)has lowered its foreign currency sovereign credit ratings on Belize to selective default (SD) after the country failed to make a US$23 million debt payment.
The Wall Street-based firm said on Wednesday that Belize missed the coupon payment on a US$547 million bond when it came due on Monday.
“The government had previously announced that it would not pay the US$23 million interest payment due on August 20,” said S&P in a statement. “We consider the failure to pay the accrued interest a default under our criteria.”
S&P said the US$23 million amounts to about six percent of government revenues and one percent of gross domestic product for the tourism-dependent country.
“The government is in the early stage of rescheduling negotiations,” the ratings firm said.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said his administration is seeking to restructure its debt through negotiations with bondholders and will consider any proposal presented.
He told reporters in Belize City that his administration has worked in “good faith” with its creditors and is willing to discuss alternative restructuring scenarios.
But he also said the government would only accept proposals that involved sustainable debt levels.
“Debt sustainability is the whole and entire object of this exercise,” Barrow said. “It is clear that serious good faith, face-to-face negotiations are the only root to a consensual solution.”
Belize’s Finance Secretary Joseph Waight said the government is near default after it missed a payment on about US$544 million of bonds, stating that the government is unlikely to pay during a 30-day grace period.