Risk agencies should not judge ratings with pre-pandemic criteria - Colombia's Duque

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FILE PHOTO: Colombia's President Ivan Duque speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Risk rating agencies cannot judge countries with the same criteria they used before the pandemic, Colombia's President Ivan Duque said on Thursday, following a recent downgrade for his country's rating.

Last week, S&P Global Ratings lowered its long-term foreign currency rating for Latin America's fourth-largest economy to BB-plus from BBB-minus, saying it believed the country's fiscal adjustment would take longer than previously expected.

The rating cut came after the government was forced to withdraw a tax reform, following protests.

"Countries cannot continue being evaluated by risk rating agencies with pre-pandemic criteria. Today we know that the challenges are great, enormous, that we also need to emerge with growth, with growth that brings fiscal responsibility, that brings focused spending," Duque said at the opening ceremony of the OECD's latest international economic forum on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Colombia's fiscal deficit shot up last year following a sharp rise in its debt level, which rose to 64.8% of gross domestic product following steps to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Long-term restrictions in 2020 saw businesses shuttered, causing unemployment to soar and an unprecedented economic contraction of 6.8%.

There is a high probability that Colombia will also lose its investment grade from ratings agencies Fitch and Moody's, analysts say.

Duque called on multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, to speed up the dispersal of resources to support countries.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra. Editing by Mark Potter)

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