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Managing South Africa’s Exposure to Eskom - How to Evaluate the Credit Risk from the Sovereign Guarantees?

The South African government offers various support mechanisms to support Eskom, the state-owned electric utility, and the independent power producers in providing low-cost electricity, including credit and payment guarantees. Guarantees constitute contingent liabilities to the government and pose risks to government finances. This note illustrates the methodologies explored by South Africa to assess the credit risk from guarantees extended to Eskom. To manage and closely monitor this risk, a dedicated Credit Risk directorate in the Asset and Liability Management division at the National Treasury of South Africa has implemented a risk assessment and management framework, supported by the World Bank Treasury. The team developed a sector- specific internal credit rating methodology to assess Eskom’s creditworthiness. Additionally, the team developed a scenario analysis methodology to assess Eskom’s ability to service debt from cash flows and cash reserves. The scenario analysis tool is currently used on an ad hoc basis to feed into the various scenarios that are considered for the budget process. Risk assessments are reported to the Fiscal Liabilities Committee on a quarterly basis for risk monitoring and to support recommendations for taking on new contingent liabilities, such as government guarantees. The Fiscal Liabilities Committee advises the minister of finance and is responsible for the determination of the processes and policies for approving guarantees and guarantee-like transactions. The Fiscal Liabilities Committee is generally mandated to promote the optimum management of the government’s contingent liabilities, including guarantees. The implementation of further risk mitigation and monitoring tools, such as risk-based guarantee fees, budget allocations, and a contingency reserve account, is under discussion.