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Egypt downgraded by debt-rating agencies

Egyptian protesters take part in a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square as massive tides of protesters flooded Cairo for the biggest outpouring of anger yet in their relentless drive to oust President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

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Kai Ryssdal: So you say you want a revolution, but can you also deal with a downgrade? Today Standard & Poor's joined Moody's in downgrading Egypt's credit rating. They did the same thing to Tunisia after the street protests there.

The downgrades make it more expensive for those two countries to borrow. But the crowds in the streets probably don't care much. Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore explains.


Heidi Moore: The last thing people worry about in a revolution is who's going to pick up the check. But after the dust settles, political instability can be pretty costly. Just ask recently downgraded Egypt and Tunisia.

Josh Brown is an advisor with Fusion Analytics.

Josh Brown: Imagine if they have a Visa card and they're paying 18 percent and all of a sudden the bank that issued that card tells them it's going to be 35 percent for the next two months. It makes it really hard for them to even consider new purchases or pay anything other than the interest.

Tunisia's central banker has complained that the rating agencies rushed to judgment. But Moody's and S & P don't mind being politically incorrect. They ask mainly one question: Is this country going to be willing to pay back its debt? Any uncertainty can lead to a downgrade.

Uri Dadush is a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment.

Uri Dadush: When people when don't want to lend to the government, they typically do not also want to lend to the private sectors or to the banks.

Neither Egypt's government nor its banks are open for business. So it's too early to say how expensive the downgrade really will be. Egypt's bond prices fell last week. But they are not moving much now. Investors are just waiting.

Brown: It's one of these countries where there's actual capitalism taking place. I don't think anyone's counting on anything falling apart. I think a freeze is different from a collapse.

Egypt hasn't been a big international borrower. But the International Monetary Fund says it will support the country if the bond markets don't.

I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.
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I was not aware that the credit rating agencies had restored their besmirched reputations after their failure in the recent financial crisis. Clearly, their opinions can be disregarded, as they are incompetent or dishonest. Or easily bought. Why listen to them? Do your own research. How much did Mubarak's regime back pay back, especially verus what they stole?

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