January 27, 2011 / 5:14 PM / in 9 years

Egypt, Algeria, Jordan risk political unrest: S&P

Riot police keep watch as they hold shields during clashes with protesters in Cairo January 26, 2011. Thousands of Egyptians defied a ban on protests by returning to Egypt's streets on Wednesday and calling for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office, and some scuffled with police. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Middle Eastern and North African countries that are most vulnerable to political unrest similar to what occurred in Tunisia are Egypt, Algeria, Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Morocco, Standard & Poor’s said on Thursday.

The ratings agency said it does not expect “a wave of regional political instability,” but said political and fiscal uncertainty are weighing on the sovereign ratings of several Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Protests were still taking place in Tunis nearly two weeks after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted amid protests over poverty, repression and corruption.

Inspired by Tunisia’s example, thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Egypt, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco all share the same risk factors that contributed to the events in Tunisia: young populations, high unemployment, weak economies, rising food prices, and a lack of political and civil liberties, S&P said.

“Beyond these concrete political risks, we also expect that Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution could have a wider ranging indirect impact on public finances in the region,” S&P’s analyst Kai Stukenbrock said in a report.

“This is because governments are trying to moderate or prevent popular discontent by measures to try to stabilize or lower prices of staples and fuels.”

S&P last week placed Tunisia’s foreign-currency BBB rating on credit watch negative, meaning it may downgrade it at any time. It also cut the country’s local-currency rating to BBB-plus from A-minus.

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