Sovereign Risk Ratings in Latin America Measures of Economic Conditions or Policy Paradigm Compliance?

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Diogo L. Pinheiro


The objective of this paper is to understand what sovereign and country risk ratings actually measure. These ratings were created by key financial agencies to serve as a way of guiding a significant part of investment in developing nations. Theoretically, this project deals with one of the key debates in the social sciences: Are markets rational and efficient, or does uncertainty lead to the adoption of certain measures and policies because they are culturally and politically legitimate? To answer this question, this paper employs quantitative analyses, looking at both the factors that lead a country to be rated and what drives the ratings themselves. More specifically, I use different statistical techniques to show that the risk ratings are not driven solely by market factors but rather measure compliance with the existing neoliberal paradigm, such as financial deregulation and privatization. They are measures of compliance with the existing policy paradigm and fail to adequately capture investment risk. As such, they play a key role in the adoption of neoliberal policies even in the face of financial crises worldwide, especially in the Global South, as is the case with Latin America studied here.

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