Hope US downgrade seen as objective in time: S&P's Deven Sharma

"I hope over time that people recognise that we are objective and independent. We call risks as we see them with a forward-looking view," Sharma, an Indian-American, told Fortune magazine in an interview.

"It's hard to say how our decision Friday will be taken. You have to look at it in the context of history, five or 10 years from now. If (US political dysfunction) doesn't change, history will say that we made the right risk call," he said.

"When we downgraded Japan it was the second largest economy and it was coming off so much economic strength. People wondered, what the hell we were talking about. But now Japan has more than 200% debt to GDP and the problem there is big," Sharma said.
Sharma said that the market reaction in the last few days couldn't be attributed to S&P's decision on the US credit rating.

"There are many factors that could be influencing the markets: the debt situation in Europe, the economic slowdown in the US, a slowdown in high-growth markets that could impact US companies with a mix of global revenues and uncertainty around how US government will achieve the USD 1.5 trillion in cuts. I've heard many people say, and I agree, that we are in uncharted territory," he said.

However, he praised the speech of US President Barack Obama on Monday.
"I was encouraged that he began by saying that we have two challenges, the rising debt level and the economic process by which we create an action plan to address the debt," he said.

"Those were the two reasons (why we downgraded the US). Obama recognises this is a serious problem and as a citizen, I personally thought, hey, maybe there is hope that things will get sorted out," he said.

Sharma refused to entertain a question on whether the credit rating revision would make Obama a one-time President.

"Listen, I'm not going to weigh in on the election. Our role is to speak to credit risk. If politicians can come up with a game plan to address debt levels, figure out a way to drive growth and lower unemployment, it will be good for everyone and for the country broadly," he said.

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