File picture: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Cape Town - Fitch ratings agency's decision on Thursday, to maintain South Africa's long-term foreign and local currency debt rating at BB+ has given the country a chance to address issues in a manner that will see an upward revision in its ratings, National Treasury said.

It said the reprieve could not see South Africa become complacent, and it should remembered that Fitch's decision in April to downgrade the country to 'junk' status contributed to a recession, a decrease in revenue and higher borrowing costs.

"Government and the country collectively cannot afford to become complacent about these rising risk exposures." 

Fitch downgraded South Africa weeks after the firing of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. 

On Thursday, it also opted to maintain the country's outlook as "stable", but the treasury warned that South Africa needed to regain investment grade status or every citizen would pay the price.

"While Fitch’s ratings imply that South Africa is still in line with other emerging markets in the same ratings category, the implications are huge for the country. A ‘junk status’ ratings has implications for the economy, state debt costs, state owned companies and the ordinary man on the street," it said. 

"By not downgrading the country further, Fitch is providing South Africa with an opportunity to address issues that can lead to an upward revision to the rating."

S&P Global and Moody's were due to give their decisions on South Africa's investment status on Friday.