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Argentine minister meets IMF Lagarde and US Treasury official: ratifies “gradualism”

Thursday, May 10th 2018 - 07:37 UTC
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Nicolas Dujovne is due to meet with IMF chief Christine Lagarde to request a financing package Nicolas Dujovne is due to meet with IMF chief Christine Lagarde to request a financing package

Argentina Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne is due to meet on Thursday with IMF chief Christine Lagarde to request a financing package to help shore up the struggling economy, officials said. Dujovne will also meet with a senior US Treasury official in a key step in the talks with the IMF, which are likely to last six weeks, his spokesman said in a statement.

 The talks come 17 years after the country defaulted on its debt and 12 years after it cut ties with the IMF, amid a bout of market turbulence rocking Latin America's third-largest economy.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced on Tuesday that he was going to the IMF for help as a “preventative” measure after the nation's currency plummeted amid high inflation and rising US interest rates. Officials have declined to say how big a line of credit Argentina is seeking.

“Argentina will ask for a 'stand by' financing arrangement with exceptional access,” the spokesman said, referring to a level above the normal loan amount the IMF provides.

IMF stand-by loans last for up to three years, but more usually 12-24 months. They require regular reviews by fund staff to make sure the government is following through on reform commitments and meeting targets for things like spending cuts.

Dujovne met on Wednesday with senior IMF officials to begin the discussions, and a fund spokesman confirmed the talks will continue on Thursday.

Investors in recent weeks have been fleeing Argentina, driving up demand for US dollars, and driving the peso down.

The central bank has burned through US$ 8 billion in reserves in a week to support the currency, leaving them with about US$ 55 billion. It also raised the benchmark interest rate to 40%.

But going to the IMF is a risky move for Macri, given the bitter history the country has with the Washington-based lender, and the negative views on the conditions the fund might require.

In January 2006, Argentina paid down its last loan to the IMF and severed relations with the fund, refusing even to allow the regular annual review of economic conditions conducted for all member countries for the next 10 years.

The loans at the time were needed after the country suffered an economic crisis in 2001 that sparked the downfall of four presidents and default on US$ 100 billion in foreign debt.

But Macri's chief of staff, Marcos Pena, told reporters on Wednesday the government remains committed to “gradualism” in its economic reforms, to fix the errors of the previous administration.

After taking office in December 2015, Macri floated the Argentine peso, ending the strict controls in place under the government of Cristina Kirchner, and began to address outsized government spending.

In addition to the weak peso, Argentines are struggling with double-digit inflation, which hit 24.8% last year. The government has set an inflation target of 15%, which it insists will not change, but the IMF is forecasting a rate of 19% this year.

Top Comments

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  • MarkWhelan

    Does anyone really believe that the change in government has improved the economy sufficiently to enable it to repay any foreign debt.

    May 10th, 2018 - 01:59 pm +1
  • bushpilot

    How many billions has the Macri administration already borrowed?

    And that huge borrowed amount led to: a severe need to borrow even more billions.

    The IMF loans money where no one in their right mind would. That's why going to the IMF just serves to multiply misery.

    “in 2006 the Argentine Government paid off its loans to the IMF and severed its ties to them”

    “we need the loans to fix past errors of the previous administration”

    You see,

    “We need to borrow the money to trash the one thing the Kirchner administration did not err at”.

    May 10th, 2018 - 03:46 pm +1
  • Enrique Massot

    Absolutely. This is a desperate move of president Mauricio Macri, after foreign private investors shut down the money spigot and began abandoning Argentine.

    Thirty months ago I forecasted Macri was coming to operate a wealth redistribution scheme in favour of the most fortunate. He pretty much successfully achieved this part of the plan.

    However, no one imagined the greed and arrogance of Macri & Co. would be paired up with such clumsiness to manage the economy--not even to ensure their political survival, e.g. the presidential election of October 2019.

    Macri and his “best team of the last 50 years” have managed to unite a divided opposition, which for the first time put together a common project to reduce steep increases in the cost of energy to consumers. To implement that, the Legislature gave preliminary approval, on April 9, to a bill forcing the utilities bills to their last November prices and tying future increases to wage growth.

    Sic gloria transit mundi...

    May 10th, 2018 - 06:27 pm -2
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