AFP /Buenos Aires
Argentina’s debt is not sustainable, the IMF concluded on Wednesday at the end of a week-long visit, urging the government to generate funds from private investors to address the issue.
President Alberto Fernandez’s administration hopes to renegotiate $195bn of its $311bn foreign debt, including a deeply unpopular $57bn bailout loan from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund in 2018.
Assuming power two months ago, Fernandez refused the final $13 bn disbursement of the loan, leaving Argentina’s exposure at $44bn.
“The Argentine authorities are moving to address the difficult economic and social situation facing the country,” an IMF statement released after the meetings said.
“They have implemented a set of policies to address the rise in poverty, while also taking steps to stabilise the economy.”
It added however that further efforts were needed to reduce inflation.
Argentina’s ability to service its debt deteriorated markedly compared to the IMF’s last analysis in July 2019, the fund said, when the amount owed was manageable.
Since then, the peso had depreciated by over 40%, international reserves declined by about $20bn, and real GDP contracted more than previously projected.
Public debt rose to nearly 90% at the end of 2019 as a result.
“In light of these developments...IMF staff now assesses Argentina’s debt to be unsustainable,” the statement released after the talks said.
“A definitive debt operation — yielding a meaningful contribution from private creditors — is required to help restore debt sustainability with high probability,” it said.
It added that the IMF would “continue to engage closely” with Buenos Aires amid further discussions on the government’s economic plans and policies.
As part of the process, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva will meet with Economy Minister Martin Guzman to discuss “the next steps of IMF’s engagement with Argentina” on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Finance Ministers meeting, it said.
Fernandez tweeted following the IMF’s visit that he was happy that it “understands the Argentine position regarding the debt process.”
“If all parties show a will to reach an agreement, we can return to growth, while honoring our commitments,” he said.
Argentina’s crisis was sparked by a sudden crash in the peso’s value more than 18 months ago, a fall that continued last year.
The country became a market pariah after defaulting in 2001 on $100bn in debt, something the Peronist Fernandez wants to avoid repeating.
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