IMF to discuss loan status with Argentina finance minister: official

Washington (AFP) –


IMF officials will meet with the economic team from crisis-hit Argentina later this month to review the status of the country's massive loan program, an IMF spokesman said Thursday.

That meeting will allow officials to discuss recent steps taken to stabilize the country's economy and shore up the currency, after the hit suffered following center-right President Mauricio Macri's defeat in a primary election last month.

Economy Minister Hernan Lacunza "will come here in late September and we will have those discussions and decide on next steps and future discussions," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters.

The IMF engagement with Argentina "remains strong," Rice said. But he acknowledged that "the ongoing uncertainty makes the situation even more difficult."

To calm market turbulence, the government in late August asked the IMF to restructure its repayments on the record $57 billion loan from the Washington-based crisis lender.

The government has received about $44 billion so far of the three-year loan approved in June 2018, but soaring inflation and rising poverty stirred outrage at the government's belt-tightening measures.

The defeat of business-friendly Macri at the hands of populist challenger Alberto Fernandez once again whipped up market volatility in the recession-hit nation.

Lacunza, who has been in his post barely a month, also announced initiatives to postpone debt payments to institutional investors, relieving the pressure on international reserves so they can be used to stabilize the currency which spiraled lower in the wake of the election.

However, despite Argentina's track record of economic crises, hyperinflation and debt default, Rice denied the IMF had violated any rules by once again providing financing to Buenos Aires.

The "IMF's objective has been to try to help the authorities stabilize the challenging situation and allow for a return of confidence," he said at a press briefing.

But the fund's role is to serve as a "lender of last resort" in crisis situations, which is "not without risks. Everybody recognizes that," Rice said.

When Argentina called for IMF help last year it was "in the midst of an already very difficult situation."

The IMF team has had discussions with Fernandez and is willing to do so again, he added.