IMF Likely to Withhold Argentina Billions Until Policy Fog Lifts

(Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund is unlikely to grant a $5.4 billion disbursement to Argentina without knowing the economic policy plans of the government that takes over in December, according to people familiar with the situation.

The IMF can postpone the next disbursement in Argentina’s record $56 billion credit line until having greater clarity on the policy landscape in South America’s second-largest economy, according to the people, who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Argentina’s loan with the Fund faces fresh doubts after President Mauricio Macri’s unexpected defeat in the Aug. 11 primary vote to Alberto Fernandez triggered a major sell-off in the peso and sovereign bonds. IMF officials met Fernandez, who hasn’t spelled out his economic policies, in late August, and he later criticized the Washington organization in interviews and a statement.

On Thursday, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said “the complex market conditions and policy uncertainty going forward make the situation even more difficult.” The next disbursement is scheduled for on or after Sunday. The election is on Oct. 27.

An Economy Ministry spokesman in Buenos Aires declined to comment. Macri said last week that he expected the IMF to approve the disbursement because Argentina complied with the fiscal targets currently under review, which examine the country’s progress up until June, before the selloff hit.

The IMF sought to rebuild its battered image in Argentina with this program after Macri sought help amid a currency crisis in May 2018. Fairly or not, Argentines blame the IMF for pulling its financial support from the nation in 2001 just weeks before a sovereign default severely worsened an economic crisis.

Analysts became increasingly pessimistic about the deal’s future in recent weeks after Macri’s government implemented capital controls, delayed debt payments and Fernandez stayed mum on his own policy details.

“It makes me think that the disbursement will at least be postponed until after the election,” said Ezequiel Zambaglione, head of research at Balanz Capital in Buenos Aires. “I wouldn’t expect it in September.”

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