No Dates Set for Argentine Debt Talks, IMF Spokesman Says

(Bloomberg) -- The IMF is waiting for the details of the new Argentine government’s economic plans to review its $56 billion credit line, its chief spokesman said.

“I don’t have anything on dates or planned meetings,” with Argentine officials over the $56 billion loan, the International Monetary Fund’s Gerry Rice told reporters in Washington on Thursday. Economy Minister Martin Guzman had told the press Wednesday night that he had held a preliminary meeting with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva before taking office.

Argentina’s record bailout from the fund has been on hold for months, and even after President Alberto Fernandez took office on Tuesday, it’s unclear when it might move forward. The IMF spokesman also said that the new Argentine economy minister had met with its Georgieva before he was named to his post, and they discussed “broad objectives” of government’s plans.

Rice added that the IMF still needs more details from Argentina before talks make substantial progress.

“In order to conduct any debt sustainability analysis, we would first need information on the authority’s policy plans,” he said. The IMF wants to “better understand their plans and to discuss ways in which the fund can best help, if the new administration so desires.”

In July, the IMF said Argentina’s debt was “sustainable but not with a high probability.” Since then, bond prices and debt rollover rates have tanked as Fernandez’s election victory spooked markets on a possible return to populism. Guzman himself made clear Wednesday that Argentina’s debt load is unsustainable.

Rice emphasized that any decision to potentially restructure Argentina’s debt would be entirely the government’s decision. Guzman said Wednesday he would seek to delay bond payments to private bondholders but didn’t provide specifics.

Rice said the IMF recognizes that Fernandez’s government just took over this week and may need time before IMF talks begin. In addition to no scheduled meetings with Fernandez officials, Rice said he isn’t aware of any meeting of the IMF executive board before the end of the year to discuss Argentina.

Argentina received the record credit line in June 2018 as the previous government led by Mauricio Macri faced a currency crisis. Since then, the country’s recession has worsened, inflation is above 50% and the peso has plunged. Macri followed through with spending cuts in order to try to meet fiscal targets in the IMF program, which Fernandez roundly criticized as a presidential candidate.

The IMF does back Fernandez’s plans to help shield vulnerable Argentines from the country’s economic crisis, Rice said.

“Given the increase in poverty levels in Argentina, we fully support the Fernandez administration’s plans to bolster social protection measures,” Rice said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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