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ARGENTINA | 07-11-2019 20:06

IMF says it's 'ready to engage' with Alberto Fernández

IMF spokesman says Fund is ready to talk to president-elect and his team, but says no meeting is planned.

The International Monetary Fund says it is "ready to engage" with president-elect Alberto Fernández and his advisors, though no meeting has yet been set up between Argentina's incoming government and its multi-billion-dollar creditor.

“We stand ready to engage with President-elect Fernández and his team, at their convenience, during the transition period,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a regular news briefing in Washington on Thursday.

"Again, we are ready to talk to them," he added, saying the IMF was here "to help Argentina."

The IMF spokesman said Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva had "congratulated president-elect Fernández on his election" and "reiterated the Fund's readiness to engage" with his incoming administration.

Rice added that the Fund was there "to help Argentina address the important challenges facing the economy and to pave the way forward for inclusive and sustainable growth."

The renegotiation of Argentina’s debt with the International Monetary Fund is one of the most important issues on the table for Fernández, who is due to take office on December 10. 

The Peronist challenger, who defeated President Mauricio Macri's in last month's election, campaigned on a platform of easing austerity measures imposed under the IMF deal.

The government has received about US$44 billion so far of its record US$57 billion, three-year loan approved in June 2018, when President Macri went to the IMF after a run on the peso destabilised the economy.

Austerity measures imposed under the programme failed to settle the economy. As the Macri administration leaves office, poverty stands at more than 35 percent, unemployment has risen to 10.6 percent and inflation continues to rise, with analysts expecting prices to increase by 55 percent this year. 

'Difficult'

In an interview with former Ecuador president Rafael Correa, broadcast on Russia's RT television on Thursday, Fernández said Argentina could not repay its debt as things currently stand. 

The president-elect has insisted that his government will not default on its payments, but will seek to renegotiate the terms of the loan.

“The Argentine economy has to recover, recover productivity. It has to export again, that way we will have dollars to meet obligations," he said. "With the debt we have, the negotiations will be difficult."

Asked about potential discussions in this regard, Rice said Thursday that "the responsibility for debt restructuring rests with the country," while "the IMF's role is to assess whether the debt is sustainable with a high probability."

"In order to conduct our debt sustainability, we need the analysis, we need the information on the authorities’ policy plans, as well as to take a look at the macroeconomic outlook," the spokesman said. 

He added: "Therefore, we are not in a position to make this evaluation at this time because discussions with the new administration have not yet been carried out."

Rice also dismissed rumours that a meeting was scheduled between Guillermo Nielsen, a former economy minister and adviser to Fernández, and the IMF's director for the Western hemisphere, Alejandro Warner, in Miami on Friday.

"I understand that Werner and Nielsen will participate in a conference organised by the University of Miami tomorrow. I have no knowledge of any meeting planned at this time," he said, adding that it would be normal for the two to cross paths at such an event.

– TIMES/AFP

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