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ECONOMY | 27-01-2020 13:20

Fernández: 'A country in debt loses its sovereignty'

Argentina needs to define how it will deal with bulging US$335-billion debt pile, says president, as Economy Minister Martin Guzmán heads to the United States.

Argentina needs to define how it will deal with its bulging US$335-billion debt pile, President Alberto Fernández said Sunday, as Economy Minister Martin Guzmán headed to the United States for meetings with the nation's creditors.

"We need a medium to quick definition on the subject of debt. Martin [Guzmán] has travelled to New York and has an agenda [in place]," the president said in an interview Sunday with the C5N news channel.

"The idea is that they [Argentina's creditors] give us the opportunity to grow, to be able to export and collect dollars to be able to pay," he affirmed.

The renegotiation of the country's debt is a priority for Fernández, who renounced the last tranches of the credit-line agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2018 by his predecessor, Mauricio Macri. Out of a total amount of US$57 billion, Argentina has received US$44 billion from the IMF to date.

"A country in debt loses decision-making capacity, loses sovereignty," the Peronist leader said Sunday.

However, he declined to provide details of the proposal that Argentina will take to its creditors.

"We are facing a negotiation. Any statement could lead to undue expectations," he said, justifying his silence.

Fernández has just returned from Israel, his first trip abroad as president, and at the end of the month he will make a tour of Europe.

On January 31, he will meet with Pope Francis, also an Argentine, at the Vatican, and with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella.

A day later, he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while on February 4 he will see Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The trip's final leg, on February 5, will provide face time with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"We do not want to be out of the world. (...) We are a country that needs the world's help and that is what we tell the world's leaders," said Fernández, echoing words previously uttered by Macri.

Argentina has been in recession since mid-2018, slammed by one of the world's highest inflation rates (53.8 percent in 2019) and with rising poverty nearing 40 percent.

Total debt at present is equivalent to about 90 percent of its gross domestic product.

– TIMES/AFP

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