Argentina's external debt continues to grow, with the total figure now standing at close to US$284 billion, according to the INDEC national statistics bureau – equivalent to some US$6,310 per person.
Foreign debt is now 72.5 percent higher than it was in December 2015, when the Mauricio Macri administration assumed office.
The new data from INDEC reveals that total external debt, to be exact, stood at US$283.567 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2019, a rise of 8.4 percent year-on-year.
INDEC's calculations say Argentina's population in July 2019 stood at around 44.938 million people. At the current exchange rate, each citizen would need to pay 378,604 pesos per person to pay off external debt.
Since last June, the bureau reported, external debt has risen by US$22.091 billion, compared to the US$261.476 billion recorded at the end of the second quarter in 2018.
The bureau also broke down who owes what – according to figures cited by the Noticias Argentinas news agency, 62 percent of external debt can be attributed to the government, 26 percent to non-financial corporations, homes and non-profit institutions and 8 percent is owed by the Central Bank, with the remaining 3 percent held by other firms and financial companies.
Argentina is gearing up for a crunch presidential election on October 27, in which President Macri is seeking re-election. The favourite to win the vote, however, is opposition Peronist hopeful Alberto Fernández, who trounced Macri in the August 11 PASO primary.
The country is currently gripped by recession and the government recently asked creditors to allow the country to "reprofile" its debt, amid fears it wouldn't make repayments. The largest share of Argentina's debt is held by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which in 2018 granted the Macri administration a record US$57-billion credit line amid a currency crisis and economic downturn.
Argentina's economy is expected to shrink by 2.2 percent this year, another contraction in the wake of a 2.5-percent slump last year. Even if the government were to receive its next disbursement from the IMF – which is unlikely, with the Fund's officials keen to see what happens in the election – the government is likely to default or restructure its debt, Shelly Shetty, a director at Fitch Ratings, said in a report last month.
The peso, the national currency, has contracted hugely over the last two years, making it even more expensive for the authorities to service dollar-denominated loans.
Argentine companies became prolific issuers of dollar-denominated debt following the 2015 election of Macri, who vowed to adopt a more business-friendly approach to the economy.
According to IMF data, Argentina's gross domestic product in 2018 totalled US$518 billion, the 24th highest figure worldwide.
* This story was altered post-publication, in order to correct an error with decimal points.