President Alberto Fernández left the hotel where he is staying in New York at 12.17pm Buenos Aires time and within minutes, he was meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
The third face-to-face meeting between the head of state and the head of the multilateral lender lasted 45 minutes and took place just hours after IMF staff announced the approval of a second review of an agreement that will allow Argentina’s government to gain access to US$3.9 billion in funds.
"Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share with you that we had an excellent meeting with President Fernandez,” Georgieva told Perfil and other Argentine media outlets who are covering the Peronist leader’s tour of the United States.
“We talked about the considerable progress we have made in reaching an agreement at the technical level on the second review. And I also expressed my appreciation for the very serious way in which Minister Sergio Massa and his team including the Central Bank are addressing Argentina's significant challenges,” said the IMF chief.
This was the first time that Georgieva and Fernandez had met since last October, when they met in Rome. On that day, Argentina’s economy minister was Martín Guzmán. Since that date, he has left, Silvina Batakis became head of the portfolio for 25 days and Sergio Massa has joined the Cabinet – a fact that the head of the IMF herself celebrated.
"Who occupies the functions of government is a sovereign decision of each country, the important thing is to work together. Guzmán's departure was unexpected, we worked very well, but it was also very good to be able to meet with Batakis and it was a pleasure to see her again in Washington when she came with Massa, who also signals continuity,” Georgieva told reporters on Monday, speaking during her first press conference with Argentine media.
“What we discussed with each minister is how to fight inflation – there have been no fundamental changes”, said the IMF chief. “What we could see is an increase in the terms of authority and we must also highlight the strong team in pursuit of the common goal, the goal remains the fight against inflation and it matters to us that Argentina can be put on a solid footing for the benefit of the people."
At the end of the press conference, she stressed this line of thought once again "Three ministers, one programme."
Jorge Argüello, Argentina’s Ambassador to the United States, said that when Monday’s meeting began, Georgieva told the head of state: "President, we are doing well, things are working."
The diplomatic envoy, asked for his view, said that "the meeting was very positive.”
Quizzed about the government’s economic course, Georgieva said that “the signs of the government's seriousness are precisely the stabilisation that the Argentine economy has experienced and also the progress in rebuilding reserves, as well as the reconstruction to deal with inflation, and especially to focus on the deficit and the reduction of energy subsidies."
In another part of the conference, the IMF chief described subsidies – always a hot topic in Argentina – as "harmful.”
Underlining her conviction in the government’s plan, Georgieva assured that Argentina’s plan "is a government programme and Massa proves that the government is the owner of the programme and the IMF technical team is there to support it.”
On the possibility of revising the goals of the initial agreement, Argüello was blunt, saying simply “a revision is not on the agenda.”
For her part, Georgieva said: "This is a global context of high uncertainty and it is something that must be taken into account, but certainly the implementation of the programme has very important aspects and, in fact, I expressed my appreciation for what Massa and his team have shown.”
She continued: “As we gain a better understanding of Argentina's performance in the global context, looking at the trajectory of growth as well as the evolution of inflation and the elimination of subsidies that are harmful to Argentina, these are the aspects that we must take into account in terms of the development that the country will show.
Georgieva stressed that during the 45 minutes she shared with the president, "we also talked about the world economy and the challenges it is experiencing and the role of the IMF in promoting macroeconomic and financial stability and helping the world."
Moving onto a “lighter” note, the IMF’s managing director also revealed that she had enjoyed seeing “pictures of the president's son,” adding: “We want the same smile that we see on the President's face to be seen on the faces of the Argentine people."
Closing her press conference, Georgieva deployed a tango metaphor to sum up the last few months.
"Although there was a certain disruption with the departure [and arrival] of Massa, we have managed to see a stabilisation and indicators of a stronger economy. I compare it to the tango, you take one step back and two steps forward – and that's how we want to dance it."