President Alberto Fernández asked Argentina's creditors for understanding on Tuesday, as he reiterated that the offer on the table to restructure more than US$66 billion of foreign debt was the "last effort" the country could offer.
During a videoconference event organised by the Council of the Americas, the Peronist leader asked bondholders to recognise the challenges facing Argentina, which has been gripped by recession for the last two years.
"I am very confident that the creditors understand that we are making an enormous effort and that this is the last one that we can do. I ask them, please, help Argentina to get out of prostration," said Fernández.
The president spoke just a day after Argentina's three largest creditor groups joined forces to submit a new proposal. The Ad Hoc group, the Exchange Bondholder group and the Argentina Creditor Committee, which represent investors including BlackRock Inc and Ashmore Group PLC, said that they had agreed to form a negotiating bloc and reject the government’s latest offer.
Fernández pointed to Argentina's economic hardships, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, as cause for creditors to shift their stance.
"It is impossible to ask a country that has 40 percent poverty to make one more effort, because that effort always falls on the most vulnerable sectors," the president insisted.
Argentina's last offer, issued under foreign law, was worth 53.5 cents on the dollar, a significant improvement on its original starting position of 39 cents. The three creditor groups are seeking 56.6 cents on the dollar.
The difference between the two proposals would total around US$3 billion over 10 years, according to figures from the EcoGo consultancy firm.
"My government is not here to dispute or fight with anyone – we are here to solve a problem on sensible terms. We have made an enormous effort and we continue to discuss the debt even while the pandemic continues to hit us, because we want to solve it," said Fernández.
"It is not whimsy, it is common sense, that is the understanding that I ask for," he said, saying that he was seeking "not to defraud our creditors by promising them we will do something that we cannot fulfil."
Argentina has been in recession since 2018, with poverty and unemployment on the rise. The economy is expected to shrink by more than 10 percent this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the Council of the Americas event, which was streamed live, President Fernández spoke privately with business leaders, who reportedly said they were still willing to invest in Argentina yet requested more details about the government's economic programme.
According to Perfil, the president said that said that the country was facing "a difficult time," saying that Argentina was "in intensive care" when he arrived in office.
"We have had structural problems in the economy for many years and over the last four years they have not been resolved, they have worsened," he told the group, which included representatives from Chevron, HSBC, Pfizer, Google and Amazon.
Quizzed about the economic plans that lay ahead, Fernández said that he had seen many government's preparations laid to waste by reality.