Negotiators representing Argentina and the International Monetary Fund are working day and night to finalise the details of a new financing programme and the resulting agreement will be realistic, pragmatic and credible, a senior Fund official said Friday.
Speaking at an online event organised by the Council of the Americas, Ilan Goldfajn, the current director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department, said the two sides were engaged in “intense negotiations” over a deal to refinance Argentina’s US$44.5-billion debt with the multilateral lender.
Goldfajn warned, however, that the programme will have to be owned by Argentina as a whole, not just by the authorities, if it is going to succeed.
IMF staff and Fernández's government announced a pre-agreement on January 28 to renegotiate the country's US$44.5-billion debt, a legacy of the record US$57-billion loan granted in 2018 to the administration of former president Mauricio Macri.
Government officials in Buenos Aires are increasingly optimistic that a deal will be agreed in the coming days. The IMF’s Executive Board met Wednesday to discuss the state of negotiations, during which members expressed their views on the outlines of the accord.
A Fund spokesperson said last week that staff are working closely with officials in Buenos Aires to secure an agreement on a new financing deal "as quickly as possible." Argentina’s government has a more specific target in mind – it wants a staff-level agreement before the March 22 maturity of a US$2.85-billion payment that the country can no longer afford.
Bill ‘before March’
Argentina’s government wants to send a bill to Congress detailing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund over a new financing programme "before March 1," according to Casa Rosada sources.
If possible, the Alberto Fernández administration wants to use the president’s speech inaugurating a new round of congressional sessions in early March to “talk about the future” and not the IMF deal, said the sources who asked not to be identified.
Consulted by Noticias Argentinas, top sources in Government House said that talks with the IMF outlining the final details of a new financing programme for Argentina’s US$44.5-billion debt to the multilateral lender were accelerating.
"We initially believed that we would not reach March 1,” said one of the sources, explaining that the president’s speech was set to “talk about the Fund.” But, the source said, if a bill is sent to Congress next week, the head of state will be able to address other topics in depth too.
"The staff presented and the IMF board said 'Let's go.' They complained, but they approved it]. Still, there is not much left. If the Board approves what you present, you can't change much," they argued.
Another of the Casa Rosada sources added: "The Board said it was fine, that it is on track. They complained politically that the structural reforms demanded by the Fund were lacking, but that they would still move forward. In the face of this, the feeling is that it may be a matter of days" until a deal is sealed, they added.
"When the bill reaches Congress it will not be possible to change it, because it will be the agreement with the Fund," they stressed.
Argentina’s Congress has to approve the agreement before the deal goes back to the IMF’s Executive Board for final approval.