Argentina lays out key economic road map amid debt talks

Cleaning staff using disinfectants at subway entrances as people line up to enter the Constitucion transfer center, one of the most important in the city, in response to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina’s government laid out its most in-depth economic road map on Friday, a key step in debt talks after creditors clamored for more detailed information about the country’s plans as both sides look to strike a restructuring deal.

Economy Minister Martin Guzman said that under realistic fiscal and growth forecasts Argentina could not service its current debt load of over $110 billion in foreign-law bonds and credit facilities from global bodies.

“I would characterize the debt situation of the country today as unfinanceable, unaffordable and unsustainable,” Guzman said. “If nothing was done, if there wasn’t a debt operation, the debt path would be explosive.”

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez said in a statement later on Friday that his government and the International Monetary Fund had agreed that Argentina would be unable to make payments in foreign currency on its debt for four years.

Guzmman said further tightening was not possible given high levels of poverty in the country.

“Argentina has already made a massive adjustment of primary fiscal spending. There is no room in the short-term for continuing this dynamic, no room at all,” he said.

Guzman laid out frameworks for growth of 1.5%-2% in the medium-to-long term, and a primary fiscal surplus over the same time frame of 0.8%-1.2%. He said the country was aiming for gross foreign reserves of $65 billion by 2024.

The minister said, however, that the coronavirus pandemic could impact Argentina’s economic analysis, especially in the short-term for 2020 and potentially even 2021.

“Today it’s clear we are living in times of very high uncertainty and that’s something that has to be taken into account,” he said. “This is something that was true before the coronavirus and it’s even more true now.”

Guzman said the government was discussing steps toward a new program with the IMF, which extended a $57 billion credit facility to Argentina in 2018.

The IMF said earlier on Friday that Argentina needed substantial relief from private creditors and that there was “virtually no scope” for its servicing bond payments in the medium term.

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