“What’s the priority?,” he asked. “For us, the priority is that Argentina continues on the path of recovery. For others, the priority could be different.”
An IMF spokesperson declined to comment.
Guzman’s tough stance comes at a critical stage in negotiations with the Fund. After two years without concrete progress, Argentina has large payments due to the IMF this year and Fernandez has already said the government can’t pay.
What Bloomberg Economics Says
“The press conference by Argentina’s leaders on Wednesday looked like an attempt to buy time and convince markets, the International Monetary Fund or the government itself that time and bargaining power is on the country’s side. The tone from President Alberto Fernandez and Economy Minister Martin Guzman suggests that no deal is imminent.”
— Adriana Dupita, Latin America economist
Lack of Support Abroad
Without naming countries, Guzman acknowledged that Argentina doesn’t have enough international support at the IMF to reach a deal.
“What we have is support of part of the international community but not all of it,” he said. “That’s the reason why there isn’t yet an agreement on this fundamental point, which is the fiscal issue.”
Guzman detailed the technical steps of the negotiations in a series of charts showing projections based on Argentina’s proposal for the primary fiscal deficit, monetary financing and international reserves. He said Argentina and the IMF agree that central bank’s reserves should grow between $3 billion and $4 billion a year. However, Guzman didn’t provide precise numbers on the fiscal deficit or monetary financing.
Argentina owes the IMF $2.8 billion in March, a payment many analysts see as a deadline to reach a deal considering the central bank’s thin reserves. Some economists became more pessimistic about that deadline after watching Guzman on Wednesday, noting that he made no mention of improving Argentina’s business climate.
“The odds are rising every day that they will not have a done deal by the time the March payment comes due,” says Arturo Porzecanski, an economics professor at American University in Washington. “The impression I get is that the negotiations are stuck because the Fund is seeking a greater fiscal effort.”
Lack of Support at Home
The presentation itself stirred up controversy before it began. Opposition leaders didn’t attend, labeling the forum a “political meeting” that shouldn’t be held at the presidential palace, but instead in the legislature. The lack of participation from the opposition bloc doesn’t bode well since the IMF said in December that the future program needs “broad support” within Argentina.
The debt stems from a record bailout the Fund gave to Argentina’s previous government in 2018 that failed to stabilize the economy. Guzman referred to the IMF’s recent evaluation of that program and criticized the institution for focusing too much on rebuilding market confidence and not the real economy.
In the 2018 deal, “the focus was on reestablishing market confidence,” he said. “Of course, we’re working so that there’s more market confidence but the first thing above all is to improve the real economy’s situation.”