WASHINGTON (AFP) - The crisis hammering Argentina would have been much worse had the International Monetary Fund not stepped in with a massive rescue programme, outgoing IMF chief Christine Lagarde said this week.
“I look at Argentina when it came knocking on the door and it was in a tough place, and we were the only game in town,” Lagarde told AFP in an interview. But she said she regretted that the record US$ 57 billion loan from the Washington-based crisis lender was not able to bring down the country’s soaring inflation rate.
The fund has a responsibility to help a member country and even if “there was a small percentage of chance that it would succeed, our job is to do it. And that’s what we did.”
Some critics have chastised the IMF, and Lagarde, for once again providing huge amounts of financing for Buenos Aires, only to see the familiar pattern experienced in prior crises of failed or delayed reforms and soaring inflation. Lagarde acknowledged that Argentina is “clearly in a difficult situation at the moment,” but said the IMF programme managed to stabilize the situation for a time, even though inflation remained a “sore point.”
“What would have happened had we had we not been there, had we done nothing,” she said, “I think it would have been a lot worse. There’s no question in my mind about that.”
The government has received about US$ 44 billion so far of the three-year loan approved in June 2018 but soaring inflation and rising poverty stirred outrage at the government’s belt-tightening measures.
Center-right, business-friendly President Mauricio Macri suffered a stinging defeat in a primary election at the hands of populist challenger Alberto Fernandez, which once again whipped up market volatility in the recession-hit nation and undermined the currency.
Economy Minister Hernan Lacunza in late August asked the IMF to restructure the country’s repayments, and announced initiatives to postpone debt service to institutional investors, relieving the pressure on international reserves so they can be used to stabilize the currency.
Lacunza, who has been in his post barely a month, is due to meet with IMF officials in Washington in late September to discuss the status of the rescue programme.