Former IMF official says Argentina will not pay the Fund

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez speaks at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 20, 2021. Juan Mabromata/Pool via REUTERS

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NEW YORK, Oct 29 (Reuters) – A former official at the International Monetary Fund said Argentina is “not going to pay” the Fund and any agreement between the two will be a “temporary Band-Aid” that will only delay a run on banks in the South American country.

“Argentina is not going to pay the IMF. Argentina is not going to do good macro-micro institutional policies,” said Alejandro Werner, who was the head of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department for nearly a decade before he left in August.

The IMF had no comment and the Argentine government did not respond to requests for comment.

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Argentina is negotiating a program to replace a failed one from 2018 that left it as the Fund’s largest debtor by far, with about $45 billion in payments due. If the current deal is not modified, payments of near $19 billion are due next year.

Werner, speaking at an event on the economic future of Latin America hosted by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum on Thursday, said, “we’re overplaying the IMF program, because at most it’s going to be a temporary Band-Aid to hold the expectations and delay the run on banks for four months. Then everything will play out because you look at these guys … What are you going to expect from this government?”

An Argentine government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said: “It’s strange to see a former IMF official make comments like these so soon after leaving the Fund.”

Earlier this year Werner, who was still at the IMF, said there seemed to be significant differences of opinion within President Alberto Fernandez’s political allies on which direction to give economic policy and where to take the negotiation with the Fund.

“The best thing with an IMF program we’ll have four months in which they will pass one review and that’s kind of it,” Werner said on Thursday.

“We will go back to arrears or quasi-arrears. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be an instrument for good policies and from the flows side it is not going to change anything.”

Argentine dollar-denominated bonds ended marginally lower on Friday, with prices in distressed territory, between 31 and 37 cents on the dollar, according to Refinitiv data.

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Reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York and Hugh Bronstein and Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires
Editing by Matthew Lewis

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