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IMF says continuing ‘very productive’ engagement with Argentina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund’s discussions with Argentina have been very productive and the fund is willing to do whatever it can to help get the Argentine economy back on a solid footing, an IMF official told reporters on Wednesday.

The fund is closely tracking Argentina’s discussions with its creditors, and is hopeful that an agreement can be reached to restore the South American country’s debt sustainability, the official said.

Argentina, gripped by a recession for the last two years, is racing to head off a ninth sovereign default even as the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic looks set to trigger a deeper downturn in its economy.

Argentina last week unveiled a proposal to restructure around $66.2 billion of its foreign debt that would include a three-year moratorium on payments and reduce coupon payments by around 62%.

“We’re continuing to track the ongoing discussions that Argentina is having with private creditors. I think we’re hopeful that at some point there’s an agreement that can be reached there that would restore debt sustainability,” the IMF official said.

The official added that the global lender was exploring options to help countries like Argentina that faced debt challenges, while sticking to its own strict guidelines aimed at safeguarding the fund’s resources.

“We’ve trying to explore every avenue to see what we can do to be of assistance,” the official said, but declined to provide further details.

The IMF separately extended Argentina $44 billion as part of a 2018 agreement. Argentina in February agreed to start Article IV consultations with the IMF and opened the door to a new program, but it has not formally initiated those steps.

“Our conversations with Argentina have been very productive,” the official added. “We are willing to do whatever we can to help Argentina get its economy back on a solid footing.”

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Chang)