August 23, 2019 / 9:24 PM / a month ago

IMF to hold weekend meetings in Argentina with advisers for Macri, Fernandez

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Friday that a team will meet with the economic advisers to Argentina’s main presidential contenders, incumbent Mauricio Macri and opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez, to “exchange views.”

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is seen during a news conference in Santiago, Chile, July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido/File Photo

The “technical staff team” is due to arrive in Argentina on Saturday, the IMF said in a statement, and will discuss the “recent economic and financial developments” and the “government’s policy plans.”

“We will have work meetings both Saturday and Sunday,” a Treasury Ministry source confirmed to Reuters, adding that it would be the first meeting with the IMF for Argentina’s new Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza, who was sworn in on Tuesday.

Argentina has a $57 billion (46.43 billion pounds) standby agreement with the IMF, negotiated in 2018 by pro-reform Macri.

Macri was trounced in the primary election on Aug. 11 by opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez, who is now the front runner for the October presidential election. Centre-left Peronist Fernandez has been critical of Argentina’s IMF agreement and pledged to “rework” it if elected.

Fernandez’s economic advisers met with Lacunza earlier in the week, telling him Fernandez would seek an “alternative economic model” to the current administration’s policies.

Fernandez’s landslide support in the primary vote prompted the peso currency to fall by nearly 18% last week amid fears of a return to the interventionist economic policies of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is Fernandez’s vice presidential candidate.

The International Monetary Fund’s next scheduled review of the country’s lending programme is on Sept. 15.

In its previous review of Argentina in July, the IMF warned there were “elevated” risks to the programme, with peso weakness and political uncertainty likely to feed on each other.

The collapse in Argentina’s peso currency last week and soaring borrowing costs fuelled investors’ concern that Latin America’s third-largest economy is heading for another debt restructuring.

Macri took office in 2015 promising to bring an end to the cyclical crises that over the last 100 years turned one of the world’s strongest economies into a serial defaulter, but an economic recovery failed to materialise.

Voters fed up with Macri’s IMF-backed austerity measures and crippling inflation of 55% overwhelming snubbed Macri, giving a 15-point lead to Fernandez, who promised on Thursday that Argentina has “no possibility” of default if he is elected.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison, Hernan Nessi and Jorge Iorio; Editing by Richard Chang, Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman

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