November 26, 2019 / 9:38 PM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina's Fernandez hints he may not seek outstanding $11 bln from IMF

(Recasts with Fernandez comments on debt)

By Gabriel Burin

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernandez hinted on Tuesday he may not seek an outstanding $11 billion from an International Monetary Fund loan as the indebted South American country grapples to renegotiate its debts and avoid a painful default.

In an interview with Radio Con Vos, the center-left Peronist, who will take office on Dec. 10, said he was more focused on being granted time to rekindle Argentina’s faltering economy than getting the remainder of the $57 billion in IMF funds.

“I don’t know if the (remaining) money from the deal will come,” he said, pointing out that Argentina had already received around $45 billion. “If there are issues are we going to ask for $11 billion more?”

“If you have a problem, because you are in debt, do you think the solution is to continue borrowing?” he said.

The IMF declined to comment. Fernandez’s team did not immediately comment.

Fernandez, who won an October election by a wide margin against conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri, is facing a looming pile of dollar debt that became unsustainable after a crash in the peso made paying it back far more expensive.

He told the IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, last week that he had a “sustainable” plan to meet creditor obligations as well as maintain growth.

Argentina’s bondholders are jostling for influence ahead of restructuring talks with Fernandez.

Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza said this week that around $28 billion in debt held by private investors and international organizations is set to mature in 2020.

ECONOMY PICKS

Fernandez also said on Tuesday he plans to appoint moderate Peronist economist Marco Lavagna to head the government’s INDEC statistics agency, which is responsible for calculating and publishing economic indicators.

It marks the first major nomination of a member of Fernandez’s incoming economic team. Markets are eager to learn who will head key bodies such as the Treasury, central bank and agriculture in the grains-exporting powerhouse.

“It is expected that Marco will take charge of INDEC,” Fernandez said on local television.

Fernandez beat Macri after a politically toxic cocktail of recession, high inflation and fallout from unpopular austerity policies hurt the incumbent’s image. Macri did, however, help to improve the credibility of official economic data.

INDEC was criticized under previous President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who led Argentina from 2007 to 2015, for under-reporting inflation statistics. She was Alberto Fernandez’s running mate and will be his vice president.

Lavagna is the son of former Argentine Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, who also ran for president this year but whose campaign never gained traction to seriously challenge Macri. (Reporting by Gabriel Burin writing by Hugh Bronstein editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)

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