IMF says ready to 'engage' with Argentina president-elect on loan program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund is ready to engage with Argentina’s president-elect, Alberto Fernandez, at any time to discuss the future of the country’s $57 billion IMF loan, but no meeting has been scheduled, a spokesman for the global lender said on Thursday.

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“We’re ready to engage when it is convenient for them to do so,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a regular news briefing in Washington.

Fernandez, a Peronist who on Oct. 27 defeated business-friendly President Mauricio Macri, made renegotiating the IMF program to ease its painful austerity measures a key plank of his election campaign.

He said in an interview with the Russian RT television channel, broadcast on Thursday, that Argentina could not repay its debt under the current conditions.

“The Argentine economy has to recover, it has (to) recover productivity, it has to export again, that way it will have dollars to meet its obligations...

“With the debt we have, the negotiations will be difficult,” he added.

Rice said the IMF shares the president-elect’s objectives to pull Argentina’s economy out of its current crisis and pave the way for more solid and inclusive growth.

The IMF is restricted in its ability to restructure debt, Rice said, but would play a role in assessing Argentina’s overall debt sustainability, which could affect any negotiations by the country with its bondholders on other debts.

“In order to conduct our debt sustainability, we need the analysis, we need the information on the authorities’ policy plans, as well as to take a look at the macroeconomic outlook,” Rice said. “We are not in a position to make that assessment right now, because the discussions with the new administration have not yet taken place.”

Inter-American Development Bank chief Luis Alberto Moreno tweeted that he had a “productive meeting” with Fernandez in Buenos Aires on Thursday. “I expressed the IDB’s commitment to adapt our portfolio to the priorities of his government and continue to invest in sectors such as infrastructure, social protection, health, education and competitiveness,” he said.

Reporting by David Lawder and Marina Lammertyn; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Paul Simao and Dan Grebler