September 26, 2019 / 2:50 PM / 19 days ago

IMF says fully engaged in talks with Argentina, relationship not on hold

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said it remained fully engaged in discussions with Argentina and in helping the country get on a path to long-term growth and stability.

FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice pushed back against any suggestion that the IMF had slowed down its engagement with Argentina ahead of an October general election. He said discussions were continuing.

He said there was no deadline for the IMF to make an expected $5.4 billion disbursement from its $57 billion bailout program for Argentina, its largest ever such credit facility, but said it was not uncommon for disbursements to be delayed.

The IMF’s incoming managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, met with Argentine Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza at the IMF’s headquarters on Wednesday, and IMF staff also had meetings with Lacunza and his team, Rice said.

He said additional meetings were planned in Washington during the IMF fall meetings beginning Oct. 14.

IMF support is key for Argentina, where jittery markets have temporarily stabilized ahead of the October election but strains are starting to appear.

“We continue to be fully committed to helping Argentina get on the path of long-term stability and growth,” Rice said. “It is incorrect to say that the IMF has in some way put the relationship with Argentina on hold.”

Rice acknowledged it had been difficult to find a quick path forward and declined to give any timetable for a possible solution or to provide details on what options were under discussions.

He said the IMF, as is always its practice, was in discussions with the country’s authorities, as well as other stakeholders, including the opposition. He said IMF staff had detected broad support across the political spectrum for policies that would ensure long-term stability and growth.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri met IMF acting Managing Director David Lipton in New York on Tuesday, his first face-to-face meeting with IMF officials after a sharp market crash in August pushed Latin America’s No. 3 economy toward default.

Macri, who struck the IMF deal, was badly defeated in a presidential primary in August, a surprise result which sparked the market sell-off. He is widely expected to lose to Peronist challenger Alberto Fernandez in the Oct. 27 general election.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Lisa Shumaker

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