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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 04:01 GMT
Argentina peso hits new low
Protesters in Buenos Aires
Protests against politicians are continuing
test hello test
By the BBC's Tom Gibb
In Argentina, the peso has slipped to a record low amid gloomy predictions that the country's worst ever economic crisis will deepen further this year.

Until devaluation in January, the peso was tied to the US dollar at one-to-one for a decade. It has now slipped to 2.5 to the dollar.

President Eduardo Duhalde, who is Argentina's fifth leader since December, is desperately trying to negotiate a restoration of IMF aid to reverse a four-year recession.

President Duhalde says that without IMF help in the next month, Argentina faces a return to the rioting and unrest which left 27 people dead and toppled former President de la Rua in December.

Frightening figures

The statistics paint a frightening picture of Argentina's continued decline.

Eduardo Duhalde
Duhalde says IMF help is vital
Nearly half the population now live below the poverty line, unable to pay for basics like food, rent and essential services.

More than 20% are officially unemployed, and unofficial estimates are higher.

The IMF is now predicting the economy will shrink by another 8% this year, which means more companies closing and more job cuts.

IMF officials, while welcoming some changes in Argentina, have also warned the government to stop printing money.

The government, which is still running a deficit, is printing billions of pesos to try to pay its workers.

So are provincial governments - there are now 14 different local bonds or currencies in circulation.

Death threats

An annexe of Congress has had to be boarded up with metal sheets to protect those inside from angry protestors, some threatening to kill politicians.

Many banks have done the same.

Politicians on the street have also been attacked and abused.

But the IMF, under criticism in the United States that it bailed out Argentina for too long, shows no signs of restoring aid until there is evidence that the government's policies can lead to a sustained recovery.

The BBC's Lourdes Herederia
"The IMF is worried about plenty of things"
See also:

06 Mar 02 | Business
Argentina cautious over loan chances
19 Feb 02 | Business
IMF urged to help Argentina
12 Feb 02 | Business
Argentina's peso passes first test
06 Feb 02 | Business
Tales of Argentina's plight
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