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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 08:53 GMT
Q&A: Argentina and the IMF
Argentina and the IMF may be in dispute over loan repayments and financial support in the aftermath of the huge financial crisis that engulfed its economy more than two years ago. BBC News Online explains the reasons for the clash.

What is supposed to happen on 9 March?

Argentina is due to make a repayment of $3bn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under an old loan taken out before the financial crisis that led to the devaluation of its currency in December 2001.

In addition, Argentina is getting new money from the IMF under a new agreement concluded in September last year.

The point of the new loan is to ensure that Argentina doesn't have to make net repayments at a time when its economy is still in difficulty, and when there are such severe social problems in the wake of that financial crisis.

So why is Argentina threatening not to make that repayment?

They want an assurance from the IMF that the next instalment of the September loan will be paid.

And there is at least some reason to doubt that.

All IMF loans come with conditions, and in this case one condition was that Argentina must negotiate in good faith with its private foreign creditors, who are owed around $90bn.

They haven't received a cent since Argentina stopped making payments to creditors in December 2001.

Argentina has made an opening offer to them, which according to Argentine officials amounts to a reduction (or haircut as it's often called) of 75% in the face value of their bonds.

Creditors say its really a 90% haircut and Argentina is not really negotiating with them.

Who are the creditors?

Big international investment funds are certainly involved.

But there are also several hundred thousand private individual who used their own savings to buy Argentine government bonds.

The largest group are in Italy, but there are many in Germany and Japan.

How likely is it that the IMF will refuse the next loan payment?

The next payment of the huge IMF loan to Argentina agreed in September 2003 should occur in the autumn.

But some of the big powers in the IMF were very unhappy about the previous instalment of that loan.

In particular, Italy, Germany and Japan - countries where there are many of the individual creditors left in the lurch - may oppose payment of the next instalment.

What about legal action?

The basic argument is that a bond is contract in which the borrower, Argentina makes a commitment to make certain specified payments.

They have not done that and so, the argument goes, are in breach of contract and can be sued in the courts.

Other bondholders have tried with some success to freeze Argentine assets so that they can be seized if the creditors win.

And there are cases in preparation against others, for example some German banks, over the advice they gave to clients about buying Argentine bonds.

What sort of shape is the economy in now?

It is in a lot better shape than a year ago, as 2003 was a year of quite strong economy growth.

Creditors have taken note of this and argue that it makes it easier for Argentina to pay them more.

But social problems like poverty and unemployment are still big issues.

Argentine officials also worry that too much debt repayment might undermine the economic recovery.

What is the worst-case scenario?

If Argentina's stand-off with its creditors and the IMF is not resolved, then it has made it clear that it would rather default than pay too much and force its economy into recession.

But in the long-term both sides would lose out.

International bondholders might receive nothing, rather than 75% of their debts.

The IMF's credibility as a lender of last resort might be damaged if it was seen to enforce too harsh conditions on Argentina to protect the private sector.

But in the long term, the Argentine economy would also suffer as international investors would be likely to shun the country for many years to come, depriving it of needed capital.

Argentina's threadbare recovery
19 Dec 03  |  Business
Argentina gets huge IMF loan
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Argentina lifts final cash curbs
27 Mar 03  |  Business
Q&A: Argentina's economic crisis
12 Feb 03  |  Business

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