Argentina and the IMF
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Transcript of a Press Briefing by Thomas C. Dawson
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MR. DAWSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Tom Dawson, Director of External Relations at the IMF, and this is another of our regular press briefings. As usual, the briefing is embargoed until about 15 minutes after conclusion, and I will set a precise time when we wrap up.
One travel note. First Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger is making a visit to Africa this week. Media Relations will circulate any prepared remarks she may have during stops in Nigeria and Senegal. We do expect that she will have a press briefing in Dakar, Senegal, on Monday, the 6th. The briefing will follow a regional seminar that has been organized by the IMF African Department focused on trade-related issues critical to Africa. We will have additional details about her trip. Keep in touch with Media Relations.
While this briefing is being web cast on the password-protected media center, Media Briefing Center, I want to draw your attention to the public website at www.imf.org. Yesterday we went live there with an online questionnaire, and we would like to find out who is using the Fund's external site and why, and hopefully we can use this information to further improve the site. And I encourage you and any listeners out there in the ether space to take a few minutes in the next couple weeks to answer the questionnaire.
Now it is time for me to take questions, but the first question will go to Mara Laudonia of Cronista. Mara will be leaving Washington shortly and return to Buenos Aires. She has been covering the Fund from March of last year. I do suspect we will be hearing from her again, and she, of course, will still be able to watch the briefing by the web cast.
MR. DAWSON: And I am sure she will find some way to pose questions from afar, so, Mara, buena suerte, buen viaje, alguna pregunta ? In English.
MS. LAUDONIA: Yes. Today, I do not know if I have any particular question on Argentina—
MR. DAWSON: That has never stopped you before.
MS. LAUDONIA: But, well, you see the exchange offer of Argentina was delayed, and I wonder if there is any problem with the schedule of the program, to continue with the negotiations.
MR. DAWSON: Sure. I mean, certainly we have followed the discussions between Argentina and their external creditors. But we were not from the beginning in any particular time-bound situation. What we had said, have said for some time, is we understand the authorities having indicated they will continue-they will focus their efforts on the launch of the debt exchange offer. We continue to expect formal program discussions to restart following completion of the exchange. And we do remain in close contact with the authorities on the program. So we are aware of that, but since we were in any event in a waiting mode for the exchange offer to take place, we will just continue waiting.
But, you know, obviously it is important and I would reiterate our view the completion of a comprehensive and sustainable restructuring agreement with the private creditors is critical for Argentina's economic prospects, and I think this is a sentiment shared by the authorities as well.
QUESTIONER: There was a mission from the central bank of Argentina, as I understand, last week, and I wanted to know what was the objective of that mission here, and if it was only for information purpose.
MR. DAWSON: Let the record show that turnabout appears to be fair play here.
QUESTIONER: Yes. And only for information purpose, or if you are advancing in any aspect the program.
MR. DAWSON: As I indicated, we are in continuing contact with the authorities, both through our resident mission but also in Washington. As far as I am aware, there was not anything unusual, except the fact—reiterate the fact that we are in regular contact. I will double-check on that and we will let those of you interested know. But I am pretty sure of that case. I have had contact with the Argentine representatives here, and I have had no indication of that.
QUESTIONER: If I remember correctly, it was said that the review of the program with Argentina was to happen at the beginning of the year, and since the offer of debt restructuring has not happened in October, as it was thought, do you see that being delayed until, you know, the middle of the year or—I mean, any type of problem with that?
MR. DAWSON: No. As I indicated earlier—maybe I should be a little more explicit. The indication that we expected the next review to take place sometime early in 2005 was an event-bound expectation, not a time-bound expectation. The event is the conclusion of the debt exchange. Since the event has been delayed, the review would, therefore, be delayed. So I think it is a logical thing because that is indeed the approach the authorities consistently have indicated from the beginning in terms of how they wish to approach this, and it is an approach that we have supported and do support.
QUESTIONER: Another follow-up, I guess. So that last response says that you do expect a delay? I mean—
MR. DAWSON: What I am saying, it is not a delay because we had not set a date. We had linked it to an event. And the event—whenever the event takes place, which is the conclusion of the debt exchange, that is the trigger for resuming discussions on the program.
QUESTIONER: So that could resume at the start of 2005 if the event occurs.
MR. DAWSON: When the event—well, the event I think is now expected to be in—the middle of January. Is that right? Yeah, the 17th of January. So that is what it is linked to.
I am not going to call your editors and if you use the word "delay" say that you should be fired. But the reality is I do not think that is quite the right way to describe it because it is something that has from the beginning been linked to the conclusion of the debt exchange. I know you like your job. And I do not have that influence anyway. It might help you.
Oh, come on. Nothing else? I have all sorts of questions you should be asking, but I will not give them to you.
All right. I do expect we will have another briefing prior to the break two weeks from today. And it is to a degree slowing down here, but, you know, we are available to take any questions.
QUESTIONER: Do you expect that Argentina is going to ask for any postponements of payments that could be postponed? And if Argentina does that, what are the prospects that they—
MR. DAWSON: That is an excellent question, and I think if you read through the details of the program, you will see—or you will recall a few months ago, I do not have the precise date in mind, we went through the expectations, obligations.
MR. DAWSON: That issue comes up again and does come up again, as I recall, in February.
QUESTIONER: There is one.
MR. DAWSON: Yes, and we will need to deal with that at that point, but I do not have a position for you on that. But that is an excellent question, and that is something that will need to be addressed, assuming that the debt exchange does not get moved up, which is not likely.
QUESTIONER: So if I can do a follow-up on that, so you may—I mean, it could be possible that the postponement of that payment is agreed on—
MR. DAWSON: I do not think we refer to it as a postponement. It is a shift from expectations into obligations. But that is an issue that will need to come up. It is scheduled on the Web. You can check the dates, and whatever that date is, we will need to take a position by that date.
QUESTIONER: Have the conversations started on this issue?
MR. DAWSON: Not to my knowledge, because today is, of course, just the 2nd of December. I mean, when I say "started," it is something everything has known about. I mean, the Argentine authorities are well aware of what is in the agreement. They are well aware of their repayment schedule. We are well aware of that, too.
In terms of something to discuss at this point now, how to handle it then, I do not believe that has started again. It will at the appropriate point, which is a little while longer.
QUESTIONER: Is the IMF worried in any aspect about the reserves that we are using to pay the IMF and the limit that there is to the use of these reserves?
MR. DAWSON: The Argentine authorities, I think rightly, are proud, should be proud of the strong performance of the economy, and I do not think the present reserve levels are worrisome. So I think that at this point, as we have said, the performance of the economy, including on the foreign side, has been quite strong.
QUESTIONER: I wonder if there is some assessment about the private sector now in Argentina, the strikes, and the mood with the private sector. Did the IMF make any kind of assessment?
MR. DAWSON: I mean, we have actually—as you I think all are aware, we have not had a Board discussion since the last discussion of the expectations, obligations issue. And so in that sense, I am not aware of anything formal. We obviously keep in contact with both the domestic and foreign private sectors, but I think that question is best directed toward the private sector.
QUESTIONER: The last one, please, please, please.
MR. DAWSON: The last one?
QUESTIONER: President Kirchner has again used a very tough rhetoric. I wonder if this is a problem for the IMF?
MR. DAWSON: No, I mean, I think we are used to frank exchanges and expressions of view, and I have every expectation that will continue not only in Argentina but in other countries. And I think it is fairly refreshing to be able to discuss these issues pretty openly and for each side to know where the other side stands.
IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT