“Keep Negotiating Firmly with Private Creditors”


Some time before the offer [at the meetings with the IMF and the WB in Dubai on 22 September 2003], [Argentine Economy Minister Roberto] Lavagna was already preparing the ground: he realized that after the offer “there are going to be sad faces everywhere.”  And indeed the first reaction of the creditors was rejection. . . .  But the Argentine offensive was not restricted to Dubai.  [President Nestor] Kirchner in New York, one day after the offer, had an interview with President George W. Bush, who said, “Keep negotiating firmly with private creditors.”  And the Argentine President used the auditorium of the UN General Assembly to criticize the international financial organizations and ask for support for debt reduction and growth promotion.  “No one is known to have succeeded in getting their money back from the dead,” he said in his speech. . . .  The strategy was to maintain the Dubai posture as long as possible, so that the effect of a new offer would come as a relief. . . .  On the 1st of June [2004] in Buenos Aires Lavagna presented an improved offer which would be the definitive version of the swap.  After eight months of insistence, from President Kirchner downwards, that the Dubai offer would not change, this new offer presented a better deal for the creditors.  There was no change in the instruments involved in the swap, but there was in the recognition of unpaid interest.

Roberto Lavagna is former Economy Minister of Argentina (in office 27 April 2002-27 November 2005).  The text above is a translation of excerpts from Carlos Liascovich, Lavagna: la biografía (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2005), pp 226-7 and 247, adapted from the translation provided in Sayantan Ghosal and Marcus Miller, “Delay in Debt Swaps: Growth and Sustainability” (February 2006).  Cf. “To summarize, in the case of Argentina, there were clearly two separate phases leading up to the debt swap in 2005.  In the first phase, from end of 2001 to mid-2003, the Argentine economy was recovering strongly from a deep recession and there appeared to be a consensus between both parties to await recovery — consensus reinforced by the political difficulties faced by the Duhalde regime.  As for the second phase, one could interpret the meagre Dubai offer made by Argentina in September 2003 as driven by sustainability concerns.  In the context of our analysis, this low offer was designed to be rejected by international creditors, leading to delay and a reappraisal of the type of debtor Argentina is and finally to a settlement that respected these sustainability concerns.  It is interesting to take note of the close coincidence of the final debt swap with the sustainability requirement calculated by the Argentine government” (footnotes omitted, Sayantan Ghosal, Marcus Miller, and Kannika Thampanishvong, “Delay and Haircuts in Sovereign Debt: Recovery and Sustainability,” Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis Working Paper 10/15, October 2010); “Up to now the U.S. government has been the major beneficiary of this situation, as it would have primary responsibility for a major replenishment of IMF funds in the event Argentina defaults with that institution.  That is the reason President Bush now praises President Kirchner” (Economistas de Izquierda, “Argentina: Program for a Popular Economic Recovery,” Monthly Review, September 2004); Andrew F. Cooper and Bessma Momani, “Negotiating Out of Argentina’s Financial Crisis: Segmenting the International Creditors” (New Political Economy 10.3, September 2005); Eric Helleiner, “The Strange Story of Bush and the Argentine Debt Crisis” (Third World Quarterly 26.6, December 2005).

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