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Argentina Announces New Plan To Prevent Massive Debt Default - 2001-11-02


Argentine President Fernando De la Rua has announced a series of new financial measures in an effort to spark economic growth. The package includes swapping billions of dollars of debt for longer maturing bonds and slashing sales taxes.

Argentina's latest economic recovery plan seeks to stave off a massive default on $1.32 billion in public debt and to revive consumer confidence.

"Together we are responsible for the debt, together we spent the money, and together we must solve the problem," President De la Rua said in a nationally televised address.

He said Argentina has no other choice than to stick to its balanced budget plan.

To meet spending goals, the government will offer international guarantees on the new bonds in order to conduct a voluntary, friendly debt swap.

Argentina's new economic plan seeks to reduce average interest rates on the debt to seven percent from the current average of 11 percent and thus save $4 billion in debt payments next year. But Mr. De la Rua said Argentina would not default or devalue its peso currency, pegged by law at one to one with the U.S. dollar.

The President also announced a series of measures designed to revive consumer spending that has been almost extinguished by three years of recession and successive salary cuts.

They include a universal social security payment to low income and unemployed families with children, a reduction in mandatory worker contributions to pension funds to 11 percent from 17 percent, and a plan to cut the value-added tax between three and five percent for credit card purchases.

Newly designated Social Security Minister Patricia Bullrich called the president's decision to create a wide-ranging social security plan "revolutionary."

She said welfare benefits will be paid into individual bank accounts and each recipient will be given a debit card to access the money.

The government hopes the decision to use the nation's banking system and to cut the sales tax for credit card purchases will keep tax evasion in check.

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