Accessibility links

Breaking News

Argentina's Peso Drops Again - 2002-09-17

Argentine newpaper readers were greeted by one gloomy headline after another on Tuesday. The retail value of the peso fell for the first time in months and there is growing speculation that the current government will not be able to secure an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund.

For the last three months, Argentine leaders, trying to put a happy face on this country's troubled economy, have pointed to the peso. It was holding steady against the dollar.

But on Tuesday, the peso's retail value fell. The exchange rate slipped from 3.59 pesos to the dollar to 3.62.

It is a small loss, but its timing is important, because the decline in value comes at a time when international observers are losing confidence in Argentina's government.

This week, Argentine officials are in Washington, trying to convince the International Monetary Fund their country deserves a bailout. But the fund's deputy director, Anne Kruger, is giving them a warning: If Argentina does not repay its debt, and its leaders do not draft a solid economic plan, the country will be punished, not helped.

Argentina defaulted on $141 billion in international debt last year, plunging the country deeper into its worst economic crisis in its history.

While the current government has repeatedly said Argentina cannot recover from the crisis without an emergency loan, the battle to win that loan has been uphill.

Argentines are looking with concern at recent comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who said the United States is not interested in putting money into businesses that do not make sense. He did not mention Argentina by name, but Argentines say the reference to their unstable political and economic situation was fairly clear.

The former president of Germany's central bank has been less diplomatic. Hans Tietmeyer said in an interview published Tuesday: Argentina is no longer a significant part of Latin America's economy. He asserted the country's leaders are "without direction," and they do not deserve a bailout.

The headlines add up to a headache for this country's leaders. And pundits are suggesting the IMF will cut off negotiations and wait for Argentina's next administration, which is scheduled to take office after elections next March.