Forced marriage between Argentina and the IMF turns into a fiasco

9 November by Jérôme Duval


While the discontent of the Argentine people grows day by day, President Mauricio Macri flees to the United States. In New York, he continues negotiations with the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
to revise the already outdated agreement signed in June, intervenes in the UN Assembly, and is given an award for his leadership. Meanwhile, the fourth big general strike of his mandate, after that of the 25th of June against the agreement of the IMF, paralyses the country. This is the summary of a historic week for Argentina at the heart of the turmoil.


Macri the liar and “zero poverty”

On the 20th of September, during his speech at the 71st UN General Assembly, Macri reiterated the goal of moving towards “zero poverty” [1], an objective that is in total contradiction with his own policy and the IMF’s injunctions in a food-exporting country marked again by famine, a country where 11 million people are considered poor according to the INDEC National Institute of Statistics [2]. Significant political choices were made in this regard, such as the purchase last August, in the midst of the financial crisis in Argentina, of five Super-Étendard fighter planes at Dassault Aviation for 12 million euros [3]. Completely unafraid of contradictions, later in his speech, Macri says that “Argentina makes the empowerment of women a state policy.” [4] This almost distracts us from the Senate’s vote in early August against the legalisation of abortion that results in women incurring between one and four years of imprisonment if their abortion is considered illegal; that is to say for any abortion apart from cases of rape or risks to the life or health of women. As a reminder, in Latin America only two countries, Cuba and Uruguay, allow the voluntary termination of pregnancy without conditions, to which must be added the Federal District state of Mexico.


The price of shame

After the current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau last year, Matteo Renzi in 2016, Ukrainian billionaire President Petro Poroshenko, or Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, it was the turn of Argentine President Mauricio Macri to receive the “Global Citizen Award” [5]. A few months earlier, awarded by the same American think tank, The Atlantic Council, George W. Bush was honoured to receive the Distinguished International Leadership Award along with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz [6].

A New York Times article, published in September 2014, tells us that the Atlantic Council organisation received donations from over twenty-five governments, in addition to the United States, since 2008 [7]. According to its latest annual report, this think tank receives multiple donations, the most significant of which are those from the United States Department of State, the Lithuanian and Norwegian Defence Ministries, various companies including HSBC, Lockheed Martin and Thales, Chevron, BP, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Tüpras [8] and ExxonMobil, the well-known international business law firm Baker McKenzie, the investment fund Investment fund
Investment funds
Private equity investment funds (sometimes called ’mutual funds’ seek to invest in companies according to certain criteria; of which they most often are specialized: capital-risk, capital development funds, leveraged buy-out (LBO), which reflect the different levels of the company’s maturity.
Blackstone, Airbus, Ford and Google [9].

On the 24th of September 2018, at the famous Cipriani Restaurant on 55 Wall Street, in front of an audience of over 400 world leaders handpicked to attend the ninth very selective edition of the Atlantic Council in New York, Macri received the Global Citizen Award.

The ex-banker, philanthropist and vice-president of the Atlantic Council, Adrienne Arsht [10] heated up the tone: “Let’s start with a confession: I have a crush on President Macri. Tonight, we honour President Macri for his leadership... The Argentinian president, transformed into the star of the moment, goes up to the platform and proclaims, all smiles:”I must confess that with Christine, we have been building a great relationship over the last few months, which, I hope, will work very well, and will lead the whole country to fall in love with her.“ [11] The laughter of the upper middle class merges in the room, a few glances turn to the table where Christine Lagarde, also nominated in 2011 [12], shares the dinner with the Argentine President, his wife Juliana Awada, and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Luis Alberto Moreno, among other personalities. Euphoric, Macri would even conduct a few dance steps at the time of the family photo with Adrienne Arsht, under the amused gaze of Klaus Schwab, the founder of the Davos Economic Forum.

This declaration of love within the global aristocracy would be enough to make many people hopeful if it were not surreal, unable to erase a high-conflict relationship between the Washington institution and Argentina. As if to illustrate this incompatibility, at the same time, Argentina is again paralysed by a general strike, the fourth under the mandate of Mauricio Macri. Virtually no metro, bus or taxi runs in the capital and major cities of the country; all flights departing and arriving from Argentina are cancelled; administrations, banks and many shops are closed in sign of protest against the IMF. It is a historic mobilisation in this country of 41 million inhabitants, many demonstrations take place, and a heavily supported general strike over two days, 24 and 25 September, is decreed. “No to the IMF”, “No to adjustment”, can be read on the banners at the head of procession.


The Central Bank Central Bank The establishment which in a given State is in charge of issuing bank notes and controlling the volume of currency and credit. In France, it is the Banque de France which assumes this role under the auspices of the European Central Bank (see ECB) while in the UK it is the Bank of England.

ECB : http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/Pages/home.aspx
at the service of the IMF

On 25 September, after only three months in office, the former JP.Morgan and Deutsche Bank tradesman, Luis Caputo, resigned from his position as governor of the Central Bank to be replaced by the deputy finance minister, Guido Sandleris. Caputo would have had differences with the Washington institution. “Macri sacrificed him in New York on the altar of the IMF because he had committed the sin of operating on the foreign exchange market without authorisation. Since then, officials have been obedient to an IMF, which has total control of economic policy,” said Alejandro Vanoli, governor of the Argentine Central Bank during the term of President Cristina Kirchner. Following this announcement, the peso lost 3.4% during the day of 25 September, in just two days the dollar rose 6.2% pushing the peso to a new record of 41.88 pesos to the dollar [13]


The IMF loan is on the rise

Two days after exchanging laughter and palaver at the Atlantic Council gala, and the day after the change of Central bank governor, the IMF was making the largest loan in its history to Argentina. On September 26th, shaken by a serious economic crisis, the country obtained from the IMF an additional 7 billion dollars and an acceleration of the payment schedule. The loan granted in June thus increased from 50 to 57.1 billion dollars over three years. “The payments scheduled for the remainder of 2018 and 2019 increased by 19 billion dollars,” said the Argentine Minister of Economy Nicolas Dujovne from New York. By the end of 2018, Argentina will receive 13.4 billion dollars instead of the 6 billion dollars initially provided for in the first agreement reached in June (in addition to the 15 billion dollars already disbursed); by 2019, Buenos Aires will be able to count on the provision of 22.8 billion dollars, instead of 11; and 5.9 billion dollars planned for 2020 - 2021 [14]. The Argentinian debt in dollars is getting dangerously high and the depreciation of the peso is continuing despite this agreement, but President Macri reassures us: “There is no risk that Argentina will be in default” of payment of its debt, as was the case during the 2001 economic crisis. In the meantime, poverty is spreading like wildfire to serve creditors’ debt and the government is asking the Church to intensify its distribution of food in poor neighbourhoods...



Article first published in French on the blog Un monde sans dette from the journal Politis.
Source: CounterPunch
Translation: Jenny Bright.

Footnotes

[2Fernando Nole, “Se calcula que hay 11 millones de pobres en Argentina”, Perfil, September 27, 2018.

[3Argentina finally paid 12 million euros in mid-August to take possession of five French Super-Etendard (SEM) for its navy. Michel Cabirol,“L’Argentine a enfin payé ses cinq Super-Etendard”, La Tribune, August 27, 2018.

[4Intervención del presidente Mauricio Macri ante la 71ª Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas: “La Argentina esta sumiendo el empoderamiento integral de las mujeres, como politica de Estado”

[7Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore, “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks”, The New York Times, September 6, 2014.

[8Tüpras is the national oil company and the largest industrial enterprise in Turkey.

[10Adrienne Arsht was chairperson of TotalBank’s Miami-based board from 1996 to 2007.

[11”También con Christine debo confesar que hemos iniciado una gran relación ya desde hace unos meses y espero que funcione muy bien y que lleve a que todo el país termine enamorado de Christine" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpYq6P2CXxQ Original in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7bCmNctKsQ

[13Mirta Fernandez, “El mercado ya testea el nuevo dólar y con poco volumen roza los $ 42”, Perfil, September 28, 2018 & “Fiebre Verde”, Página12, September 29, 2018.

Jérôme Duval

member of CADTM network and member of the Spanish Citizen’s Debt Audit Platform (PACD) in Spain (http://auditoriaciudadana.net/). He is the author, with Fátima Martín, of the book Construcción europea al servicio de los mercados financieros (Icaria editorial, Barcelona 2016) and he also co-authored La Dette ou la Vie (Aden-CADTM, 2011), which received the award for best political book in Liège (Belgium) in 2011.

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