IMF's Lagarde praises Argentina economic reform plan

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, seen in this file photo, on Wednesday applauded Argentina's economic reform plan proposed to secure $50 billion in financing.

WASHINGTON — IMF chief Christine Lagarde on Wednesday applauded Argentina's economic reform plan proposed to secure $50 billion in financing, but made it clear it was designed in Buenos Aires, not imposed from Washington.

The program, which she said paid particular attention to protecting the poor and vulnerable, will go to the IMF Executive Board for final approval of the three-year loan deal on June 20.

IMF staff reached an agreement with President Mauricio Macri's government last week on the standby financing arrangement, which aims to bolster market confidence in the government's finances.

But the announcement was greeted by vocal protests and threats of yet another labor strike. The country has a bitter history with the Washington-based lender, seen in Argentina as imposing tough conditions that worsened economic pain during a crisis 17 years ago.

Lagarde and other IMF officials have stressed that their role is a supporting one, and the economic plan has flexibility to maintain social spending.

"As I have said before, the policy plan underpinning the IMF's financial assistance is owned and designed by the Argentine government, one aimed at strengthening the economy for the benefit of all Argentines," Lagarde said in a statement.

"I particularly welcomed the emphasis placed by President Macri's economic team on supporting the most vulnerable in society," she said, noting the "concrete commitments to preserve the current level of social spending and increased resources for social assistance programs."

Argentina, Latin America's third-largest economy, asked for IMF assistance to help the country face mounting inflation, budget deficits and a weakening currency.

She said the Macri government was set to release the details of the plan shortly, which includes "meaningful" economic targets, "ambitious" fiscal goals and "realistic inflation targets."

"These clear policy intentions will help bolster market confidence and address a range of long-standing vulnerabilities," Lagarde said. — AFP