<img src =" https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/http%3A%2F%2Fcom.ft.imagepublish.upp-prod-us.s3 .amazonaws.com% 2F64e33476-ca61-11e9-af46-b09e8bfe60c0? fit = scale-down & source = next & width = 700 "Former Argentine President and current Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (R) and her former cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez thrill supporters during the reopening of a sports venue under the name  Favorite to win Argentinean presidency in October Alberto Fernandez and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner © AF
Fifteen months later, the giant rescue turned into a millstone around Mr Macri's neck. Voters angered by the ongoing recession delivered an insulting rebuke on August 11, delivering a major victory to their featherweight rival Alberto Fernandez in a primary vote. The contest is considered a credible barometer for the October elections and its outcome has panicked as it created a disaster for Mr Macri's chances.
After days of market chaos following the vote, Mr Macri's government bowed to the inevitable last week and asked creditors to pay more time to Argentina's $ 101 billion in external debt, including IMF money, as Buenos Aires is fighting to avoid the country's ninth sovereign – and the third this century.
The record-breaking, lifesaving rescue raises questions as to why the IMF, which oversaw 21 bailouts for Argentina, including one that ended up by default, allocated so much money to support a collapsing program. in a little over a year.
"This is another black eye for the IMF in Argentina," says Benjamin Gedan, who heads the Argentina project in downtown Wilson, Washington. "They were overwhelmed by the same euphoria as investors. ,, They believe the number two economy in South America is embracing the consensus in Washington. ”
Having already paid $ 44 billion from a rescue package in Buenos Aires, the fund now faces a difficult choice: whether to stick with the program and hand over 5.4 billion more . dollars later this month to the government of Mr Macri or cut your losses and wait for us to deal with the next president. The IMF said in a statement issued after officials visited Argentina last week that it was assessing the impact of the proposed debt measures but "will continue to stand with Argentina during these challenging times."
The decision for the future of the bailout will be taken without the person who plays the key role in winning the bailout: Christine Lagarde, who stepped down from the top IMF job to lead the European Central Bank.
Ms. Lagarde is not analogous about her leading role in Argentina's borrowing. "We were the only game in town," she told the Financial Times in July. "There was no one else at that time to invest in the rebuilding process that the government had decided to commit to, and given the size of the challenge, we had to get big."
Protest in Buenos Aires against government talks with the International Monetary Fund © Reuters
The past 70 years of Argentina's history have been redirected with regular economic crises, and Mr Macri's assumption of office in December 2015 was no different. His Peronist predecessor, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, was emptying government coffers, signing decrees to increase spending by an additional $ 27 billion in her final days in power. Inflation was close to 25%, foreign exchange reserves were dangerously low and generous subsidies for utilities and transport were draining the budget.
The new president seemed well prepared for the challenge. The multi-millionaire fraud of an Italian immigrant who made his fortune through lucrative government contracts, he projected an image of cool competence, sensible business and sober realism that came as a relief to investors after Ms. Fernandez's chaotic populism.
"We truly believe we have finally learned from our mistakes," Mr Macri told the Financial Times in September 2016 when asked about his economic program. "There is no other country in the world that is as high as Argentina."
Something that Mr Macri wanted to avoid, if it was at all possible to be forced to seek help from the IMF, a perennial bugger for Argentine leaders. .
Buenos Aires' troubled history with the fund spans six decades. The most famous was the economic crash of 2001, which ended with the largest outstanding debt in history, banking operations, widespread civil unrest, and the president fleeing a helicopter from the roof of the presidential palace.
Almost a generation later, the bitterness remains. A survey last year by the Wilson Center found that 56 percent of Argentines dislike the IMF, which is the worst ranking of any international organization. Mr. Gedan likens the organization to Superman's enemy: "In Argentina, the IMF is like Lex Luthor," he says. "Historically, whenever the IMF enters Argentina, it leaves brutal budget cuts and economic chaos behind."
Thus, Mr. Macri chose the gradual approach to remedy the economic mess left to him by Ms. Fernandez, hoping to avoid another cycle of IMF-imposed austerity and political crisis.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri with his old friend Donald Trump © Getty
"Macri's political team told him he could not begin his term with a major [austerity plan]," says a source close to the administration. "It would be a typical proper government that would eventually leave the Presidential Palace with a helicopter when it failed."
Mr Macri, who was also hampered by the lack of a majority in Congress, avoided major cuts to the public was spending, and they hoped that steady growth and restoration of access to international loans would dig the economy out of its hole.
For several years, the plan seems to be working. But big deficits needed a steady stream of foreign money to fund it. High interest rates have increased the value of the peso, which means more dollars needed to borrow the deficit. When the loss of market confidence triggered last year's peso, Mr Macri had to turn to the IMF.
Bureau of Change, Buenos Aires. Argentineans withdraw foreign currency deposits as economic crisis deepens © AFP
Claudio Lozer, who led the IMF's Western Hemisphere unit during the 2001 crisis in Argentina, says over-borrowing is a major problem. "They were too confident in their ability to continue borrowing significant amounts while adjusting slowly [the economy]," he says. "That was a mistake."
Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the IMF and now a professor of economics at Harvard University, agrees. "Argentina made a lot of mistakes," he says. "The basic principle that their program violates has been that when markets exceed, politics must leapfrog. They have not done this – they have tried a policy of gradualism.
However, despite his early missteps, Mr Macri guarantees a relatively fast loan from the IMF. Helping to smooth his path were his warm personal relationship with Donald Trump, the country's president with the largest share of votes on the IMF board.
"I have been friends with Mauricio for many years. "We knew each other very well," Mr. Trump told reporters when he visited Argentina in 2018. " I was actually doing business with his family. "Mr. Trump is referring to the purchase of a prime site in New York for $ 95 million in 1984 from Mr. Macri's father, Franco.
" caught Trump's ear, "says Hector Torres, a former senior IMF official now at the Center for International Management Innovation, a Canadian think tank." He made Trump believe he needed a hand, and he started [lobbying] through the Treasury on [US] before going to the IMF. "
" We must have talked to the Treasury, "the former says highly "The situation was so delicate that it required a swift response and the fund was so bureaucratic that it could not act quickly enough."
The initial rescue of the fund for Argentina, announced in June 2018. ., $ 50 billion, much more than expected, Christine Lagarde, then managing director of the IMF, said the money would "boost market confidence."
But just two months later, the markets lost confidence in the peso and Argentina returned to the fund again.
Major Disadvantage The first deal, according to former Macri officials and economists, was the IMF's insistence on the peso to float freely, leading to a new bout of sales as markets tested the currency.
The Villa 31 slum in Buenos Aires © AFP
"It was a chronicle of predictable death," says a former senior Argentina official. "The first agreement with the fund was inflationary and therefore led to a recession. Depreciation is forcing you to raise interest rates and this is cooling the economy. "
After weeks of negotiations, Ms Lagarde announced last September that the IMF would accumulate an additional $ 7 billion, bringing the Argentine rescue rate to a record $ 57 billion and allowing the money to be spent faster. was convinced that the revised plan would be a "tool" for restoring market confidence.
This time, the IMF allowed the Argentine authorities to intervene to a limited extent to protect the peso, but the restrictions on when and how far it could steps are too much for the head of the central bank Luis Caputo, who resigned.
"The fund made it incredibly wrong, both the first and second time," says a second former Macri administration official, referring to the decision to the exchange rate. "It is forgivable for the fund – they have to cover their bases and that is what they are doing elsewhere, but not for the government. The government rushed in and took whatever was offered to it. It was a colossal mistake. ”
The IMF declined to comment on Argentina outside its published statements, saying it was reviewing the program. Officials believe that the rescue solution went largely according to plan, apart from the inflation element. Buenos Aires inflation targeting failed, according to sources close to the fund, because it was not coordinated with a broader government strategy to keep control of prices and because the inflationary effects of the devaluation were worse than expected. Mr Macri's gradual approach to cost containment was a key issue. Argentine statistics agency Indec says annual inflation was 54.3% in July.
Although revised rescue in September calmed markets, it did not revive the economy. With elections approaching this year, interest rates of more than 70 percent stifle business, unemployment rises and inflation remains stubbornly high.
The grim economic picture has made it an easy target for opposition peronists since the Argentine presidential election campaign began. They drew the market-friendly Mr Macri as a candidate for several privileged, impoverished masses.
Argentina's new finance minister Hernán Lacunza announces a debt re-profile whereby foreign investors will be asked to agree to voluntarily delay R epayments © AFP
Прогнозите на социологическите проучвания преди основния 11 август, че г-н Макри се приближава до своя съперник г-н Фернандес, се оказаха катастрофално грешни. В този случай г-н Fernández затрудни президента с марж от 15 точки. На следващия ден фондовата борса в Буенос Айрес потъна с 37% и песото удари рекордно ниско ниво, тъй като инвеститорите се събудиха пред вероятността да се върне перонистът на власт.
Паниката още повече подкопа г-н Макри, като съживи нестабилността, която обеща. да прогоним. Това спомогна за задействане на обявяването за препрофилиране на дълга от новия финансов министър Ернан Лакунза, според което чуждестранните инвеститори ще бъдат помолени да се съгласят доброволно за забавяне на изплащанията. Standard & Poor's обозначиха този ход като „избирателно неизпълнение“ миналия четвъртък, класификацията, която той оттегли часове по-късно.
„Неизпълнението на дългове по аржентински дълг вече е по-вероятно, отколкото не“, каза Capital Economics преди обявяването. Той прогнозира, че притежателите на облигации вероятно ще загубят около половината от парите си при преструктуриране.
Г-н Фернандес, вероятният следващ президент, изпрати противоречиви сигнали за намеренията си към спасителната акция, заявявайки, че ще изплати заема от МВФ, но също така и остро критикува. фондът. „Тези, които са породили тази криза, правителството и МВФ са отговорни за прекратяването и преодоляването на социалната катастрофа, от която претърпява все по-голяма част от аржентинското общество“, казва той в изявление.
Аржентинският президент Fernando de la Rúa бяга от президентския дворец в Буенос Айрес с хеликоптер през 2001 г. © AFP
Даниел Маркс, бивш финансов секретар, видя политически мотив в забележките. „[Fernández] поставя основата за следващите преговори.“
Инвеститорите и бизнесмените биха искали да видят г-н Фернандес и г-н Макри да работят заедно, за да успокоят пазарите, да стабилизират икономиката и да намалят несигурността по време на болезнено дългия преход до следващия президентът е открит през декември. Но има малко признаци, че някой от двамата кандидати за президент е готов да го направи.
По ирония на съдбата експертите са съгласни, че ако г-н Макри от самото начало е потърсил помощ от МВФ, той щеше да се справи по-добре.
„Ако Макри отиде в МВФ в началото, вероятно щеше да работи“, казва Виктор Булмър-Томас, сътрудник в Чатъм Хаус в Лондон. „Проблемът е, че историята е толкова ужасна, че правителствата забавят да отидат до МВФ, докато не стане почти късно. В резултат на това фондът е изправен пред невъзможна ситуация. След това той предписва обичайните лекарства и те не действат. ”
Допълнително докладване от Джеймс Полити във Вашингтон