In September, Argentine president Mauricio Macri accepted the 2018 Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award. In attendance were many of world’s neoliberal power players and policy makers, among them International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Facing the crowd, Macri gleefully admitted that “with Christine, I have to confess we started a great relationship some months ago,” referring to a series of loan agreements with the IMF amounting to $57.1 billion dollars. “I expect that this is going to work very well, and we will end up with the whole country crushing on Christine,” he continued.
This dynamic of chasing an improved image with the world’s big banks and the dominant economies in the West is emblematic of Macri’s priority to secure a relationship with the IMF and improve the country’s image with global financial institutions. But it comes at a devastating cost for the majority of the population who will suffer from neoliberal policy prescriptions of structural adjustment and slashed social spending, as well as the resulting growing unemployment and poverty.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s debt to the IMF continues to climb.
In June, Macri and the IMF agreed on a $50 billion loan. In September, the amount increased to an unprecedented $57.1 billion over three years. During an announcement from the presidential office in August regarding recent agreements with the IMF, Macri told the people of Argentina that this “decision will put an end to any uncertainty that has come about regarding our image on an international level.” In other words, seeking the approval of the world’s international banks and global power players (the U.S. included) is worth the conditions of austerity, the havoc wreaked on the lives of Argentina’s poor, working and middle classes, and the limitations that it will put on future generations of Argentina’s leadership (a limitation that we have seen most recently in Mexico as President López Obrador pushes back against decades of neoliberal policies and conditions agreed to by his predecessors).
In order to afford the repayment plan, the 2019 budget eviscerates social spending, slashing it by 35 percent while increasing debt payments by 50 percent.
Christine Lagarde recently defended the evisceration of social welfare, citing a current program in its place that allocates $6 per person among the 13 million poor in Argentina for the last six months of 2018. This is hardly enough for the country’s 3,965,840 unemployed (8.9 percent of the population) and 12,167,610 residents living below the poverty line (27.3 percent of the population), based on numbers that have steadily increased since 2016 according to the IMF’s own measure and the National Institute of Statistics of the Republic of Argentina’s latest report.