Lagarde: Argentina crisis would have been much worse without IMF

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The crisis hammering Argentina would have been much worse had the International Monetary Fund not stepped in with a massive rescue program, outgoing IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday.

“I look at Argentina when it came knocking on the door and it was in a tough place, and we were the only game in town,” Lagarde told AFP in an interview.

But she said she regretted that the record $57 billion loan from the Washington-based crisis lender was not able to bring down the country’s soaring inflation rate.

The fund has a responsibility to help a member country and even if “there was a small percentage of chance that it would succeed, our job is to do it. And that’s what we did.”

Some critics have chastised the IMF, and Lagarde, for once again providing huge amounts of financing for Buenos Aires, only to see the familiar pattern experienced in prior crises of failed or delayed reforms and soaring inflation.

Lagarde acknowledged that Argentina is “clearly in a difficult situation at the moment,” but said the IMF program managed to stabilize the situation for a time, even though inflation remained a “sore point.”

“What would have happened had we not been there, had we done nothing,” she said, “I think it would have been a lot worse. There’s no question in my mind about that.”

The government has received about $44 billion so far of the three-year loan approved in June 2018 but soaring inflation and rising poverty stirred outrage at the government’s belt-tightening measures.