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Argentina’s new government gets to grips with the economy – The Economist

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IT IS A MONTH now since Alberto Fernández took over from Mauricio Macri as Argentina’s president and, contrary to some forecasts, the sky over the Pampas has not yet fallen in. Having inherited a dire economic situation, including what Mr Fernández, a Peronist, called a “virtual default” on the country’s debts, his government has begun by doing more or less what he said it would. Adopting almost the opposite approach to its predecessor, it has laid out a tough fiscal policy and a loose monetary policy and has yet to say much about how it will handle the debt. Exchange and price controls, and the southern summer lull, have combined to buy the new team time. But will they use it wisely?

It was trying to buy time to reform a sick economy that got Mr Macri into trouble. A free-market conservative, he ran up debt to finance a gradual fiscal adjustment until investors took fright, prompting a run on the peso and forcing the government into the arms of the IMF. The economy slumped into recession, inflation surged to 54% last year and Mr Macri lost the presidential election. The new team’s first objective, according to Martin Guzmán, the economy minister, is “to halt the fall”.

They have swiftly pushed through an emergency package of mainly fiscal measures. These include tax increases on farm exports and travel abroad, and a six-month freeze of many prices, salaries and pensions. The impact on poorer Argentines has been softened with extra payments to them. According to Fundación Capital, a consultancy in Buenos Aires, the measures add up to a fiscal squeeze of around 1.5% of GDP. If fully implemented, they would balance the books before debt payments this year.

This has been offset by an opaque monetary policy. The central bank has said its intention is to maintain positive real interest rates and avoid “excessive” lending to the government. In practice the bank is driving interest rates towards negative territory and is “the printing press of the government”, as an economist who worked for a previous Peronist administration puts it. Officials think this monetary expansion will revive consumption and thus the economy. They are relying on price controls to blunt its inflationary impact. Critics reckon it will simply widen the gap between the official exchange rate of 60 pesos to the dollar and the free-market rate (at 77 this week). This will push up inflation.

Both Mr Fernández and his officials insist that Argentina wants to pay its debts (unlike in 2001, when Peronists cheered default) but that it needs more time to do so. That is broadly accepted by its creditors. An IMF mission is expected to visit Buenos Aires in the next few weeks. Mr Guzmán, a scholar of debt crises with no financial-market or government experience, says he wants a deal with the holders of $100bn of bonds by the end of March.

Time is of the essence. If the government moves quickly, the bonds will still be in the hands of institutional investors rather than litigious vulture funds, points out Héctor Torres, who was Argentina’s director on the IMF’s board. With the IMF itself, the government will probably seek a new standby agreement to stretch out the $43bn it is due to repay in 2022-23. It has eschewed drawing down $11bn outstanding from Mr Macri’s IMF loan. That is a mistake, argues Mr Torres, since the money might make it easier to reach a deal with the bondholders. It would be throwing good money after bad, reckons the new government team.

“We are navigating through a narrow passage,” according to Mr Guzmán. Missing is a chart for the other side of the corridor. Unless they are strictly temporary, the controls will create big distortions of the kind that built up under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful vice-president, who held the top job from 2007 to 2015. The government has yet to link its emergency measures to a macroeconomic plan. That may be because Mr Fernández, a pragmatic moderate, must negotiate not just with creditors but also with his vice-president, a leftist populist.

His stance is thus ambiguous. On the one hand, he has rightly stressed that Argentina needs to boost its exports, and he has called for a national consensus on a long-term plan. On the other, in a reference to the IMF, he has lashed out at “recipes that have always failed”. In fact, they have always failed only in Argentina, which has long wanted to play by its own rules. “The world, unfortunately, is real,” as the writer Jorge Luis Borges put it. It is Mr Fernández’s task to persuade Argentines of that.

This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition under the headline “Argentina’s new government gets to grips with the economy”

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Fonds de solidarité FTQ is Solid and Committed to Supporting the Economy and Jobs – Canada NewsWire

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“It’s up to us to build the future we believe in
and to invest in a better society.”
– Gaétan Morin

Highlights as at May 31, 2020:

  • $1.4 billion invested in Québec economy (40% more than projected);
  • Share value at $44.24 (down $1.96 from December 31, 2019, and up $0.34 over July 5, 2019);
  • Annual return of 0.8%;
  • Six-month return of -4.2%;
  • Comprehensive annual income of $230 million (profit);
  • Net assets of $13.8 billion;
  • $3 billion in redemption requests;
  • 707,935 shareholders-savers.

MONTRÉAL, Sept. 19, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – At the Annual General Meeting of Fonds de solidarité FTQ shareholders, management reported on the year ended May 31, 2020. The AGM was held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health directives aimed at limiting its spread.

“The Fonds’ last financial year was marked by two diametrically opposed periods. During the first nine months, the economy was in full swing and Québec continued to build on the momentum of recent years. This boom then came to a screeching halt when COVID-19 hit. But this is not the first time the Fonds has had to deal with a crisis. Throughout the year, before and after the start of the pandemic, the Fonds has shown that it plays a key role in the Québec economy,” said Fonds Chairman Claude Séguin at the start of the AGM.

“Overnight, the economy came to a stop, weakening many companies and their workers. We quickly adjusted to meet the needs of our savers and to support our partner companies,” said Gaétan Morin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fonds.

“These are tough times, to say the least. But Québec has many strengths to help it meet the challenges that lie ahead. It’s up to us to build the future we believe in and to invest in a better society. The Fonds will be there to help Québec realize its dreams of an ever more prosperous, greener society. With assets of nearly $13.8 billion as of May 31, the Fonds is solid and committed to supporting the economy and jobs,” added Mr. Morin.

Record investments

Taking into account the additional financing provided to companies in response to the pandemic, the Fonds invested a total of $1.4 billion in the Québec economy during the fiscal year ended May 31, 2020, or 40% more than originally planned.

The Fonds also acted quickly to ensure that its partner companies had the financial leeway they needed to get through the crisis and save jobs. More than 1,300 of them have taken advantage of the offer to defer their loan payment for six months.

Share issues and redemptions

During the year, the Fonds issued $961 million in Class A shares, a new record. The organization welcomed more than 46,000 new shareholders, of which 61% are under age 40 and 18% under age 25. Automatic saving through payroll deduction or automatic bank withdrawals accounted for 79% of inflows ($759 million).

During the same period, the Fonds received $3 billion in redemption requests. Thanks to its solid financial position and prudent liquidity management, the Fonds can meet the needs of its shareholders in difficult times. The decrease in assets under management in the second half of the year is explained primarily by the sharp increase in redemption requests.

“We would like to express our gratitude to all the people who have placed their trust in the Fonds over the years. Thanks to their support, we’ve been able to deliver on our mission, and we’re proud to give them back their savings along with the gains they’ve realized over the years,” said Gaétan Morin.

The 2020 Operations and Sustainability Report is available on the Fonds’ website here.

About the Fonds de solidarité FTQ

The Fonds de solidarité FTQ is a capital development fund that channels the savings of Quebecers into investments. With net assets of $13.8 billion as at May 31, 2020, the Fonds has helped create and protect 221,267 jobs. The Fonds has 3,329 partner companies and 707,935 shareholders-savers.

SOURCE Fonds de solidarité FTQ

For further information: For media representatives only: Patrick McQuilken, Senior Advisor, Media Relations and Communications, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Mobile: 514 703-5587, Email: [email protected]

Related Links

www.fondsftq.com

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Hungary extends loan moratorium as economy struggles to recover from pandemic – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will extend a moratorium on loan repayments for some households and companies until the middle of 2021, as its finance minister warned the economy could struggle to grow next year unless a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban introduced the moratorium for all companies and private borrowers in March as one of his government’s key measures to help reduce the economic fallout from the pandemic. It was due to expire at the end of the year.

In a video posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Orban said the moratorium would be extended by six months for families with children, the retired, unemployed and those in public works programmes.

The extension until the middle of 2021 will also apply to companies that have seen revenues drop by at least 25%.

Orban also said loan contracts for all households and companies agreed before the pandemic could not be terminated for six months.

The moves come as the government prepares to announce more steps to try to revive growth, after the economy plunged more than expected in the second quarter and prospects for a recovery next year have worsened.

The weak economic outlook could represent the biggest threat to nationalist Orban’s decade-long rule as he prepares to face parliamentary elections in the first half of 2022.

Finance minister Mihaly Varga said in an interview published earlier on Saturday that if a coronavirus vaccine was not available by the middle of 2021 the economy might struggle to grow next year, based on a pessimistic scenario.

Under an optimistic scenario, the economy could grow by 4-5% if a vaccine was available in the second quarter, he told newspaper Magyar Nemzet.

A third scenario was for a protracted recovery with 3%-4% growth, also conditional on a vaccine being available, he added.

Hungary’s economy is expected to shrink by 5%-6% this year.

Varga said the government was working on new stimulus measures that could include targeted tax cuts for crisis-hit sectors.

After a spike in new cases in recent weeks, Hungary reported 809 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 16,920, with 675 deaths.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by David Clarke and Mark Potter)

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Hungary extends loan moratorium as economy struggles to recover from pandemic – The Guardian

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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will extend a moratorium on loan repayments for some households and companies until the middle of 2021, as its finance minister warned the economy could struggle to grow next year unless a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban introduced the moratorium for all companies and private borrowers in March as one of his government’s key measures to help reduce the economic fallout from the pandemic. It was due to expire at the end of the year.

In a video posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Orban said the moratorium would be extended by six months for families with children, the retired, unemployed and those in public works programmes.

The extension until the middle of 2021 will also apply to companies that have seen revenues drop by at least 25%.

Orban also said loan contracts for all households and companies agreed before the pandemic could not be terminated for six months.

The moves come as the government prepares to announce more steps to try to revive growth, after the economy plunged more than expected in the second quarter and prospects for a recovery next year have worsened.

The weak economic outlook could represent the biggest threat to nationalist Orban’s decade-long rule as he prepares to face parliamentary elections in the first half of 2022.

Finance minister Mihaly Varga said in an interview published earlier on Saturday that if a coronavirus vaccine was not available by the middle of 2021 the economy might struggle to grow next year, based on a pessimistic scenario.

Under an optimistic scenario, the economy could grow by 4-5% if a vaccine was available in the second quarter, he told newspaper Magyar Nemzet.

A third scenario was for a protracted recovery with 3%-4% growth, also conditional on a vaccine being available, he added.

Hungary’s economy is expected to shrink by 5%-6% this year.

Varga said the government was working on new stimulus measures that could include targeted tax cuts for crisis-hit sectors.

After a spike in new cases in recent weeks, Hungary reported 809 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 16,920, with 675 deaths.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by David Clarke and Mark Potter)

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