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Argentina

Argentina

Population 45.4 million
GDP per capita 8,572 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2019 2020 2021 (e) 2022 (f)
GDP growth (%) -2.1 -9.9 9.0 2.5
Inflation (yearly average, %) 53.5 42.0 48.0 50.0
Budget balance (% GDP) -3.8 -8.5 -4.0 -4.5
Current account balance (% GDP) -0.9 0.8 1.0 0.8
Public debt (% GDP) 93.8 108.7 87.6 93.0

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Large economy and domestic market
  • Major agricultural player (notably soya, wheat and corn)
  • Large shale oil & gas and gold reserves
  • Education level higher than the regional average
  • GDP per capita above the region´s average

WEAKNESSES

  • Weak fiscal accounts
  • Capital controls, due to the lack of confidence in the Argentinian Peso and limited foreign exchange reserves
  • Dependence on agricultural commodity prices and weather conditions
  • Sticky and skyrocketing inflation
  • Bottlenecks in infrastructure

RISK ASSESSMENT

GDP growth will significantly weaken in 2022

GDP growth should sharply decelerate this year, as the gains related to the activity reopening fade. Household consumption (67% of GDP) is likely to register a shy rise, as the job market gradually recovers. Nonetheless, the high inflation should rise further due to adjustments in repressed prices, the ongoing monetary financing of the fiscal deficit, and as central bank increases the pace of currency depreciation. Meanwhile, exports (21% of GDP) will be supported by the tailwind of still high agriculture and mineral commodity prices that favor Argentina´s foreign sales. Nonetheless, the drought and the strong shock in the global agricultural input markets will reduce producer margins. In addition, private investment should register a poor performance, as strong capital controls and the lack of a clear economic policy are relevant hindrances. Finally, public investments should remain subdued due to fiscal constraints.

 

Slight current account surplus and enduring fiscal deficit

The current account remained in surplus in 2021, notably supported by a still strong trade surplus, although imports’ growth rate (thanks to the reopening of the economy and fears of exchange rate depreciation) surpassed the rise in exports. Moreover, the primary income deficit narrowed in the period, driven by lower interest payments due to the Q3 2020 external debt restructuring. Conversely, the services deficit widened underpinned by higher freight costs and lower tourism revenues. In fact, the country only reopened its frontiers to foreign tourism in November 2021. Regarding the financing side of the balance of payments, FDI remained at low level as economic and political uncertainties inhibited a brighter rise. In addition, although foreign currency reserves in January 2022 stood at USD 38.8 billion, net reserves (deducting the central bank’s foreign borrowing from BIS, China and dollar reserve requirements) were estimated at only USD 3.2 billion (ensuring an import coverage of only one month). The higher USD inflows related to strong commodity export revenues and part of the USD 4.3 billion received from the IMF in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allowed the country to comply with its foreign debt payments and postpone the restructuring of its USD 44 billion debt with the IMF (part of the 2018 USD 57 billion Stand-By Agreement). In January 2022, the country reached a tentative deal with the IMF to secure a new Stand-By Arrangement. Although more work is still needed to reach a staff-level agreement, this came at key moment, since Argentina faces deadlines for USD 3.9 billion in debt repayments to the IMF in Q1 2022. The new USD 44.5 billion program would match debt payments ahead and payments done along 2021 (leaving estimated USD 5 billion to improve international reserves).

 
On the fiscal side, the budget deficit narrowed in 2021, driven by higher tax collection, lower real wages and pensions, and the registration of the SDRs as non-tax revenues. In September 2021, a presidential decree established an accounting manoeuvre allowing the government to use the SDR both to reduce the fiscal deficit and to use the equivalent dollars to pay the IMF. The public account shortfall was mostly financed by the central bank. In 2022, the budget deficit should increase as the SDR one-off effect fades (estimated at 1% of GDP) and will not be fully compensated by the reduction in COVID-19 related expenditures. Nonetheless, an IMF agreement would require some public account consolidation and lower monetary financing of the fiscal deficit, with possible positive implication for the deficit.

 

The social consequences of the long-lasting crisis weakened the ruling coalition position in the Congress

The prolongation of the pandemic, the setbacks in the reopening process and their economic consequences have taken a toll on President Alberto Fernández’s - of the Peronist Frente de Todos (FDT) coalition - popularity. In front of the economic and social side effects of the crisis, the divergences between the moderate stance of the government and the more hardliner and interventionist orientation linked to Vice-President Cristina Kirchner have gained momentum. The rulers’ declining political capital was evidenced by the result of the 14 November 2021 legislative elections, when almost half of the Lower House (127 seats) and a third of the Senate (24 seats) were renewed. On this occasion, the FDT lost its majority in the Senate, moving to 35 seats (from the previous 42), while the opposition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), a centre-right coalition, will have 31 senators (adding 6 new seats) out of 72 seats. In the Lower House, the government kept its first minority position with 118 deputies out of a total of 257 seats (albeit losing 2 seats), holding only two more seats than the JxC. Overall, the new Congress and the internal division within the ruling coalition increase the risk of a legislative gridlock. Moreover, the debt renegotiation with the IMF requires the Congress approval. This can be challenging, taking into account the hard-line stance of the FDT and its historically frictional relationship with this organisation. 

 

Last updated: February 2022

Payment

The most common payment instruments in local commercial transactions are:

  • cash (for low-value retail transactions);
  • bank transfers;
  • cheques (ordinary cheques, deferred payment cheques or other types).

In case of default, these cheques represent an executable legal document that facilitates a fast track legal proceeding.
For international commercial transactions, the most common payment instrument is Bank transfer via SWIFT. Since December 2019, the new government has implemented restrictions on foreign exchange and fund transfers from Argentina. Payments to related companies abroad are not allowed.

 

Debt Collection

Amicable phase

Out-of-court settlement negotiations are focused on the payment of the principal, plus any contractual default interest that may be added. Argentine regulations provide alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, which is mandatory prior to commencement of any judicial process. At this stage, it is advised to obtain a notarised acknowledgement of debt signed by the debtor, or notarized payment plan agreement signed by both parties. Under amicable negotiation, fees payable only apply to recoveries obtained.

 

Legal proceedings

Argentina is a federal republic with 24 independent judicial systems and national judicial system. The highest court in the country is the National Supreme Court.

Regarding debtors abroad, Argentine courts only have jurisdiction when debtors have assets in Argentina (in which case insolvency proceedings will only involve such assets) or when their principal place of business is in Argentina.

The Argentine Civil and Commercial Code classifies proceedings into two types: ordinary proceedings (juicio ordinario) and executory or fast track proceedings (juicio ejecutivo). Ordinary proceedings usually last between one and four years. If applicable, an appeal may be filed for the Court of Appeals to hear the case.

Executory processes are simplified and prompt proceedings that mainly consist of claimants’ request for the execution of debtors’ assets to obtain payment of a debt. They apply when creditor has documents known as enforceable instruments (titulos ejecutivos), such as public instruments, private instruments signed by the concerned party (debtor or guarantor) and legally acknowledged, bills of exchange, checks or credit invoices. Contrary to ordinary proceedings, it is not necessary to provide proof of the debt. The judgment is delivered between approximately six months and two years.

Costs include a court tax (3% of the amount in dispute to be paid by claimants upon commencing proceedings), and lawyers’ fees. The prevailing party is entitled to recover its costs, including attorneys’ fees (subject to court approval).

All documents (original or notarised copies) submitted to the court must be (i) apostilled (for member countries of the 1961 Hague convention, which includes Argentina), and (ii) authenticated by the Argentine consulate in the issuing country. All non-Spanish documents must be translated by a certified translator registered in Argentina.

Enforcement of a Legal Decision

For local judgments, final decisions are initially considered enforceable. However, if a decision has been appealed, it can be partially enforceable in relation to the part of the judgment that is final. In principle, any of the debtor’s assets can be seized (including but not limited to property, trademarks, and accounts receivable from third parties and shares).

Insolvency Proceedings

There are three insolvency proceedings:

 

Out-of court reorganization

Acuerdo preventivo extrajudicial (APE) is a proceeding in which the debtor and a majority of unsecured creditors enter into a restructuring agreement. This

agreement must be submitted by the debtor to an Argentine court for it to become enforceable. In practice, out-of-court agreements provide a series of conditions that must be complied with, including a minimum threshold of consenting creditors.

 

Reorganization

Concurso preventivo is a reorganisation proceeding that can be initiated voluntarily by an individual or entity, who must submit proof of their inability to pay their debts. Debtors must file a petition to the court requesting relief under bankruptcy law. The court will appoint a trustee. All creditors must file evidence of their proof of claim with the trustee (verificación de créditos). Debtors must submit a proposal for reorganization and must obtain creditors’ approval during an “exclusive period” of 90 days, with the possibility of an extension. If the proposal is approved by the majority, the judge reviews the terms of the plan prior to approving it. Upon homologation by the court, the reorganization plan becomes effective to all unsecured creditors (even those who have not agreed to it). A special payment offer can only be proposed and approved for secured creditors. If the proposal is not approved by the required majority (51%), debtor bankruptcy may follow. The process generally takes between one and two years, depending on the volume and nature of debt being renegotiated and the size of the debtor.

 

Bankruptcy

Quiebra is initiated when a reorganization proceeding fails, either voluntarily (by the debtor) or involuntarily (by the debtor’s creditors’ request). The petitioner must show that the company is insolvent or that it has entered into a “suspension of payments” status. In case of an involuntary bankruptcy, after the petition has been filed with the relevant court and all necessary evidence is presented, the court will summon the debtor to provide an explanation of the reasons why payments of the obligations in favour of the petitioning creditor have not been made and to prove that the debtor is solvent. If the debtor is unable to do so, the court will declare the debtor bankrupt. Unlike reorganization, bankrupt debtors lose control of the administration of their assets. A trustee is appointed in order to preserve and administer the debtor’s property. As a result, all payments to creditors and debtor must be made through court. All claims and proceedings against the debtor are automatically stayed as from the date of the order that determines debtor’s bankruptcy. All creditors must submit their proof of claims for payment. Once the assets available and the amounts owned to each creditor are determined, the trustee liquidates the assets and proceeds with the distribution of repayment to creditors.

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