Argentina widens coronavirus aid package to $12.9 billion, 2.9% of GDP – Metro US

Argentina widens coronavirus aid package to $12.9 billion, 2.9% of GDP

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s government said on Monday that it would widen an economic aid package to counter the impact of coronavirus to 850 billion pesos ($12.9 billion), equivalent to around 2.9% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The South American country, currently embroiled in tense negotiations with creditors to restructure its foreign debts, has been struggling to claw itself out of recession, which is expected to deepen this year due to the pandemic.

“We have decided we need to expand the aid package and make it easier (to access),” production minister Matias Kulfas said, adding the aim was to ensure that “after this pandemic the engine of production is as strong as possible.”

Argentina has previously laid out measures to support small business, workers and families, but not given a headline number for the size of the economic package. Neighbors like Chile and Peru have unveiled huge stimulus plans to combat the virus.

The country’s center-left Peronist President Alberto Fernandez has pledged to prioritize lives over economic growth. His government had already been facing the steep challenging of reviving an economy already in recession for two years.

Argentina’s government is also restructuring large swaths of its $323 billion debt burden, including $66.2 billion of foreign debt. It says that it cannot keep up with payments unless it can rev up the economy once more.

The grains producer has reported 2,941 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 136 fatalities, though a tough, nationwide quarantine appears to have helped slow the virus’ spread.

(GRAPHIC: Argentina coronavirus cases – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/bdwvkeglvmn/eikon.png)

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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