A man walks past the International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo at its headquarters in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

On the eve of an informal International Monetary Fund Executive Board meeting on Argentina, the IMF has signaled that Buenos Aires remains in the driver’s seat with regard to its economy policy as talks continue over a possible loan.

Argentina is currently in the process of negotiating the terms of a stand-by arrangement with the IMF after currency volatility last week prompted concerns in the market and the Casa Rosada.

At a press conference in Washington, IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice made clear that Buenos Aires owned its economic decisions. “The IMF’s goal, I want to make it very clear, we are here to support the efforts of the Argentine government and people in whatever they determine to be most useful to strengthening the Argentine economy, protecting living standards, protecting the most vulnerable.”

Yesterday Macri said that the IMF would not be imposing any specific policies on Argentina but that instead it would be seeking assurances from Buenos Aires that any funds will be repaid by Argentina. “When we reduce the deficit all we are doing is giving them guarantees that we are going to be able to repay the money that they are going to lend us. Whoever lends us money wants to know how we’re going to pay it back, if today you’re spending more than what you have. So we’re going to fix that and we are going to be able to play.

“We are going to discuss with them what numbers we are comfortable with in terms of reducing the deficit, after that how we reduce the deficit is up to us. It’s up to the Argentine leadership. They’re not going to come and tell us to cut this and or that.”

Perhaps aware of the negative reaction to the IMF that has emerged in sectors of the opposition and unions, Rice made it abundantly clear that Argentine priorities would be at the heart of any deal. “We fully agree with what President Macri said yesterday, which is that this is going to be about Argentina’s priorities. And this is a program owned fully by Argentina and the IMF is in the role of supporting these priorities, and that will be the tenor of the discussion.”

Rice would not be drawn on the details of the amount or timelines for any arrangement, noting that they are still part of the talks.

The fiscal deficit, one of Macri’s obsessions, featured prominently during yesterday’s press conference – during which he declared the end of the most recent foreign exchange volatility but hinted at more dark clouds in the future. “We also have to consider what happened and understand the central problem that Argentines need to solve, even if we have made some small progress, which is to reduce the fiscal deficit.”

For the president the deficit “makes us vulnerable, because we need the world to lend us money to continue to finance it.”

As such, Macri promised to “accelerate” the reduction of the deficit – as Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujvone already has – and spoke of calling all on the opposition to come to a grand national agreement on the terms of the reduction.