BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Facing growing investor fears of a possible default or devaluation, President Fernando De la Rua worked Wednesday to complete a debt restructuring package some on Wall Street worry will do little to ease Argentina's economic crisis.
The president also met with provincial governors over efforts to balance the national budget, seeking a new tax revenue sharing plan that would help reduce public spending as the cash-strapped government struggles under the burden of $132 billion in debt.
Shares on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange bobbed slightly higher in afternoon trading as investors awaited a series of measures, including the governor's tax agreement and a separate recovery package that could include a plan to swap billions of dollars in Argentine debt. The Merval Index was up 1.4 percent to 226.70.
Debt payments of $1.1 billion will be due in November and another $774 million in December, the government has said.
After repeated international bailout packages, Argentina continues to falter despite seven government attempts to turn the corner on the debt crisis.
Investors worry that Argentina's financial troubles could spill over into other Latin American economies at a time when emerging markets across the globe are struggling in the aftermath of the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Struggling to pay off billions of dollars in yearly debt-servicing payments, De la Rua and Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo are seeking to restructure the country's debt load by offering greater payment guarantees to creditors in exchange for the lower interest rates.
It isn't clear if foreign lenders would be willing to accept such a move, which Cavallo's team has characterized as a "voluntary" swap with its bondholders.
Credit agencies are warning the deal might be considered a default and Argentine markets slumped on Monday after Cavallo said a deal in the works would include foreign credits.
Such a debt swap would probably require some backing from the international financial community, particularly the United States.
The Bush administration in August tepidly supported an $8 billion loan for Argentina from the International Monetary Fund in August.
De la Rua and Cavallo "are apparently developing their own initiative, and what I've seen of it sounds good to me," O'Neill said.
For the second time in more than a month, Standard & Poor's lowered Argentina's creditworthiness late Tuesday amid concerns the government will be unable to come up with enough money to pay its creditors on time.
With fears of a possible debt default gaining momentum in recent days, Argentine bonds have tumbled to their lowest levels in six years on some markets.
A 40-month recession has cut into Argentina's ability to generate badly needed revenue from taxes. In September, tax receipts slumped 14 percent and many analysts are expecting it to continue to slide between 8 and 10 percent in October.