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Argentina’s new economy chief meets top finance officials in Washington

Argentina’s new economy minister held a series of high-level finance meetings in Washington on Monday, with international lenders and U.S. officials, at a time of escalating financial pressure in the crisis-prone South American country.

Argentina’s economy suffers galloping inflation and a widening fiscal deficit, in addition to a battered peso currency that last week weakened to record lows against the U.S. dollar, as individuals and businesses hold on to scarce greenbacks.

Economy Minister Silvina Batakis met Monday with the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Argentina has an outstanding $44 billion debt deal, a meeting that both sides later described as productive in posts on Twitter.

In her post, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva praised Batakis’ “initial efforts” at strengthening Argentina’s fiscal sustainability, comments likely seen as a vote of confidence during the minister’s first month on the job.

Batakis took over after her predecessor abruptly resigned, forcing President Alberto Fernandez to act quickly in a bid to calm already anxious markets.

In a meeting with senior World Bank officials also on Monday, a new $200 million loan for small and medium Argentine businesses was announced, according to a World Bank statement.

The World Bank’s operations manager, Axel van Trotsenburg, said in the statement that the bank has provided record financing to the country, including $2.1 billion last year while it expects to provide a similar amount in 2022 and 2023.

In its own statement, Argentina’s economy ministry praised IMF officials for showing an interest in receiving “first-hand” information on the country’s economics, as well as its “economic and social challenges.”

Batakis kicked off her one-day Washington tour with meetings at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, including with David Lipton, a top aid to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The ministry noted that the officials “attentively listened” to Batakis’ presentation.