Thursday, October 23, 2008
The credit crisis could be about to claim its biggest victim so far. It started with subprime borrowers, moved on to banks and has now progressed on to whole countries. Iceland has already virtually thrown in the towel, and now Argentina has returned to the verge of bankruptcy.
In fact, things have now got so bad that the state has decided to take over $29bn of the country’s privately managed pension funds to get its hands on some cash. This is being presented as an emergency move to meet financing costs that have soared as commodity prices have tumbled.
In a breathtaking piece of bravado, President Cristina Kirchner said the proposal would “protect” retirees from the global financial crisis, according to Bloomberg, while denying she was trying to “grab the cash” to pay off debt or to finance new programmes or projects. Pull the other one. The last time Argentina sought to tap into workers’ savings was just before that 2001 default.
For now, the funds being targeted are ‘just’ retirement accounts, but the entire $97bn pool of private pensions contains a lot of juicy and much-needed hard currency. Understandably, this hasn’t gone down at all well in the money markets. “It’s the final of many nails in the coffin from an institutional investor perspective,” said Bill Rudman at WestLB Mellon Asset Management. “Argentina is disappearing into irrelevance”.
It’s all a classic sign that the de-coupling concept – whereby some areas of the planet remain unaffected by the woes of the rest of the world – is as big a load of junk as all those Argentine bonds. At least the country’s track record means it’s been shut out of international capital markets, so that even the most gullible lenders should have avoided loading up on its dodgy debt.
This article was posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 9:28 am