Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Argentina’s Eternal Debt Problem

Argentina has emerged from nearly 15 years of the most litigious sovereign default in modern times, enabling the country to reenter the global financial system and build a more stable and prosperous future. It is an opportunity that Argentines must be careful not to squander.

CAMBRIDGE – Argentina recently emerged from nearly 15 years of the most litigious sovereign default in modern times, if not ever. Now it has the opportunity to reenter the global financial system and build a more stable and prosperous future. It is a chance that the country must be careful not to squander.

Argentina’s long absence from international capital markets began in December 2001, when a deep economic crisis brought about the end of the decade-old Convertibility Plan (which fixed the Argentine peso to the US dollar) and ushered in what turned out to be a year-long banking holiday known as the Corralito.

By 2005, a resolution to the debt crisis appeared to be at hand. But a number of factors complicated negotiations. For one thing, the debts were enormous, amounting to over $100 billion (including accrued interest payments); indeed, Argentina’s was the largest external default on record until Greece’s recent restructuring. For another, the debt was highly complex, involving 152 types of bonds, six currencies, and eight jurisdictions.

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