One eve of vote, Argentina’s Massa announces $500 million in new loans

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina will sign loans worth $500 million with international lenders next week, Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced on Saturday, the day before a primary election in which he is running for president to lead the embattled ruling coalition.

In a ministry statement laying out economic policies to be formally rolled out next week, Massa also pledged to propose a “zero deficit” government budget for next year that would not overspend.

Lawmakers, however, are not scheduled to take up the 2024 budget until September.

Voters head to the polls on Sunday for the obligatory nationwide vote in which Massa’s center-left Peronist coalition hopes to hang on to power despite widespread anger over a prolonged economic crisis marked by triple-digit inflation and the steady erosion of the local peso currency.

The $500 million in loans will be signed with the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, according to the statement, which will boost the central bank’s critically-low foreign reserves.

The ministry also said it will announce tax benefits allowing businesses to use non-declared funds for imports, and a call for bids for a major natural gas pipeline project.

Argentine traders are keeping a close eye on Sunday’s election, which could point to the likely outcome of the general election in October.

(Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Sandra Maler)