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Insolvencies

Opinion: Argentina loses out

Talks between Buenos Aires and its holdout creditors have collapsed. The Argentines lost hands down, says DW's Uta Thofern.

The blame game is now well underway and spin doctors are spinning rapidly.

Argentina's charismatic economy minister, Axel Kicillof, is right when he says his country's default isn't a bankruptcy but a technical insolvency. Argentina could have paid, but it chose not to.

It is debatable whether this is a serious argument or merely a convenient excuse. Of course the "vulture funds" wanted to maximize their profits. Morally dubious? Perhaps. But they had the law on their side.

The fact is, economists thought a compromise was possible and markets were even optimistic to the last. But the talks collapsed and Argentina is staring into the abyss - again.

A default will not spark another global financial crisis. The country is still too economically isolated for that to happen.

At the moment, the government in Buenos Aires seems more worried about the blame game than any economic consequences.

President Cristina Kirchner and her team took the moral high ground from the start, correctly assuming they would win widespread popular backing by selling the talks as a David-vs-Goliath confrontation.

Kirchner had very little to lose with her uncompromising approach, one that brought with it some handsome returns. It won her the backing of her own citizens, garnered solidarity from neighboring countries and, last but not least, provided a welcome distraction from the failings of her own economic policies.

She will remain far removed from the consequences of her actions. Others will not be so lucky.

Once again the Argentines have to shelve their aspirations for a better future. Not only because their country is already mired in economic crisis, but also because the toxic dispute has inflicted lasting damage on its investment climate.

That climate was already in a fragile state after Buenos Aires nationalized oil giant Repsol in 2012 and was forced into arduous damage limitation.

Argentina has the potential to be a rich country, but to realize its ambitions it needs money for infrastructure and access to international markets. And it needs trust.

But trust cannot grow when the rule of law is not guaranteed and investors are discredited whenever the government feels like it.

Argentina's moralizing has sparked a debate about international insolvencies, but that will not help the country's citizens. Neither will the economy minister's comment after the talks collapsed.

"Tomorrow will be just another day and the world will keep on spinning," he said.