Argentina offers no-interest loans to boost tourism


BUENOS AIRES – President Cristina Fernandez on Thursday unveiled a plan of no-interest loans to boost domestic tourism, the latest part of a stimulus package to help Argentina weather the global economic downturn.

A week earlier the government launched a 13.2 billion pesos ($3.87 billion) program offering low-cost loans to consumers, farmers and exporters as South America’s No.2 economy slows.

Addressing business and political leaders, Fernandez said the government would offer 300 million pesos in interest-free loans to tourist businesses and Argentine travelers. The loan period would extend from three to six months, she said.

“The important thing is to know there are measures that will help all Argentines confront the storm clouds that are coming,” she said.

Argentina’s tourism has boomed in recent years, but is expected to be hit by the economic slowdown.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the financing for the credit program was part of the previously announced stimulus package.

Last week, Fernandez cut export taxes on wheat and corn — both leading Argentine exports — and outlined a $21 billion public works program to help stimulate the economy.

The Argentine economy grew by at least 8.5 percent a year from 2003 to 2007, but the expansion is seen coming down to 7.0 percent this year and much lower in 2009.