(Adds comments on bond sale plans)
By Jason Lange and Daniel Bases
WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) - Argentina hopes it won’t have to tap international capital markets again in 2016 after it sells up to $15 billion in debt next week, its first such sale since the country’s 2002 default, Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said on Thursday.
“We’re trying very hard for this issue to be the last issue of this year,” Pray-Gay said at an event on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
He said the sale, expected to begin on Monday, resulted from a sea change in Argentina’s will to end a long-festering legal battle with mostly U.S. creditors who refused to accept the payment terms after it defaulted on nearly $100 billion in debt in 2002.
The new right-of-center government in Buenos Aires recently negotiated a deal to settle the sovereign debt dispute with most of the holdout creditors. The proceeds of next week’s debt sale will allow Argentina to pay off 90 percent who have agreed to settle.
Separately, Prat-Gay said in an appearance at the Atlantic Council think tank that he was not concerned the remaining holdouts would impact the sale.
He also said Argentina’s government is targeting an inflation rate no higher than 25 percent this year and is making the battle against rising prices its top priority.
“We’ve got a target and we’ve been clear about that target. And that target is a ceiling of 25 percent for this year. And it is a band of 20 to 25 percent,” Prat-Gay said.
Prat-Gay said Argentina’s double-digit inflation rate should start showing signs of easing in the second half of the year, though he added that it would take time for it to come down to a more manageable level.
Private economists expect consumer prices will rise 35 percent this year, but Prat-Gay said the government hoped to reduce inflation to 17 percent in 2017.
Argentina is desperate to convince financial markets that its low debt burden and economic reforms make it a good place for investors. It is particularly keen for investment to fund infrastructure projects.
“Most of the projects we are not very happy with. Some are ok, and we need to put our act together,” he said.
“There are so many things we can be but never quite are. But there are so many things we can be that there is no reason not to be optimistic about it,” Prat-Gay said. (Reporting by Jason Lange and Daniel Bases; Editing by Paul Simao)