The International Monetary Fund, exasperated by Brazil's year-long failure to control its inflation and monetary policy, will not lend any more money to the developing world's biggest debtor until Brazil agrees to a new economic program for 1985, sources said.
The IMF decision is a setback both for Brazil -- considered one of the success stories of the Latin American debt crisis -- and for its bank lenders. The banks had nearly completed negotiations on an agreement that would have permitted Brazil to repay $45 billion of debts maturing between 1985 and 1991 over a 16-year period.
The banks and Brazil Wednesday adjourned their negotiations until the country comes to terms with the international financial agency. Banks generally have declined to make new agreements with debtor nations that are out of compliance with their IMF programs.
The Brazilian setback comes as a civilian government prepares to take the reins from a military regime March 15. It confronts the new President Tancredo Neves with an immediate major international financial problem.
A top U.S. official said Brazil's impasse with the IMF does not signal a major crisis. In many respects the military "exceeded" their targets -- building up a massive trade surplus, cutting the budget deficit and bringing internal prices more in line with reality. "But they were unable to stop the printing presses."
Brazilian inflation, originally targeted to be 50 percent in 1984, was 223 percent. In December, the money supply jumped 30 percent and inflation in January continued to increase at a pace that will approach last year's, economists said.
The official said it is not surprising the IMF took action now. "The outgoing government has lost some credibility," he said, and any IMF program will include the assent of the new government as well. Tancredo Neves already has signalled his intention to follow a path similar to the one the military has followed on the debt problem.
Last December, the military government and the staff of the IMF agreed on a 1985 economic program, but IMF director Jacques de Larosiere this week canceled that pact -- called a letter of intent -- after both prices and the money supply exploded in December and Brazil showed only marginal success in bringing them back under control in January.
In a four-page cable to Brazil's key bank lenders yesterday morning, de Larosiere stressed that Brazil, whose foreign debts are about $100 billion, has made substantial progress in building up a massive trade surplus, cutting subsidies on many domestic products and encouraging domestic savings in Brazil. But de Larosiere told the bank lenders that lack of progress on inflation and control of the money supply required him to reach another accord with Brazil.
Brazilian debt negotiator Jose Carlos Madeira Serrano said in a telephone interview from New York yesterday that a Brazilian team will fly to Washington next week to begin the talks. He said he felt Brazilian officials could satisfy IMF objections quickly.
Bankers said privately that the earliest they could reach a long-term agreement now is late April or May, and only if the IMF and the country resolve their differences sometime next month. In the interim, the banks have renewed all current lending agreements until May 31 and pushed off any principal repayments until then as well.
Brazil consistently failed to meet its inflation targets through all of 1984, but was able to continue to borrow from the IMF because the international agency "waived" its noncompliance with the monetary and inflation targets, in large part because the country was exceeding goals in nearly all other areas.
The country is in the middle of a three-year IMF pact signed in February 1983. Almost immediately after it signed the initial agreement two years ago, the country fell out of compliance. The IMF and the banks then cut Brazil off until a new economic program was agreed to in November 1983.
In 1983, however, Brazil was broke and almost each day had to scrape up the cash it needed to buy vital imports and pay a minimal amount of interest to its bank lenders. Today, mainly because of a massive $13 billion trade surplus last year, the country has about $8 billion in foreign currency reserves and faces no immediate crisis because of its inability to borrow from the IMF.