"Argentina’s debt levels are now higher than they were when it crashed into the biggest sovereign debt default in history in 2001, and a worsening crisis of confidence in the government has brought the spectre of a new default closer, a report to be published next week says. Despite a radical restructuring just three years ago, public debt has reached $114.7bn (€74.4bn, £59bn), or 56 per cent of gross domestic product, compared with $144.2bn, or 54 per cent of GDP, in 2001 – at a time when Argentina’s economy was much larger – according to the paper. Martín Krause and Aldo Abram, directors of the Argentine Institutions and Markets Research Centre at Eseade business school and the report’s authors, also found that if the amount owed to bondholders who did not accept the 2005 restructuring and are suing to recover their money is included, Argentina’s overall debt rises to $170bn, or 67 per cent of GDP. “We’re not teetering on the brink of default but if we continue down this path, with this level of [social] conflict, we could get there,” Mr Abram told the FT. Many developed countries, including Italy and Japan, have higher ratios of debt to GDP but Argentina’s higher borrowing costs and rocky institutional record make it harder to secure credit. “The worry is not the amount, it’s that we won’t have access to credit,” Mr Abram said. The six-month-old government of Cristina Fernández, the president, has been struggling to resolve a conflict with farmers after it imposed a sliding scale of export tariffs on key agricultural exports in March. The unrest has spread to truck drivers, who have mounted roadblocks to demand an end to the farm dispute, which has disrupted grains transportation. Their action has caused fuel shortages and will put further pressure on inflation, which the government is widely accused of trying to conceal with doctored data. Meanwhile, the government must this year find $14.6bn for debt servicing, plus $11.8bn next year and $10.5bn in 2010. However, the threat of legal action by bond holdouts bars Argentina from international capital markets whilst it remains in default with the Paris Club of creditor nations, to which it owes $6.6bn. Argentina has increasingly turned to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, who has bought $6.4bn in bonds in the past three years. But its international financial isolation is costly – Buenos Aires has had to pay Venezuela interest rates of up to 13 per cent, yet it cancelled its low-cost International Monetary Fund debt and the Paris Club debt only costs 5.3 per cent, Mr Krause said. By contrast Brazil, which had a far worse debt profile than Argentina in 2001, recently achieved investment grade and sold a 10-year bond at 5.3 per cent."