By Maximiliano Rizzi
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's ruling party presidential candidate, Daniel Scioli, on Monday vowed to seek at least $30 billion of investment per year over the next four years to stimulate the stagnant economy if he wins October's election.
Heavy state controls introduced by outgoing President Cristina Fernandez have dampened investment in recent years. Scioli, who is leading in opinion polls, has campaigned on a platform of gradual change while defending her social policies.
In a speech outlining his vision for Latin America's third-largest economy, which is struggling with double-digit inflation and anemic growth, Scioli did not say how he would attract that level of investment but said he would strengthen successful policies while "recognizing the mistakes".
"My aims are clear: sustained economic growth, full, quality employment, distribution of income and better life quality," he told hundreds of business executives, trade union officials and party members gathered in a Buenos Aires theater.
Argentina in particular needs an estimated $200 billion in investments over the next decade to exploit its shale oil and gas formation, estimated to be one of the world's largest.
Analysts concur the next president must secure a deal, with creditors suing the country over unpaid debt to ensure such major investments. Scioli's advisers have said he wants to do just that.
Yet on Monday the two-time Buenos Aires provincial governor sounded defiant. Echoing Fernandez, he called the hedge funds "vultures" and said that while Argentina aimed to pay 100 percent of its bondholders, it could only do so in "just, legal, equitable and sustainable conditions".
The government has used this rhetoric to slam the funds for claiming full repayment of the debt Argentina defaulted on in its record 2002 default when 93 percent of bondholders agreed to a steep discount. Scioli suggested he would not go easy on the funds in possible negotiations.
"It is not necessary to pay the vulture funds to access financing," Scioli said, adding that it was better to access hard currency via strong exports than debt.
A weekend poll showed Scioli set to win 38.4 percent of the vote on Oct. 25, ahead of his closest rival, more business-friendly Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri on 25.3 percent.
However, he will need to drum up more support still if he wants to avoid a less predictable second round run-off.
Scioli also said he would seek to bring inflation down to single digit figures, while the central bank would maintain control of the local peso currency.
(Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Ken Wills)