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Banking sector, Blogs, Macroeconomic policies

Brazil: In 100 days, Olympic speed for retrogression on rights

The coup currently on course in Brazil, with great chance of succeeding in the next 30 days, has many faces and short- and long-term effects for the Brazilian population. In little over 100 days of interim government, the politically conservative and economically liberal agenda is being rapidly designed and raising fear among the most vulnerable sectors of the society, such as workers and retirees. It is now clear that the nebulous process of impeachment endangers historical achievements and the very capacity of the Brazilian state to deal with its historical ills.

Regarding workers and retirees, sweeping reforms of the labor and welfare systems that would produce significant regressions on their rights are already well under way to implementation, without any concern about the legitimacy or the screen of the ballot boxes. Indeed, many take for granted their approval if the impeachment process goes ahead in the Federal Senate.

On the part of the state’s capacity to carry out real development, with long-term sustainable growth in all its spheres, and which had fundamental importance in the recent inclusive process, the agenda is clear: privatizing everything is possible with the help of public banks. Towards this purpose, several measures have already been taken, including institutional “designs” to quickly carry out the neoliberal agenda.

Regarding retail banks like Bank of Brazil (BB) and Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF), which had great importance in the financing of durable goods – as automobiles – and the program “Minha Casa Minha Vida” (which translates for “My house, my life”), both examples of federal government programs under the government of Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, credit lines already have been extinguished and other programs are in analysis to disappear.

The concept of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES by its acronym in Portuguese) is undergoing a major reformulation as the new president that was appointed is one of the individuals responsible for the controversial privatizations of the 1990s in Brazil. A new Board of Directors  – largely comprising prominent  financial market actors – took office and is drawing new lines for its activities.

In the early days of the coup, the administration promulgated an interim measure which specifically deals with the so-called Investment Partnerships Program (PPI by its acronym in Portuguese) and clearly indicates what it will seek, using BNDES as an instrument to implement a large sale of the Brazilian public property. The measure, in principle, leaves up in the air several questions about which public goods will be offered for sale, how it will be done and who will run, supervise and regulate them, to finally give the strict dimension of social and environmental costs.

Among the measures, being called “desestatizers,” the reversal of statization– instead of referring to them as privatizations – that of the Brazilian electric sector has already been announced. This comes with the aggravating circumstance that Chinese multinationals (State Grid and China Three Gorges) are set to become giants of a strategic national sector.

Aside from that, in this new incarnation, privatizations are coming back with a renewed rhetoric around Public-Private Partnerships as a solution to long-term financing in Brazil. From an environmental and social point of view, the various problems and conflicts surrounding large infrastructure projects recently carried out suggests that the line of change should be exactly the opposite: a process of greater openness, transparency and participation of society in discussions and not a hazy and hasty process of project approval as what seems to be coming. From the point of view of the cost of PPPs for the Brazilian government, there is no guarantee that this modality will require fewer public resources in the medium/long term (knowing that the various forms of PPPs often include guarantees of returns for the private sector). From the viewpoint of economic and social development, it determines the loss of the possibility of an active and strategic role of the state (and its potential social control). If all of it has occurred in around 100 days, Brazilian society needs to be prepared for what will come next.

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August 2017
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