The Week Ahead in Brazil #100

What is happening in Brazil?

1. Politics – President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) granted a pardon of the sentence imposed by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) on federal deputy Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ). On Wednesday (20), the STF had sentenced Silveira to 8 years and 9 months in prison for attacks on democracy and inciting violence. (Estadão)

Justice Rosa Weber granted the request of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to dismiss the case investigating President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in the Covaxin case. She had previously denied the request. (Folha)

The PT, PCdoB and PV parties filed, on Saturday (23), a request to register a federation uniting them in the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). This is the first formal request of the kind. (g1)

Former governor Eduardo Leite (PSDB-RS) released a letter stating his support for the presidential candidate of his party, João Doria (PSDB-SP).

This week, two surveys were released with assessments of the government and numbers of the electoral dispute. The Ipespe survey was conducted between 18 and 20 April, with 1,000 people interviewed by telephone, and the Exame/Ideia, between 15 and 20 April, with 1,500 people interviewed by telephone.

The Ipespe government evaluation and approval survey shows that 52% (-2 percentage points) of those interviewed evaluate the government as “bad/worst” and 30% (+1pp) as “excellent/good”. The disapproval rate is 62% and the approval rate is 34%. In the Exame/Ideia poll, 44% (-1pp) consider the government as “bad/worst” and 29% as “excellent/good” (+1pp).

In the electoral survey, Ipespe shows former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) leading the presidential race with 45% (+1pp), followed by president Jair Bolsonaro (PL) with 31% (+1pp). The Exame/Ideia survey points out that Lula has 42% (+2pp) of voting intentions, against 33% (+4pp) for Bolsonaro.

Here is the compilation of the election polls:

2. Economy – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised Brazil’s growth forecast from 0.3% to 0.8% for 2022. Most banks have also revised their growth projections for Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (Estadão)

Minister Vital do Rêgo of the Federal Audit Court (TCU) asked to study the case for 20 days in the process of privatisation of Eletrobras. With this, the analysis of the process must return to the TCU agenda on May 11. (Estadão)

Agribusiness exports reached US$ 14.53 billion in March. The value is 29.4% higher compared to the same month last year. According to the government report, the result was driven by the 27.6% increase in product prices. The volume exported grew by 1.4%. (Brazil)

3. Public management – Victor Godoy was appointed Minister of Education on Monday (18). He had been executive secretary of the Ministry of Education (MEC) since 2020 and had taken over the function on an interim basis after the departure of Milton Ribeiro. He is not an education expert and is the fifth MEC minister appointed by President Jair Bolsonaro (PL). (g1)

Public spending on education in 2021 will reach the lowest level since 2012. A study by the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies (Inesc) shows that authorized spending on education (R$ 129.8 billion) was higher than in 2020 (R$ 126.9 billion). The execution, however, decreased by R$ 8 billion between 2019 and 2021 (from R$ 126.6 billion to R$ 118.4 billion). (g1)

The Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, established the end of the Public Health Emergency of National Importance. The measure was adopted due to the improvement of the epidemiological scenario. Brazil distributed 487 million doses of vaccine against Covid-19. More than 81% of Brazilians have already taken the first dose, and 74% have completed the vaccination scheme. (Estadão).

An analysis:

1. Despite the negative media coverage of the presidential pardon and the possible institutional conflicts resulting from this decision, the political outlook for the coming week remains positive. The government’s approval ratings have improved slightly compared to last month, and polls continue to show a narrowing of the gap between Lula and Bolsonaro.

The presidential coalition should be back in full swing this week in the lower house. First, because the permanent commissions should be installed in the coming week. The committees are important for the debate of public policies and the improvement of laws, but they also function as an important locus of political articulation between government and congress members. The second reason is due to the parliamentary debate surrounding the presidential pardon granted to deputy Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ). With a majority, the speeches in favour of Bolsonaro should outweigh those against his decision.

Of the various dimensions that the presidential pardon episode can be analysed, two deserve to be highlighted: the impact on politics and the impact on institutions. In politics, the move is positive for Bolsonaro and Silveira. Bolsonaro tends to secure more votes among his sympathisers or among neutrals. A survey by Quaest showed that 62% of internet users felt that the decision to sentence Silveira was negative, compared to 23% positive mentions. In addition, the whole event put For Silveira, the event puts him in a prominent position, also strengthening him with voters. If he manages to remain eligible, the current deputy should be a vote puller in the 2022 elections. The impact on institutions is more worrying. On the one hand, there is a growing perception that the Judiciary, especially the STF, is exceeding its institutional power to act; on the other hand, the tension that Bolsonaro causes with the Judiciary, through acts and statements, is also a cause for concern. In any case, still far from the events from last September.

In any case, and with the possible damage to the development of institutions, the trend is that Bolsonaro will continue to reduce the distance between him and Lula recorded in the polls. In this scenario, the chances of a third way are increasingly smaller. The most likely, so far, is that Lula and Bolsonaro will compete in a run-off, where Lula is winning by a margin of 15 points. In general, Bolsonaro brings together the anti-system sentiment, economic growth via markets and conservatism in customs; Lula is strong in the debate on reducing inequality, growth and job creation via state induction. Both have well-known weaknesses and the marketing teams will exploit them masterfully.

This week, there will be several sessions of the National Congress. The 105th anniversary of the birth of Brazilian economist, diplomat and politician Roberto Campos will be the theme of a solemn session on Tuesday (26), at 10am. On Thursday (28), the will be a session for consideration of presidential vetoes.

2. The economic outlook remains neutral due to a lack of data from the Central Bank. Indicators should be released this week. Nevertheless, market forecasts for inflation continue signalling acceleration. The FMI and banks’ revisions to the GDP growth rate for 2022 were positive.

The provisional measure (MP 1076/21) that complements the value of the Auxílio Brasil social programme may be voted on Tuesday (26). The opposition is trying to increase the monthly value from R$ 400 to R$ 600 for 2023, which is a cause for concern as there is no fiscal space for the increase. The agribusiness data came positive.

Next week, the April IGP-M will be known, as well as the March unemployment rate and formal job creation data. With the end of the Central Bank strike, the February numbers will be released as well as the Focus survey.

3. The trend in public management remains neutral for the next week without great changes. In almost three and a half years of President Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) administration, the very high turnover of Education ministers, in a department of critical importance for the country’s development, is a grim situation. This is reflected, among other aspects, in the low budget execution and the lack of educational projects. The appointment of a manager for the MEC is not necessarily bad, but the fact that he is not an education specialist or a heavyweight political player does not raise expectations about their performance either.

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