Home/Noticias/Brazil’s Michel Temer battles to sell austerity reforms
Brazil’s Michel Temer battles to sell austerity reforms
Michel Temer faces his first serious test as Brazil’s president as his government embarks on some of the most potentially unpopular austerity-related reforms the country has known.
Congress will this week vote on a bill to freeze budget spending in real terms for 20 years in an attempt to halt the spiralling nation’s deficit. This legislation will be followed up by another bill seeking to overhaul Brazil’s generous pension system.
Mr Temer, who took power in August when his predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached for budgetary irregularities, is seen as an expert backroom dealer in Brazil’s arcane political scene and is expected to navigate the reforms through the country’s fractious congress.
The question is whether Mr Temer, known as a dry constitutional lawyer in a country that prizes informality, has the charisma to persuade voters to accept a cap on spending on public services, such as hospitals and schools, when the quality of these is already considered chronically bad.
“The difficulty will be to convince people of the need for sacrifices when they are already in a difficult situation with high unemployment and given the low credibility of most politicians after so many scandals,” said Marco Aurélio, director of public policy analysis at FGV, an academic institution.
Mr Temer’s plans for the spending cap and the expected reform to rein in spending on pensions have been welcomed by investors. The markets consider the measures essential to rolling back a widening budget deficit and restoring growth in an economy that is facing its worst downturn in more than a century.
The problem is that many voters view Mr Temer and his centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) as part of a political class tainted by a sweeping corruption probe at state-owned oil company Petrobras.
The Petrobras scandal helped bring down Ms Rousseff and her former ruling Workers’ Party (PT). The PMDB and Mr Temer have also been implicated but have denied wrongdoing.
In a survey by Ibope, the market research company, just 14 per cent of voters judged Mr Temer’s government as good or great, compared with 13 per cent before the impeachment. Those who saw it as bad or terrible remained unchanged at 39 per cent.
Perhaps aware of the need to sell his reforms better, Mr Temer has given a series of radio interviews to explain his policies.
His government also took out advertisements in leading newspapers under the headline: “Let’s pull Brazil out of the red and start growing again” — the red being a pun on the colour of Ms Rousseff’s party.
The hope for Mr Temer is that he may be able to keep public opinion on his side by showing a gradual improvement in the economy. If he can pass the limit on spending this year, that might spur greater investment, which in turn would smooth the way for the social security reform.
“I think the government has a strategy. It seems to make sense,” said Carlos Melo, a professor at the Insper business school.
Indeed, there are signs that while voters may not like the government, they know the country’s problems are serious and are prepared to give Mr Temer a chance to try his reforms.
“He’s a bit dry but that doesn’t mean he might not be a good president,” said Ana Maria Pestana Pupo, a secretary in São Paulo. “It’s too early to judge. Come back and ask me in a few months.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please dont cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.