Brazil’s finance minister rejects criticism of World Cup, economy

April 10, 2014

Luciana Magalhaes & Rogerio Jelmayer – The Wall Street Journal, 4/9/2014

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega blasted critics of his country’s World Cup preparations and vowed that Brazil’s economy would revive from its lethargy, for which he mainly blamed outside forces.

“I believe that the Cup is being politicized,” Mr. Mantega said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in New York before attending a gathering of the International Monetary Fund. “For Brazil to host the Cup, it needs to meet FIFA’s requirements for a certain numbers of stadiums and seats, and that is being done,” he said, referring to the world soccer governing body.

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The grass is greener from the outside

March 20, 2014

The Economist, 3/18/2014

BRAZIL’S government has been trying hard of late to burnish its economic credentials, dented by years of perceived interventionism, weak growth and high inflation. In February the president, Dilma Rousseff, sweet-talked investors in Davos for the first time since she took office in 2011. Later that month her finance minister, Guido Mantega, presented a revised budget for 2014, with 44 billion reais ($19 billion) in cuts and a target for the primary surplus (ie, before interest payments) of 99 billion reais, or 1.9% of GDP.

In the past few days, however, the government’s credibility has taken a knock. First, on March 13th, Mr Mantega conceded that the 9 billion reais set aside to prop up electricity utilities, reliant on hydropower but forced by lack of rain to tap pricey thermal plants, would not be enough. Another 12 billion reais would be needed, he said.

The Treasury would stump up 4 billion reais, financed in part by raising already-high taxes. The remaining 8 billion reais is to come from bank loans to the Electrical Energy Commercialisation Chamber (CCEE), a clearing house for the electricity market. The cost would be passed on to consumers, albeit only after the general election in October. Why private banks would lend that sort of money to a private entity with no assets to speak of is unclear. State-controlled lenders may end up having to step in, ultimately putting the government on the hook.

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Lew seeks to repair Brazil ties in first trip to Latin America

March 18, 2014

Kasia Klimasinska & Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/17/2014

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew discussed ways to expand trade and investment with his Brazilian counterpart as he sought to repair ties with Latin America’s biggest economy.

“Both countries recognize the great potential benefit from working together to meet the challenges of generating jobs, sustaining growth and helping support macroeconomic stability,” Lew said after meeting with Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega yesterday in Sao Paulo. He said U.S. companies are seeking to provide financing and expertise for Brazil’s plans to modernize infrastructure.

Lew, in his first Latin American trip since he took office a year ago, also met with Brazilian central bank President Alexandre Tombini before traveling to Mexico City, where he will hold talks today with President Enrique Pena Nieto and top economic officials. He also discussed the crisis in Ukraine and highlighted the need for the U.S. to pass legislation to expand the voting rights of emerging markets in the International Monetary Fund.

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Brazil pledges $18.5 bn cuts in effort to woo investors

February 21, 2014

Samantha Pearson – The Financial Times, 2/20/2014

Brazil has promised to cut $18.5bn in public spending, as a former star of emerging markets struggles to win back investors’ trust.

After cancelling his trip to the Group of 20 meeting in Australia this weekend, in order to finalise the country’s fiscal policy, Guido Mantega, Brazil’s finance minister, announced a new primary surplus goal of 1.9 per cent on Thursday.

To meet this target, the government will have to slash R$44bn ($18.5bn) from the budget planned for this year, relying heavily on cuts to discretionary spending in Congress.

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Brazil’s Rousseff will change course if re-elected: former central bank director

February 20, 2014

Walter Brandimarte – Reuters, 2/18/2014

A former director at Brazil’s central bank said he expects President Dilma Rousseff to make key changes in macroeconomic policy, including cuts in government spending, if she gets re-elected for a second term later this year.

Paulo Vieira da Cunha, who was on the bank’s board from 2006 to 2008, said he also expects that after the election Rousseff will replace Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who has been heavily criticized by investors for overly optimistic economic forecasts and what they see as accounting gimmicks in the country’s budget.

Vieira da Cunha called for a return to the pragmatic style of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was elected as a left-winger but was widely regarded as a pro-growth and pro-business president.

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Brazil’s Mantega cancels G20 trip to focus on fiscal goals

February 19, 2014

Reuters, 2/18/2014

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega canceled his trip to the Group of 20 meeting in Australia this week to hammer out the final details of Brazil’s key fiscal goal for the year, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

President Dilma Rousseff’s government is expected to announce this week its 2014 primary budget surplus goal, a gauge of its fiscal discipline that is key to efforts to recover credibility in its economic policies.

The primary surplus is the excess revenue before the payment of interest on debt.

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Brazil to name Caffarelli as Deputy Finance Minister

February 6, 2014

Rogerio Jelmayer – The Wall Street Journal, 2/6/2014

Brazil’s government is set to name Paulo Rogerio Caffarelli as the No. 2 official at the Finance Ministry as it seeks to improve ties with the business community, according to a person with knowledge of government decisions.

Mr. Caffarelli is currently vice president at Latin America’s largest bank by assets, the government-run Banco do Brasil SA BBAS3.BR +2.13% . He has overseen the bank’s efforts to expand internationally and was also responsible for lending to medium-size and large corporate customers.

Finance Minister Guido Mantega and his team have come in for considerable criticism for their handling of the Brazilian economy, which is entering a fourth year of subpar growth. Inflation remains high and there are concerns that increases in government spending may undermine the country’s investment-grade credit rating.

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Mantega says Morgan Stanley, HSBC err in saying Brazil is weak

January 29, 2014

Carla Simoes & Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 1/28/2014

Morgan Stanley’s report calling Brazil’s real one of the “fragile five” currencies amid an emerging market selloff is groundless, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said.

Near record-high international reserves, a solid fiscal situation, a floating exchange rate and a sound financial system will allow Brazil to weather volatility as the U.S. reduces monetary stimulus, Mantega said yesterday in an interview from his office in Brasilia.

Morgan Stanley coined the phrase “fragile five” last year to describe Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa, recommending investors bet against their currencies because of wide current account deficits and fast inflation. HSBC Group last week forecast Latin America’s biggest economy will have its credit rating downgraded in 2014 because of increased public spending and weak growth.

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