Brazil and University of Texas Reach Deal on Zika Virus

WTOP/AP, 02/11/2016

Brazil is signing an agreement with the University of Texas to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, the country’s health minister said Thursday, adding the goal is for the vaccine to be ready for clinical testing within 12 months.

Marcelo Castro said at a news conference that the Brazilian government will invest $1.9 million in the research, which will be jointly conducted by the University of Texas and the Evandro Chagas Institute in the Amazonian city of Belem.

He said the Health Ministry also has reached vaccine partnerships with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is looking to work with pharmaceutical giant GSK.

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The Rot at the Heart of the Brazilian Economy

Christopher Sabatini – Foreign Policy, 02/10/2016

In late 2014, Brazil seemed on the verge of a meltdown. Its economy had grown a mere 0.1 percent that year, as its currency (the real) dropped like a stone and business confidence plummeted. In response, in November of that year Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff turned to a Chicago-trained technocrat — a common antidote among Latin American leaders. Domestic and international investors welcomed the appointment of Joaquim Levy, a former banker and fiscal hawk, to lead the finance ministry, but they acknowledged he would have his work cut out for him. If Levy hoped to enact the drastic fiscal cuts and structural reforms needed to fix the careening economy, he would have to first overcome the resistance of not only a fractious congress, but also many members of Rousseff’s leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and her cabinet.

Success would ultimately elude Levy. In December 2015, he quit, handing the ministry over to Nelson Barbosa, another well-respected economist. But Barbosa lacks Levy’s credibility among investors. And the task before him has only become more unenviable. He will have to push through his predecessor’s stalled reforms, while turning around an economy that suffered a GDP contraction of 3.7 percent in 2015, staving off potential debt crisisstabilizing the real, and avoiding what analysts predict could become Brazil’s worst crisis since 1901.

The first step to fixing Brazil’s crisis will have to involve recognizing that the rot goes much deeper than it might seem. Brazil’s troubles began with the downturn in the global commodity markets, which once bolstered the country. But the roots of the malaise trace much farther, to a historically autarkic economic model, a political system hobbled and corrupted by party factionalism and localism, and a constitutional carnaval of guarantees for social rights and payouts.

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Brazilian Airline suspends flights to Venezuela after failing to repatriate revenue

Samy Adghirni – Folha de S. Paulo, 02/10/16

After months of fruitless negotiations with the Venezuelan government over revenues of R$351 million (US $90.3 million) which are being held in Venezuela, the Brazilian airline Gol has decided to suspend its service between São Paulo and Caracas. The route has been running since 2007.

The problem derives from the complex exchange rate system in Venezuela, where the government operates various different rates.Gol had already reduced flight frequency from 28 a week to just two, since 2014. However, the impasse with Venezuela, along with the recession in Brazil, has led the company to follow the example of other airlines such as Air Canada and Alitalia and suspend its operations in Venezuela.

The problem derives from the complex exchange rate system in Venezuela, where the government operates various different rates.

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Brazil’s real: how low can it go?

Joe Leahy, John Paul Rathbone – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

When Dilma Rousseff attended the 2016 opening session of Brazil’s congress this week, she appealed to lawmakers to approve tax increases to tackle a widening gap in the country’s public finances.

Most critically, the president called for the reintroduction of a tax on financial transactions, known as the CPMF, that was abandoned in 2007 after objections from business. Opposition congressmen booed her.

But with Brazil reporting a budget deficit last year that was the biggest among emerging economies except for Saudi Arabia at over 10 per cent, unpopular measures are needed to save the country from a deepening fiscal hole, analysts say

UPDATE 1-Brazil 2015 budget gap hits record as austerity fails

Alonso Soto – Reuters, 01/29/2016

Jan 29 Brazil’s overall budget deficit soared to a record 613 billion reais ($150.99 billion) in 2015, central bank data showed on Friday, nearly doubling from last year as efforts to rebalance fiscal accounts failed and interest rates shot up.

The budget deficit equaled 10.34 percent of the gross domestic product, nearly five times its shortfall in the 12 months to mid-2011. The deficit mushroomed under President Dilma Rousseff, who took office at the start of 2011.

In comparison, at the height of its debt crisis in 2009 Greece had a deficit of 15.2 percent of GDP.

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Brazil a Bright Spot for Debt Restructuring Advisors as Recession Bites Hard

Tatiana Bautzer, GuillermoParra-Bernal – Reuters, 01/28/2016

Debt restructuring firms are poised to pull in record amounts of business in Brazil this year as the country’s worst recession in decades and a corruption probe that has cast a shadow over dozens of companies leads to a surge in defaults.

While a slump in prices is squeezing commodities producers – from sugar mills to oil producers and miners – the “Operation Car Wash” investigation into political kickbacks at state oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA is also hitting many of its suppliers.

Soaring consumer delinquencies as Brazil’s interest rates hit their highest levels for nearly a decade are also putting some major retailers and homebuilders in line for painful reorganizations. Scenting an opportunity, U.S. restructuring shops including FTI Consulting Inc, Houlihan Lokey Inc, and Moelis & Co have set up shop in Brazil over the past three years to vie for mandates with local banks and independent advisors.

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Brazil Economy Shed 1.5 Million Payroll Jobs in 2015

AP, 01/21/2016

Brazil lost 1.5 million payroll jobs in 2015 amid a contracting economy that has led to high inflation and layoffs in the manufacturing and service sectors, the labor ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said that 39.7 million workers were formally employed at the end of last year, compared to 41.2 million at the end of 2014 and 40.8 million in 2013.

Labor Minister Miguel Rossetto said last year’s job creation figures are the worst since they started being compiled in 1992.

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