Weekly research notes covering the full spectrum of asset classes

Bolsonaro: The Rise of Right-Wing Politics in Brazil

March 4, 2019 / Felip Biji

Much has been said about Bolsanaro, but no one can deny his ability to challenge the core principles of modern politics. Although not new, the movement he represents is a radical shift not seen in the continent since the democratic transitions of the late ’80s. But what has suddenly changed? Right-wing politics often struggle to gain popularity in Latin America mostly due to the early memories of the dictatorial rule. As an obvious consequence, socialists have built a political momentum resistant to almost any opposition.

Only in the last decade has Brazil endured three so-called “popular mandates”, elected executives who have managed to make their way up by pursuing endless wars against the capitalist establishment, making promises based on fears, fears of a society that has long been under the control of massive organized crime and corruption.

Most political scientists would agree that for any country in the region to successfully achieve economic development and social prosperity, it is necessary to eradicate the “rotten pillars” of their old policymaking: norms that have served as a shelter for abuse of public office by corrupted politicians. Certainly, some states have gradually moved away from such conventions, creating better conditions for growth. Yet, none can deny the complexity that these reforms might represent to colossal emerging economies such as Brazil’s.

Brazilian socialists often boast of a system that aims for equality and justice among all. However, little or even no progress has been made to solve the struggles that millions face every day in the country. It is not just a matter of security against organized crime what people long for. It is a desperate call for change. No state should be in the hands of incompetent kleptocrats, leaders who have abused their own powers for personal benefit. There are plenty of good examples in Latin America for such characters. Maduro in Venezuela, Kirchnerin Argentina, and obviously Lula and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, both currently under investigation by a federal committee.  

Between 2014 and 2016, the country was hit by one of its worst economic crisis since the great depression. More than 1.5 million jobs were lost, while the public deficit reached unprecedented levels. It was not the capitalist elite that caused the economic crisis back then and certainly not the corruption extent in the country as many socialist parties put it. It was simply the wrongdoing of a few who stubbornly imposed a system aimed to oppress the pro-competitive mind. Progress is almost never achieved without making some concessions, and although Bolsonaro may not be the most suitable candidate to protect the liberal, he represents the change that Brazil desperately needs.

Economic openness, public debt, and deregulation are just some of the targets planned by his new government. Spending will be cut by almost 20%, while inefficient public agencies are said to be dissolved. The central bank will receive full independence from the executive, a policy that promises to reduce external political interference as often occurred in the past. Moreover, many of the companies controlled by the state will either be dismantled or sold to privates. Although these reforms are sure to be the source of social disruption, they are the right policies for the Brazilian economy in the long run.

Currently, Brazil is not one of the most ideal countries to do business in. This is mostly due to an overcomplicated tax system and a tedious bureaucracy. According to the World Bank, it takes around 83 working days to open a company, a huge difference in comparison with other states in the region whose averages do not exceed the month. 

To attract foreign investment the new administration plans to combine all the existing methods of taxation into a single one. Corporate taxes are said to be reduced from 34% to 15%, along with the removal of most of the economic barriers imposed on imports. If these reforms are implemented correctly, in a year the executive would create almost half a million new jobs and increase the GDP by 1%.  

New governments often struggle to implement policies that interference with the status quo. It seems quite common by now to see a lack of political compromise among bipartisan states, a situation that tends to affect mostly common citizens. It recently happened in the United States, and also in Britain. But unlike these countries, Brazil processes one of the most divided legislative bodies in the world. Both upper and lower houses are composed of more than 20 different political parties. And after the recent elections, the government will enjoy the majority required to pass almost any bill without much inconvenience. 

Brazil is a complex state with a rather unique cultural dynamic not seen in many places. But, unfortunately, it has suffered the struggles caused by a system not quite suitable for its current reality. There, corruption is just another word for “politician”. People have had enough and, while Bolsonaro may not the best candidate to protect the common political conventions, he is definitely the change that Brazil and any unprotected economy need.