About a year and a half into his term, Brazilian hardliner President, Jair Bolsonaro has established and implemented a right-wing populist base in South America’s powerhouse nation. A Trump-like character, Bolsonaro campaigned on a “law and order” platform encompassing free market economics and extensively conservative social policies on minority groups, emphasizing Brazil’s Judeo-Christian culture.
Although populist politicians often construct a façade of a national enemy which they promise to quash, Brazil has had a real struggle with corruption, crime, and lack of economic assertiveness since the late 20th century. A no nonsense populist is exactly what Brazil needed, but it would’ve helped if it was a leader with more competency to understand the role of environmental policy and Brazil centrality to the global effort.
Furthermore, not to say that a global pandemic was in any way anticipated, as it was not, but one would hope that in the case of any global emergency their national leader would treat it accordingly. On the contrary, President Bolsonaro has dismissed consistently the public health crisis and has declined to put his nation into any kind of state of emergency or precaution. With responsible leaders around the world coping with the multifaceted fallout of the pandemic, Brazil’s leadership stands alone on the global stage as a reckless and administration without any service to the well being of its people.
It’s saddening that a continental powerhouse like Brazil is setting an example of carelessness for its entire region during such a dire time. Populated at about 210 million, and with several areas reputed as extremely dense residential areas, the specific attention needed by a capable Brazilian government would address these concerning realities as opposed to neglecting them altogether and in turn, neglecting millions of lives.
As of July 20, Brazil sits second only to the United States, who’s leadership has also faced widespread criticism regarding its insufficient response to the health crisis, in worldwide cases of COVID-19 as well as deaths related to the virus. Just about 2,100,000 active cases and 80,000 deaths in Brazil by late July stand as proof of government neglect in the face of the public health crisis. The main difficulties in working against the spread of the virus on a domestic scale was a severely uncoordinated attempt at closures and public health measures which were not fully corroborated at all levels of government. Where state and local authorities found it needed to implement and enforce public health precautions, skepticism and opposition from the President fueled many residents to them.
In the wake of Bolsonaro’s strong criticisms, two health ministers shuffled out of office, one by dismissal and the second through resignation. Without a sturdy support in his own advisors, it remains to be seen how long the President can hold onto power within his government in addition to on the national stage. Although Bolsonaro may not have his priorities straight, he is managing his top priorities relatively well. Economically focussed, the Brazilian leadership has responded with constructive and accommodating policy to kickstart the economy as soon as possible, albeit without properly addressing the role that the virus will inevitable play in the near future.
Bolsonaro’s popular support has undoubtedly suffered over the course of the pandemic, but recent data shows his support on the rise again, especially with low-income Brazilians. This uptick can largely be attributed to the President’s welfare stimulus response, which supports individuals with 600 Brazilian reals and mothers who are responsible for supporting their family with 1,200 Brazilians reals. This financial aid has reportedly been to thank for suppressed crime rates during this time, keeping those in poverty-stricken situations able to support themselves. In further support of Brazilians, the government is easing the qualifications to receive credit and to renegotiate terms of credit in order to promote business and trade. As further reinforcement for the people, Privatization Secretary Salim Mattar, said on July 20 that cutting the national tax burden, cutting taxes, and slashing export tariffs are all measures that the government will take to promote businesses as much as possible in the coming months to speed up the road to economic recovery and financial stability on an individual scale.
In any case, even though the public health situation is neither controlled nor contained, Bolsonaro’s administration is pushing hard and successfully for economic reform and heavy stimulus to cover basic well-being during the uncertain times, and it seems to be paying off. Monthly job losses were cut in half from April to May, and critical industries are again on the rise, with agriculture being the only one with a net hiring last month.
Overall, although President Bolsonaro’s priorities are morally impaired, his knack for economic growth must be praised. Of course Brazil’s economy has been decimated, as have those of all other nations, but the President looks to be on course to lead a quick recovery. On track for economic contraction of about 6.5% this year, Brazil is forecasting better than several regional counterparts including Mexico, which is anticipated to contract around 8.5%. The positive economic outlook for the South American powerhouse is further supported by rising confidence in the Brazilian real as well as Brazil’s stocks market, BOVESPA.
Though Bolsonaro’s lack of attention to the health crisis has rightfully garnered criticism, a death rate of only about 3.8% of COVID-19 cases indicates some successful domestic management of the outbreak. Nonetheless, Bolsonaro’s national stability and support will be shaped by the coming months of economic strategy as the public health situation unfolds.