President Bolsonaro made his speech yesterday, 22 January 2019, at the Davos Economic Forum, the most important annual meeting on the topics of the world economy.
For various reasons, including the absence of Trump and Macron and the strong interest in finally getting to know the new president of Brazil and his thoughts, to Bolsonaro an important space was reserved: practically the opening speech of the Forum, with 30’ time available.
But Bolsonaro, visibly uncomfortable and embarrassed, made a speech of just over six minutes, read through a teleprompter.
Who expected an incisive speech focused on how he wants to solve the big knots of the Brazilian economy (and the expectation of the economic world was just this, of course) was disappointed: Bolsonaro’s speech was very general, without precise indications on times and the modalities of the reforms, first of all that of the pensions.
Despite his brevity and generality, in his speech Bolsonaro has nevertheless given important indications regarding some crucial issues of his government’s agenda:
– Reiterated the commitment of its government to the issues of environmental protection, recalling that Brazil uses only 9% of its territory for agricultural purposes and less than 20% for livestock breeding. It will be his government’s mission to make the defense of the environment and biodiversity compatible with the necessary economic development. Among other things, he said in a meeting with international entrepreneurs that Brazil will not leave the Paris agreement, as threatened in the first days of its mandate.
– He said he wants to increase Brazil’s openness to international trade, recognizing that the country is still very closed from this point of view.
– Regarding economic growth, announced an agenda to place – at the end of its mandate – Brazil among the best 50 countries where to do business (today it is in 109th place out of 190): reduction of taxes for businesses, regulatory simplification for those wishing to undertake, macroeconomic stability and compliance with contracts.
– As an unpublished statement, Bolsonaro mentioned the need to prepare young Brazilians for the fourth industrial revolution, through radical changes in the structure of the educational processes of the country.
Paulo Guedes, superminister of the Economy, provided a remedy for the disappointing Bolsonaro speech at least in part. In a 90-minute meeting with managers and entrepreneurs, he deepened the government’s economic program, reassuring about the timing and contents of the pension reform.
A fact that aroused amazement was to see Bolsonaro lunch alone in a supermarket restaurant, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to weave relationships and try to develop new international agreements. As some entrepreneurs present at Davos commented among the worried and amused, “if the gesture was meant to show that he was economizing, Bolsonaro would have helped Brazil more if he had closed some investment agreement with someone”.
To conclude with a flourish, Bolsonaro canceled – half an hour before its beginning – the press conference of today, January 23, which he should have attended with Paulo Guedes, Sergio Moro and Enesto Araujo, attaching a “non-professional attitude of the press”. In this case too, amazement and disbelief among the dozens of journalists from all over the world who crowded the press room, given that not only Bolsonaro but also the three ministers gave up the meeting. Is it that Bolsonaro wanted to avoid embarrassing questions about the scandal involving his son Flavio, accused of collusion with the Rio de Janeiro militias?
Let's say that, in general, Bolsonaro did not make a good impression and certainly did not make it to Brazil. He lost a great opportunity to present himself to the whole world, if not as a great statesman (who is not, objectively) at least as the creator of change that can lead Brazil to play a central role in the economy and in world politics.
But the journey is long and the first real test will be in February / March, with the discussion of the pension reform in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate.