Brazil’s Economic Team in Disarray After Two High Profile Losses
People wearing protective masks walk through a market in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg)

Brazil’s Economic Team in Disarray After Two High Profile Losses

Brazil’s pro-market economic team, slammed by the pandemic, saw the resignation of two of its senior members in what Economy Minister Paulo Guedes called “a stampede.”

Salim Mattar, a businessmen turned privatization secretary, quit on Tuesday, Guedes said. Paulo Uebel, the government’s special secretary of de-bureaucratization who was charged with overhauling Brazil’s burdensome public sector with an administrative reform, also stepped down.

Guedes said Mattar asked to leave because he was unhappy with the pace of the privatization agenda. Uebel left because the administrative reform designed to overhaul the careers of public servants has been put on hold, the minister said, adding that the timing of the agenda is the prerogative of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Speaking to journalists Tuesday, Guedes said he understood Mattar’s discomfort. “I told him he had to fight, that there’s no point in asking for God to help,” he said outside the Economy Ministry after a meeting with lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia and lawmaker Arthur Lira.

The departures are the latest losses for the market-friendly economic team, which was forced to put an extensive reform agenda on hold because of the pandemic. In the past two months, Banco do Brasil CEO Rubem Novaes, Industry Development Secretary Caio Megale and Treasury Secretary Mansueto Almeida have left.

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The government’s focus in beefing up the social agenda and easing the tax burden has left other areas on the backburner, said Leonardo Barreto, a director at Vector Relacoes Governamentais consultancy.

“The government is facing difficulties in defining the economic agenda,” Barreto said. “There are several initiatives that were sent to Congress, but no coordination, no dialogue. That only worsened with the pandemic.”

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