Ex-IMF chief economist: “disdainful” Bolsonaro will cost lives

IMF chief economist: "disdainful" Bolsonaro will cost lives
Maurice Obstfeld. Photo: Archive

In an interview with newspaper Valor, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Maurice Obstfeld said that President Jair Bolsonaro’s “disdainful response” to the Covid-19 pandemic will have an enormous cost for Brazil, both in terms of lives and income. 

“With appropriate leadership, Brazil would have the capacity to safeguard the health of its people, but it is now an area of high [Covid-19] incidence in Latin America. That doesn’t protect the economy — on the contrary,” he said. Meanwhile, the IMF expects the Brazilian economy to shrink 6.1 percent in 2020, a stunning 7.5 percentage points under the government’s forecasts in January. With the economy grinding to a near halt, the fund predicts Brazil’s unemployment rate to reach 14.1 percent, up from 11.9 percent last year.

As Covid-19 numbers in Brazil spike, Mr. Bolsonaro has maintained his denial of the severity of the pandemic, pushing to reopen the economy. Besides deaths exceeding 11,000 in the country, the far-right leader’s behavior puts Brazil’s image in jeopardy. 

Neighboring countries say Brazil represents a risk for South America. Argentinian President Alberto Fenández said Mr. Bolsonaro’s actions amid the pandemic could harm the whole region. In Paraguay, President Mario Abdo Benítez fortified the borders in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero — adjacent to the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul — to prevent contaminated Brazilians from entering the country. Brazilian citizens make up the majority of daily new coronavirus cases in Paraguay.