Jair Bolsonaro promised a government of fiscal austerity

During the presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro and his team promised to rid Brazil’s federal government from “the vices of the Workers’ Party’s previous administrations.” The President’s Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni kicked off his tenure by firing “people with a clear ideological bias,” laying off over 320 staffers. Mr. Lorenzoni’s zealous purging caused a curious episode when he could no longer hire any new underlings due to a lack of workers available to process hirings and firings. Moreover, it turned out that only 1 percent of those who were dismissed were actually connected to the Workers’ Party.

Aside from Mr. Lorenzoni, what the first couple of weeks of the new administration has shown us is that the drive to cut public spending has not translated into concrete measures. So far, the government has used the Federal Register to publish the details of restructuring efforts in nearly all ministries—with the exception of Health, Defense, and the Office of the Solicitor General. The transition team boasted an 11-percent cut in the number of politically-appointed positions. While that seems like a lot, it’s not without some caveats.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, it is worth remembering that there are still 22,297 politically-appointed offices in the federal administration—hardly a number you would expect from an austere government. Furthermore, looking closer at the cuts, we can see that they were largely focused on civil servants in the lower echelons of the administration—primarily career servants who were acting as bosses. In the upper levels (secretaries and national directors), there was a 20-percent </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">increase</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the number of offices.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In other words: the total number of politically-appointed staffers is down; but among those who earn the </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2018/12/29/brazilian-government-money-2020/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">highest salaries</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, it is actually up. The moves save a mere BRL 1.7 million per month. </span></p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-13275" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC-1024x700.png" alt="Bolsonaro's public spending cuts not as advertised" width="1024" height="700" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC-1024x700.png 1024w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC-300x205.png 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC-768x525.png 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC-610x417.png 610w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/export-0NGbC.png 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>Who holds the power in the administration?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Advertised as the broker for the financial markets&#8217; support for Jair Bolsonaro, Minister of the Economy Paulo Guedes certainly wields a great deal of power in the cabinet. Despite having eliminated 3,000 positions under him, Mr. Guedes will be ultimately responsible for nominating around one-third of all politically-appointed offices in the federal administration. Moreover, his &#8220;super-ministry&#8221; houses some of the most powerful careers in government.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another way to address the statistics is by checking which ministries have shrunk, and which have grown. The Secretariat of Governance, which handles negotiations between the Executive and other branches, is now 71 percent larger, having swallowed up the Secretariat of Privatizations and the government&#8217;s Communications ministry. Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Mr. Lorenzoni has seen his ministry downsized by 37 percent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is also important to look at is the expansion of the Ministry of Agriculture (32 percent) and the simultaneous shrinking of the Ministry of Environment. The latter lost its power to regulate water resources (now under the purview of the Ministry of Regional Development)—not to mention that the president wanted to place the agency responsible for indigenous affairs under the Ministry of Agriculture (it ended up under the Ministry of the Family and Human Rights).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two weeks in, it remains too soon to make any assessment on the Jair Bolsonaro presidency, of course. But carefully analyzing how an administration is crafted gives us signs of what is to come.

Read the full story NOW!

PowerJan 15, 2019

Tags: - - -

BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.