(Bloomberg) — Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and the powerful lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia announced a truce on Monday evening after more than a month of crossed accusations as political leaders split over how to tackle a widening fiscal deficit.
After having dinner in Brasilia together with a group of legislators, Maia apologized for disrespectful remarks he’d made about Guedes recently and said both must work to protect fiscal responsibility in Brazil.
“Last week, I was impolite and rude, I leave my apology here. I told Minister Guedes and those present at the dinner that, in the pandemic, we have to be united to protect the spending ceiling rule,” Maia said after the encounter.
Guedes, standing next to Maia, said government and congress have already made progress working together and that cooperation is needed going forward because Brazil has to push its reform agenda. The two agreed that the nation’s new social program, dubbed Citizen Income and designed to sustain aid to millions of Brazilians who lost their income during the pandemic, must comply with the spending cap rule, a key piece of legislation seen as a safeguard of fiscal discipline in a country with a history of overspending.
Paulo Guedes, Brazil’s economy minister, wears a protective mask during the National Flag Raising ceremony at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
Photographer: Andre Borges/Bloomberg
The peace pact between two of the most influential players in Brasilia comes as the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro pushes to ramp up social spending even as the country is set to finish 2020 with a record budget gap. Earlier on Monday, the International Monetary Fund said Latin America’s largest economy faces “exceptionally high and multifaceted” risks as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on Brazil’s debt dynamics.
Bruno Dantas, a judge in Brazil’s federal audit court known as TCU, hosted the dinner at his house. Senate president Davi Alcolumbre, Communications Minister, Fabio Faria, and lawmakers were also invited.
“They don’t need to like each other, but they need to be able to put together a fiscally-responsible agenda with a solution that creates social benefits and allows congress to move forward with the tax reform,” Dantas said in an interview, adding it’s a mistake to weaken the economy minister.
The Speaker met with Bolsonaro early on Monday to discuss Citizen Income, without Guedes’ participation. Marcio Bittar, the rapporteur of the bill that will create the program, participated in the discussion before heading to a meeting with the economy chief.
(Updates with IMF comments in fifth paragraph.)
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