The mother of reforms

By ETCO
11/10/2009

Author: Merval Pereira

Source: O Globo - RJ - 11/10/2009

The book “Brazil post-crisis”, coordinated by economists Fabio Giambiagi and Otavio Barros, is being published exactly one year before the elections, with the aim of stimulating the debate about the government that begins in 2011. Multiparty, in a sign that it can dialogue between educated people, in the definition of Giambiagi, the book has among its attractions a chapter by the president of Petrobras, José Sergio Gabrielli, and the ear with a text by the Minister of Planning, Paulo Bernardo, in addition to the preface by Luiz Carlos Mendonça de Barros and articles by authors linked to the FH government.

The central point is a group of chapters on the various structural reforms that would need to be carried out by the future government, but which depend on one of them, political reform, considered “the mother” of all reforms, more complex and delicate, which can put to lose the political climate that would allow the approval of the others.

The characteristic of the article by political economist Alexandre Marinis, from Mosaic Consulting, is precisely to deal with these delicacies of “timing” and procedures to achieve the objectives of a real political reform: “The timing of a political reform is extremely important, actually determines your success. No proposal is easy to implement and guarantees the promised results. Many times they can even play against the initial intention, and we can get even worse than we are ”, analyzes Marinis.

He draws attention to the concentration of powers in the hands of the President of the Republic, generating a de facto hyper-presidentialism, a phenomenon that is not only Brazilian, but that is spreading throughout Latin America.

“The prospect of structural reforms starts to depend on the central figure, who is the President of the Republic.

If he does not intend to promote reforms, the process will not take off ”, points out the author, remembering that in the Lula government exactly this happened: right from the beginning he approved a tax reform“ whose only objective was to make the CPMF become permanent, and then never regulated pension reform ”.

The logic of our political system, according to Marinis, allows for a coalition to give sustainability to the government, with party leaders having the strength to negotiate reforms, but without enough power to carry out reforms without the support of the Executive.

“The central objective of political reform must be to reconcile representativeness and governability in order to prevent parliamentarians, government officials and the three main rentier lobbies (corporatism, political and business) from behaving in an opportunistic and personalistic way”, writes Marinis in his text.

For him, "it is necessary to find ways to overcome these groups that today captured the public budget to approve projects that favor them: representatives of large corporations, contractors, civil servants".

Another peculiarity of the Brazilian representative system, according to Marinis, is what he defines as "representative imbalance of states in the Chamber of Deputies".


With the electoral majority in the South and Southeast regions, presidents almost always leave these regions, with rare exceptions such as the election of Collor, which Marinis considers "an anomaly".

"But, when it comes to implementing reforms, this president will have to deal with a Congress based in the other regions of the country, especially the North and Northeast", comments Marinis, to whom, although he considers it "simplistic" to summarize the issue to regional disputes, "They are structurally important".

The political reform to be carried out, therefore, “goes far beyond the announced solutions, such as the mixed district vote, party loyalty; it is much more complex ”.

For Marinis, it is necessary to “break this paradigm so that the structural reforms needed by the country are approved”.

He draws attention in his text to "the possible implications that changes in political decision-making may have on the ability of future presidents to build majority coalitions in Parliament and to resume the country's structural reform process".

As the dynamics of the functioning of the current political system mean that the majority coalition in Congress is increasingly formed by parliamentarians averse to changing the status quo, “the prioritization of political reform could indefinitely postpone the resumption of the process of other structural reforms, as part of of the suggested changes may hinder the president's ability to co-opt parliamentarians into his coalition and reduce the Executive's dominance over legislative production ”.

Depending on how it is done, warns Marinis, "political reform can create difficulties for the next president to form a majority coalition in Congress."

Without parties solidly committed to programs, “we would have several PMDBs”. He does not state in his text, but an idea that he developed in conversation with me is implicit in him: the way out of these impasses could be to call for a specific Constituent for political reform.

To avoid surprises, the call would be limited to specific topics, and the reforms would only be valid for the next government. "In this way, representatives of civil society could be elected who would bypass these pressure groups that dominate the Congress today", dreams Alexandre Marinis.

I give readers a rest until the 27th, when the column is published again.