Interview: João Geraldo Piquet Carneiro


Author: Cíntia Borsato

Source: Veja, 10/09/2007

“The Iberian heritage no longer explains the Brazilian backwardness. In Portugal and Spain, it is possible to open a company in one day ”

President Lula has a unique opportunity to reverse the bureaucratic web that turns Brazilians into subjects in an inefficient and notarial state. Who says this is lawyer João Geraldo Piquet Carneiro, 66, perhaps the only Brazilian to dedicate his routine entirely to the elimination of one of the most ominous bureaucracies in the contemporary world. Piquet chairs the Helio Beltrão Institute, an organization whose objective is to propose initiatives to increase the efficiency of public administration and reduce excessive government interference in the lives of citizens and companies. Between 1979 and 1986, Piquet was the right-hand man of the lawyer and economist Helio Beltrão in the National Program for Bureaucratization. Killed in 1997, Beltrão regretted the revival of almost all the requirements that had been eliminated at the time of his program. According to Piquet, the record tax collection now gives the government a rare chance to simplify public management. Piquet gave the following interview to VEJA. 

Veja - Why do you think it is possible to reduce bureaucracy in the short term

Piquet - There has never been a more favorable moment for this in the country's recent history. In the last few decades, the great alibi behind the asphyxiating control of citizens by the state was the need to raise tax revenues and attack the fiscal crisis. Today, on the contrary, public accounts are balanced. It is the best time to make a change in favor of the taxpayer. Unless, of course, a fiscal crisis collapses and all that financial bonanza disappears - which is certainly not on the radar. The government has not yet realized that if it allows the free creation of wealth, it will earn more money, because the tax contribution base will also grow. As things are today, few manage to keep up with all debts and tax rules. Society's response comes in the form of increased informality. Those who remain legal end up paying more taxes and dealing with an even greater and more oppressive bureaucracy. 

Veja - How the cause-and-effect relationship takes place between fiscal voracity and bureaucracy

Piquet - The IRS needs to raise more and more and tighten the requirements imposed on taxpayers to keep the tax revenue rising. This is because public spending increases every other year. The mass production of legislation and tax rules is a by-product of this voracious collection. The culture of mistrust was created. The public authorities do not trust the citizen, who accepts this and becomes submissive to the whims of the state. A relationship of submission in which we are the subjects. It is a notary mentality. Why should I go to the registry office, put a stamp to prove that the copy is the same as the original
 Because of a minority of no more than 5% of counterfeiters, the lives of 95% of people are affected. Why should I get certificates to prove that I owe nothing if the state owes me
 Congress is on the wave, failing to realize that this fiscal and collection superstructure requires more public officials and more spending. 

Veja - What could be done immediately to ease bureaucracy in the country

Piquet - Several things. See the absurdity of certificates issued by notaries or public offices to prove that companies and people are up to date with the government - that is, that they owe nothing to the Tax Authorities, the INSS or the Ministry of Labor, for example. Without these certificates, a company cannot participate in tenders and bids or sign any contracts with the government. Without these documents, a person does not have the right to register for a public contest. In the 80s, the certificate of legal and tax regularity was implemented, which unified all certificates and was valid for one year. That went backwards. Today many of them are only worth a month. Thus, people and companies are forced to constantly issue paperwork to say that they owe nothing to the state. The government maintains a sea of ​​officials just to examine these papers. A uselessness that fuels corruption and can disappear with a simple pen. There are already people in the government thinking about it. It would be a fantastic measure. 

Veja - And the Revenue's fear that this will raise default

Piquet - It is unfounded. With more time, companies get more contracts, produce more wealth and accumulate more conditions to pay their debts. As it is, it is almost impossible to keep up with the state. You always owe something. A deformation was created that made fiscal regularity infinite. The person needs to live 100% in a virginal state. You can't have any sin. Otherwise, he becomes an outcast. 

Veja - What would be the other initiatives

Piquet - It is necessary to prohibit the requirement of a notarized signature and a certified copy in notaries. In any decent country, it is enough for the public official to verify that the copy matches the original, and the signatures made in the presence of the officials have the same value as the recognized firm. We need to abolish this as soon as possible. Our biggest defeat, when we made the red tape reforms, occurred just when we proposed simplifying the deeds for the purchase of real estate. This creates a huge market for notary intermediation, one of the miseries of the Brazilian public administration. I don't know of any other country in the world with similar requirements. There are professions and even branches of business that have been created around this. Few countries have as many accountants and accountants as Brazil - 450 in all, against 000 economists, 60 business administrators and 000 university professors. 

Veja - The internet has not simplified these requirements

Piquet - On the contrary, it complicated in many ways. It has been used to further tighten taxpayers. With information technology, there is a cross-inspection of various taxes. The government often forces the taxpayer to use the internet, as if it were a universal good and dominated by the entire population. It is not. Certain certificates from the Federal Revenue Service and Social Security can only be requested online. Once again, an authoritarian imposition was made, serving only to control the fiscal condition of individuals. The internet in Brazil has served to increase and preserve bureaucracy, not to reduce it. 

Veja - How we became world leaders in bureaucracy

Piquet - There are three moments for us to understand this phenomenon. The first one is historical, an argument that is often used to leave things as they are. When the Portuguese royal family arrived in Brazil in 1808, they landed with the bureaucracy of their court in the luggage. The public administration was born, therefore, bureaucratized. The second phase of increased bureaucracy occurred because of the fiscal crisis, beginning in the mid-80s. With the increase in public sector expenditures, the concern with collecting more taxes was such that the service to citizens was no longer important. Citizens, especially those who walk in law, are punished twice: they pay more taxes and see the quality of public service decrease. The third moment is the one we are experiencing today, which I call the bureaucratic baroque. Every day laws and regulations are created that are difficult to comply with, hermetic and subject to dubious interpretations. 

Veja - The Iberian heritage is so much to blame

Piquet - Not anymore, because Portugal and Spain have evolved a lot. In these countries, it is already possible to open a company in a single day, in a completely computerized process, using a kind of ATM. There, the newly created companies are only inspected by the IRS after two years of activity. There is a grace period for the project to become viable. The concept is this: the more businesses are opened, the greater the creation of wealth for society and the government. In Brazil, with luck, you can open a company in fifteen days, but that can take two months or more. The incredible thing is that we have regressed. In the 80s, only 72 hours were needed. Brazil is the last remnant of a centralizing culture that worked well for a period in Portugal, a nation with small territorial dimensions. The Portuguese tried to do the same in the administration of Brazil, but this is impractical. The irony is that today Portugal is already out of bureaucracy and Brazil remains like that, as in the days when the monarch authorized the opening of a store. 

Veja - The tax burden reached 35% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Until when society will bear more and more taxes

Piquet - Unfortunately, as the collection goes up every year, it seems that we have not reached a limit. What happens is that only the few who still manage to overcome absurd barriers remain in law. But they are few compared to the rest of society. A survey carried out in 2003 by the Helio Beltrão Institute in five municipalities in Rio de Janeiro showed that 70% of companies were informal. The tax burden is so high that the taxpayer is expelled from the system. Not to mention the bureaucracy itself, all this difficulty in collecting the due taxes. Eight out of ten companies in the country have some tax pending. If a small business owner goes bankrupt, the tax authorities will collect all taxes. This micro-entrepreneur will hardly be able to rise again, at least not within formality. He will leave the official activity, it is the logic of the system, which treats a delinquent and a tax evader in the same way. The baron of Mauá went bankrupt twice. He only succeeded and became rich on his third attempt. In Brazil today, it would be no more than the first. 

Veja - They say that bureaucracy and corruption go hand in hand. Do you agree

Piquet - Have no doubt. Faced with so many and so complex demands, people prefer to circumvent them through some artifice. Consider the case of a public work. The loopholes for corruption begin in the bidding notice itself. Here comes the inspection of the work. The person will measure the project in the middle of the Amazon Forest and discover that there are 50 meters to go. There appears another opportunity for the way. Then comes the release of the resource, another time. In a single process there are several possibilities and incentives for corruption. The government does not inspect itself and does not allow itself to be inspected. But it does so with the taxpayer, who has no means of overseeing the state. Bureaucracy in this sense violates an intrinsic right of citizenship. The citizen has the right to be treated well. Bureaucracy then becomes perverse and undemocratic. 

Veja - Bureaucracy is often associated with public bodies. However, with services such as telemarketing and electronic service, we would not be facing a new phase of bureaucratization, this time in the private sector.

Piquet - Yes, but, again, much of the blame lies with the government. The bureaucracy of these services stems from regulatory deficiencies. When requesting the cancellation of a telephone line due to the death of the holder, some companies require a power of attorney signed by the deceased. Helio Beltrão said that, in Brazil, the death certificate is more important than the deceased. 

Veja - Twenty-five years later, what assessment do you make of the National Debureaucratization Program

Piquet - Some initiatives have failed, such as the simplification of trade boards. We have regressed in several areas, such as the process of starting a business. But other measures have had positive results, such as the Statute for Micro and Small Enterprises. The greatest legacy of those reforms, however, was the small claims courts, which enabled the poorest to have access to justice. The process is completely bureaucratic, it is not necessary to present papers, just expose the problem orally. The service is free and there is a charge only if there is an appeal - precisely to discourage the appeal. These examples prove that we don't have to live under this authoritarian bureaucracy. The reforms would have an immediate positive impact on people's lives. There is still time to turn that game around, and the ideal time is now. 

Veja - But the Brazilian government seems to believe that the rules will only be met if there is a threat of a fine ...

Piquet - Patience. I would like to see the bureaucrat being pursued with the same rigor with which he pursues the taxpayer. He would not survive a single day. 

Veja - In addition to political initiative, what else would be needed
 A tax reform, for example

Piquet - Tax reform in Brazil is an illusion. It starts with the best intentions, it always ends in tax increases. Union, states and municipalities never lose revenue. The authorities are driven only by the desire to achieve greater revenue. I participated, for example, in the tax and fiscal reform of the Itamar Franco government. In the first meetings it was clear that the main interest was to make the IPMF (provisional tax on financial transactions) viable. Well, this tax, which was supposed to be provisional, is still there today, in the form of the CPMF (provisional contribution on financial transactions), and should be extended until 2011. An eventual reform may even bring more rationality to taxation and reduce it a little. bureaucracy. We should not deceive ourselves, however, because there will be no significant reduction in the tax burden.