An agenda for the decade

By ETCO
13/10/2009

Author: Fabio Giambiagi

Source: Valor Econômico - SP - OPINION - 13/10/2009

For some years I have been dedicating myself to propose reflections on Brazil to personalities with outstanding performance in their area, exposed in the form of collections. Together with Octavio de Barros, with whom I organized another book along these lines, we have sought to aggregate visions that, despite having some common denominators, expose a mosaic of ideas. Unlike party clashes, which tend to create a Fla-Flu atmosphere, it is important in these reflections to preserve the diversity of ideas. So, in the same way that, in the other book we organized, we have different authors such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luciano Coutinho, in the book we just released, “Brasil Pós-Crisis” (Ed.Campus), we had this same concern. In it, there are articles from authors in favor of an incisive action by the State in the economy, to others identified with a more liberal perspective. Reflecting this open spirit, the book features a preface by a former minister of the FHC government and an “ear” written by a minister of the Lula government. The good norms of the high-level debate must build bridges between different perspectives. The reader will be able to identify, despite the nuances between the views, a wide space for convergence about the country's potential.

The book has 19 chapters. In what follows, I give the interested reader a brief review of the theme of each text. The book is divided into three parts. The first block of chapters deals with macroeconomic issues, linked to the reforms that the country still has to face. The second block contains chapters on what could be called the “efficiency agenda”, in order to make the economy more competitive. Finally, we have the “new themes” block, such as the environment or the pre-salt layer, also including issues, strictly speaking, old, but again valued recently, such as the discussion on political reform.

In the first block of chapters, at the opening, the two organizers discuss the maturing process of the Brazilian economy since the 90s, highlighting the need to increase domestic savings. Former Minister Delfim Netto presents a fiscal agenda, with emphasis on the proposal to limit the growth of primary expenditure to half the GDP growth rate and radically change the practice of preparing the Budget. John Welch discusses the future of the global financial system. Fernando Barbosa and Octavio de Barros expose the relationship between the intensity of growth in domestic absorption and the dynamics of the current account deficit in the coming years, concluding that it should be restricted within moderate limits. Ernani Torres and Fernando Puga address the points that should be included in a policy to support exports. Senator Francisco Dornelles and José Roberto Rodrigues Afonso make a proposal for comprehensive tax reform that, knowing the importance of both in the debate on the topic, has conditions to be a basis for the future attempt to build some consensus on the topic. For my part, I discuss in a chapter what the points of a pension reform that could be seen to be politically viable could be. Wilson Ferreira Jr., with a prominent role in the area, shows that the risk of energy “blackouts” seems to be eliminated in the short term, but sets out the roadmap for what should be the action of authorities in the electricity sector as of 2011. In turn, Alexandre Mathias defends the preservation of the inflation targeting regime, but with some changes, which could be the object of reflection by future monetary authorities.

In the second block, Robson Pereira and Octavio de Barros seek to rescue the spirit of the so-called “Lost Agenda” regarding microeconomic issues. Paulo Tafner, Márcia de Carvalho and Carolina Botelho postulate what they call “Bolsa-Família 2.0”: a social policy that goes beyond the current program, covering those to whom the resources do not reach and reinforcing the incentives linked to the improvement of education. Gustavo Loyola points the way to the necessary reduction in the cost of capital in Brazil, which is still high. Armando Castelar Pinheiro develops the theme of the reform of the Judiciary, with interesting proposals in order to give greater agility to the Brazilian Justice. Finally, José Márcio Camargo highlights the problems associated with preserving the current labor status quo and explains what the lines of a reform that could modernize relations between employees and employers may be.

In the third block, José Sergio Gabrielli presents the changes that the oil sector will undergo with the pre-salt exploration. Together with two colleagues from the BNDES (Gil Borges Leal and Paulo Faveret) and another ex-colleague (Maurício Moreira) we present what the institution's principles for action in financing development should be, in the evolutionary stage in which the Brazilian economy is entering . Alexandre Marinis defends a low-intensity political reform so that it can stand a chance of being approved, but makes a crucial discussion about the ideal sequence between the political and economic reforms, concluding for the convenience of starting with the latter. Sérgio Besserman, José Eli da Veiga and Sérgio Abranches propose a true environmental agenda, which should be mandatory reading for all candidates for the Presidency of the Republic. Finally, Glauco Arbix and João de Negri expose the importance of supporting innovation by the different instruments of action of government policies, to enhance the country's development.

The moment (the end of the decade and the perspective of a new government) is favorable to discuss these issues. In 1998 and 2002, we had elections on the brink of abyss and, in 2006, the aftermath of the political crisis of 2005. Now, it is time to discuss reforms and have a more noble agenda. We hope that the book will be a contribution to the good debate on the future of the country.

Fabio Giambiagi economist, co-organizer of the book “Economia Brasileira Contemporânea: 1945/2004” (Editora Campus). Email: fgiambia@terra.com.br.