Lula to End Super Minister Role for Brazil’s Economy, Ally Says

Front-runner ahead of presidential election advised by large group of economists and won’t have a ‘czar’ in charge

Former President Lula Speaks At The Metalworkers Union Headquarters.
By Martha Beck and Simone Iglesias
April 28, 2022 | 08:35 AM

Bloomberg — Investors eager to know who will oversee Brazilian economic policy in a potential Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva administration will have to wait and shouldn’t expect an all-powerful minister, according to one of his top allies.

Lula, who leads early polls for the October vote, is being advised by a large group of economists including several former ministers, with no clear favorites emerging for now. With months to go until the elections, the left-wing leader is in no rush to pick his economic team, Wellington Dias, one of Lula’s campaign managers, said.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's former president, left, speaks with Geraldo Alckmin, presidential candidate for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), during an event with union leaders in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, April 14, 2022. Lula, who led the country from 2003-2010, has been the presidential front-runner since Brazil's top court tossed out graft convictions against him last year.dfd

Whoever ends up in the job is unlikely to enjoy the same wide-ranging scope that Paulo Guedes currently has as economy chief. Guedes, who was dubbed by President Jair Bolsonaro as a “one-stop-shop” for all economic matters, oversees what used to be three ministries, earning him the moniker of “super minister.”

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“Lula works as a team,” Dias said during a video interview from Sao Paulo. “His government will be the result of talks with parties that are supporting his candidacy.”

The idea that Lula is ultimately responsible for all economic decisions -- as he has said himself on the campaign trail -- and the absence of a blockbuster name to lead the economy may be a reason of concern for investors who want reassurances he will follow a business friendly approach in government.

But Dias says such fears are misplaced. Lula’s past administrations are proof that he will not be fiscally irresponsible, he said, adding that “no one can question” Lula’s ability to listen and to talk with everyone.

A generational gap could be one of the reasons why some investors fear Lula’s election, according to Dias, an experienced politician who recently resigned as governor at the Northeastern state of Piaui to run for the senate and help Lula’s campaign. The former president, 76, left office over 10 years ago, he says, which means there is a younger generation that has only heard about, but not experienced Lula’s achievements in dealing with inflation and poverty.

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“There is a new generation that has not lived under a Lula government”, Dias, 60, said. “Our challenge is to show them he represents stability, fiscal responsibility and respect for institutions.”

The former president has been critical of Brazil’s spending cap rule, which limits the growth of public expenditures and is dear to investors. Dias, along with other Lula advisers, says the rule has to be revised because the country needs to boost public investment, and it’s feasible to have an investment target and a balanced public budget at the same time.

When asked if he would take the job, he laughed, saying he’d be an “enthusiastic contributor” to the campaign.