Known for his aggressive discourse, Bolsonaro has promised to open up Brazil’s economy for trade and investment, under the tutelage of his ‘super economy minister’ Paulo Guedes. Yet he is also surrounded by military men who share his apparent preference for a strong state role in the economy, especially its biggest companies.
Bolsonaro has frequently been scathing about Chinese economic interests in Brazil, but looks increasingly likely to need Chinese investment in some of his planned infrastructure projects, such as railway improvements to facilitate the transport of grains to ports for shipment (largely to China). His foreign policy, leaning away from Brazil’s traditional pragmatism to a more ideological stance, may stand in the way of attracting investment more broadly.
Moreover, after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, probes into members of Bolsonaro’s family and circle will raise questions over how he will deal with such things close to home.
Much of Bolsonaro’s economic success will depend on his ability to tackle difficult issues such as fiscal and pension reforms, and investors will be watching his progress carefully.
Yet the fragmentation of Brazil’s Congress, where 30 parties are represented, Bolsonaro’s difficulties in negotiating political consensus, the problems in playing to both his electoral base and a diverse Congress and the contradictory statements emerging from his government will raise doubts.
What will Bolsonaro’s presidency mean for the direction of Brazil’s economy?
Can he successfully emulate Donald Trump in forcing his own agenda?
What (diversionary) policies will he use to enthuse his base while the bread-and-butter economic measures flounder in Congress?
Which opposition sectors will be the most/least effective?
How will domestic and international pressures on agricultural and environmental policy influence decisions?
And what will this shift imply for Latin America more broadly?
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