Strong economic advisers and weak economic policies - 11/24/2021 - Rodrigo Tavares

One, two, three, behind a great political leader there are always four, five, six or more advisers of all kinds and suitability. They whisper what they’re told and don’t say what they’re whispered about. Angela Merkel has Uwe Corsepius (“the confidant”), Putin has Anton Vaino (“the philosopher”), Xi Jinping has Liu He (“the negotiator”). No one knows who they are, but everyone knows them.

In Portugal and Brazil, these advisers, mainly those responsible for economic issues, dodge the backstage and appropriate a media space that is used to endorse the candidacy of the future chief.

Across the Atlantic, both pre-candidates and pre-candidate candidates recruit, as temporarily as possible, their “strong man for the economy” so that the candidacy can reach adulthood.

Paulo Rangel, an MEP who is a candidate for the leadership of the PSD (main right-wing party) in the internal elections at the end of the month, has already presented his “coordinator of the economic area” in the event of being chosen as leader of the party, and months later , elected prime minister. The nominee was a professor at the University of Minho.

In Brazil, economic advisers also present themselves publicly before learning about the economic programs. Columnists from business notebooks, university professors and people with backing in the market are recruited to ratify a candidacy.

In the absence of a long line of celebrity economists, candidates vie for the attention of the few who will be able to steer their way to power. As no voter reads electoral programs and, even if he did, he would hardly find pictorial guidelines there on what will be implemented in case the candidate wins, the opinion articles and interviews of these councilors become a kind of magnetic needle amidst the assumptions.

Paulo Guedes (“o desastre”) benzeu a candidatura de Bolsonaro e arrebanhou o mercado. In that same 2018 candidacy, Alckmin had Persio Arida. Four years earlier, Armínio Fraga supported Aécio Neves. In the same interview in which Sergio Moro presented himself as a pre-candidate, Affonso Celso Pastore was cited as the main adviser in the economy.

Content is neglected and the person is overvalued. Economic policies are no longer the result of collective construction debates, within a party or coalition, and become equivalent to the public opinions of a single citizen.

Tax guidelines, monetary policy, tools for GDP growth, all depend on a person’s temperament, yearnings or genius. Economic policy is individualized: “l’économie c’est moi”, would say the new enlightened kings.

In 2022, I will pay attention to the candidate who presents an economics program and does not cut corners by announcing only an economic advisor. And I will also value the candidate who presents a national sustainability program (in its most diverse aspects) and doesn’t just pull a famous environmentalist out of his hat.

As we have seen in the last four years, the personalization of politics, ephemeral expedients, half-truths and WhatsApp firing can elect candidates, but they do not prepare presidents. And Brazil desperately needs a stable and democratically elected president. It is a privilege the country has not enjoyed for several years. A weak king makes strong people weak, wrote Camões.

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