In early November, right after the runoff presidential election won by worker’s party candidate (PT) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brunswick hosted a panel discussion between Partner and São Paulo Office Head Roberta Lippi, New York Director Daniel Wiedemann and Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly Brian Winter on what to expect from Lula’s third term, beginning January 1, 2023.
Below are three key takeaways from their conversation and a note on the most consequential decision made by the president-elect so far, his choice for finance minister.
Fernando Haddad as finance minister
Lula announced on December 9 that Fernando Haddad, former São Paulo mayor and the candidate Lula hand-picked to run against Jair Bolsonaro for the presidency in 2018, is the new administration’s choice for finance minister. Haddad is closely aligned with the core of the leftist PT party, and many see him as a likely successor to Lula. Haddad’s name has been among those floated as a possibility for the finance post since October, thus the market reaction was mild. Financial markets are holding judgement cautiously, concerned about Haddad’s leftist leaning. Investors, however, are hopeful that the choice indicates Lula is not looking for any sharp turns and will stay the course with stable policy.
Haddad is hardly an unprecedented choice. Many pundits argue that this incoming government desperately needs a politician as opposed to a technical economist as finance minister, because Brazil’s economic health lies so much in basic common-sense reforms any government would need to pass through congress (such as fiscal and tax reforms). Antonio Palloci, a former Finance Minister for Lula during his first term, had a similar profile and was successful at working with elected officials to pass legislation (though Palloci was later disgraced for his involvement in corruption). The biggest concerns for the market are who Haddad picks to fill the technical posts of his ministry, and the mixed messaging Lula and his team have used in relation to the federal budget’s spending cap and deficit. Recently, the transition team has signalled that keeping fiscal policy under control is a priority, but Lula also has made it clear he sees a big role for government-funded social programs and infrastructure investments.