Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This week’s news has been good for Brazil, and for the State of Rio. Inflation for 2016 was lower than expected, the federal and state governments reached agreement on a bail-out for the bankrupt state, and word is spreading that Petrobras is going to reactivate the petrochemical complex (COMPERJ) in Itaboraí.
COMPERJ, designed to process natural gas produced offshore, was closed down more than a year ago, after the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigations determined that each and every contractor involved in the construction of the complex had been complicit in the immense kickback scheme involving Petrobras and Brazil’s governing political parties (PT, PMDB and PP, lest we forget).
The effect of the shutdown on the town of Itaboraí was deadly: 12,000 people were “demobilized”, meaning fired, with the predictable knock-on effect on commerce and service providers, who decamped because they had no more customers. The town didn’t quite become a ghost town, but empty office and residential blocks abound.
But the best news of all is that Petrobras, at long last “under new management”, has invited some thirty foreign construction companies to submit bids. More to the point, Petrobras did NOT invite the members of the Brazilian cartel that has monopolized all (repeat, ALL) significant construction and large industrial contracts for the past thirty years or more.
It was these Brazilian companies that got in bed with the corrupt Petrobras officers and directors, and their bosses the corrupt politicians, paying them kickbacks to ensure that no foreign competitors would ever be allowed to ‘invade’ the cartel’s private turf.
The Curmudgeon knows that foreign construction companies are not necessarily paragons of virtue, but he also knows that most of them come from countries where the rule of law is paramount, where cartels and corruption have long been punished severely.
The Curmudgeon salutes the new administration at Petrobras for having outgrown the leftist legacy left by “lulopetismo”, and wishes it well in restoring jobs to workers in the State of Rio de Janeiro.