Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As of Friday, May 28th, Michel Temer will have been President of Brazil for two weeks. During this period he has abolished, demoted and revamped cabinet ministries, announced a new foreign policy and proposed drastic economic measures, after admitting an astounding budget deficit.
So, how’s he doing? The Curmudgeon will share a few thoughts.
Let’s start with one obvious failing grade, an “F” in America—the appointment of ministers who are under investigation for criminal activities, justifying it by the “presumption of innocence” fallacy so beloved of crooked politicians and their lawyers. Specifically, Temer chose Romero Jucá as his Planning Minister; it turns out that, for over a year, Jucá had been planning measures to curtail the Lava-Jato investigations before they reached him and his ilk.
Turning to Education and Culture, Temer’s hemming and hawing over the hierarchical status of the Ministry of Culture (demotion, promotion and resurrection) is the sign of someone who has read much but learned little. Another “F” grade.
The Temer Cabinet as a whole gets only a “D” grade. The picture of stodgy white men wearing suits, and the absence of women, seems an affirmation of Brazil’s macho culture. That’s a diversion, of course—the real problem is that most ministers, just as in the bad old Lula/Dilma days, have absolutely no technical qualifications for the job.
What these ministers have, at least in theory, is votes in Congress. That’s essential for Temer because his appointees in the finance area are definitely “Grade A”. All are dedicated to the proposition that budget deficits must be ended if Brazil is to grow. That will mean cuts in all ministries and programs, including those most beloved of members of Congress.
No one knows whether Temer will be able to get the essential economic reforms started, because municipal elections occur in October, and most members of Congress have strong local power bases. If he fails, he won’t get a chance to repeat the semester.
The Curmudgeon has no real confidence that President Temer will succeed, but lives in hope.