Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – From the beginning of the 1889 poem by Eugene Field: “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night, sailed off in a wooden shoe; Sailed on a river of crystal light, into a sea of dew.” Late last week, President Dilma officially appointed her troika of Ministers to deal with Brazil’s sputtering economy during the next four years: Joaquim Levy for Finance, Nelson Barbosa for Planning and Alexandre Tombini for the Central Bank.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

Mr. Levy is a surprising choice. He’s a professional banker; Dilma campaigned against the “evil” bankers supporting Aécio. He’s a Chicago-trained economist; hence anathema to the leftist sectors within PT, which Dilma favors. Worse yet, he’s a disciple of Antonio Palucci, Lula’s first Chief of Staff, who convinced him (over Dilma’s vehement objections) to retain the economic policies begun by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Mr. Barbosa is less surprising, as he’s one of the few economists affiliated to PT whom orthodox economists trust. He was Dilma’s first choice as Finance Minister until someone (Lula?) convinced her otherwise. As a developmentalist, he can push for further spending, which is Dilma’s solution to any social problem.

Mr. Tombini is still relatively unknown, as he’s been politely subservient to Dilma and has kept his head down. This was clever of him, as he knows full well that Dilma thinks she knows economics better than anyone else in Brazil, notwithstanding abundant proof to the contrary.

The word “sabotage” comes from “sabot” – a wooden shoe. The Curmudgeon expects Mr. Levy to “blynk”, Mr. Barbosa to “wynk” and Mr. Tombini to “nod” as Dilma regularly attempts to sabotage their policies. In less than a year, they’ll be former Ministers. To quote Eugene Field once more: “And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed; of sailing that beautiful sea…”

The Curmudgeon plans to emit more short(ish) Smidgens opportunely. Stay tuned.


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