By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Less than a week after winning Brazil’s Presidency, Jair Bolsonaro, is already receiving stiff criticism for his decision to merge the Agriculture and Environment ministries and create a ‘super ministry’ merging the ministries of Finance, Planning and Industry into the Economy Ministry.
According to Bolsonaro allies the goal is to reduce the current 29 ministries to ‘15 or 16’. The reaction to the news was swift, as the president of Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries, Robson de Andrade said on Wednesday that he regretted the end of a representative body for the sector.
“Given the importance of the industrial sector to Brazil, which is responsible for twenty-one percent of the national GDP and for the collection of thirty-two percent of federal taxes, we need a ministry with a specific role that is not linked to the Treasury, more concerned with collecting taxes and administering public accounts,” Andrade told journalists after an event in Brasilia.
According to him, no large economy in the world gives up having a ministry responsible for its industry and foreign trade. The executive said that eliminating the ministry goes against the trend of countries like England and the United States, which according to him have reinforced their industrial policies.
Economist Paulo Guedes, named by Bolsonaro to lead the ‘super ministry’ disagreed. “We are going to save the Brazilian industry. There has been a de-industrialization for more than thirty years. We are going to save Brazilian industry, despite Brazilian industrialists,” said new Economy Minister.
As for the merging of the ministries of Agriculture and Environment received heavy criticism from both environmentalists in Brazil and abroad. “The union of these ministries can put in check the necessary balance of forces that needs to be respected in the public policy framework. A regulatory body cannot be subject to a regulated sector, for the sake of consistency and good governance,” said the World Wildlife Fund in its Brazilian-chapter’s website.
Despite the statements made by current president Michel Temer, saying that the agriculture and environment sectors ‘never diverged’ in his government, environmentalists see the move as a way to have environmental issues subjected to the ‘whims’ of the agriculture sector. Environmentalists fear that laws protecting the country’s forests, waters and fauna will not be enforced.
“This disastrous decision will bring serious damage to Brazil and will pass on to consumers abroad the idea that all Brazilian agribusiness survives thanks to the destruction of forests, attracting non-tariff barriers to the detriment of all,” said ex-environment minister and former presidential candidate, Marina Silva on her social media account.