Entrepreneur Marconi Antonio de Sousa, 71, lives in Brasilia and works in card machines for corporate benefits, such as food vouchers. voter Jair Bolsonaro (PL), he considers that the economy in Brazil is doing well.
“We had an epidemic that is not over yet which is going through an acute phase in China, we have intervention from a war and an election year. However, I think the economy is doing well, because the government has taken measures that made it a reaction, such as lowering interest rates to finance real estate,” he told BP C News Brasil.
Marconi D’Souza hasn’t shrunk, but it hasn’t grown much in the past couple of years either. He attributes this to the epidemic and external factors.
“Our company stabilized in 2020 and grew a little last year. The tourism sector suffered a lot from the epidemic and some other sectors reduced productivity due to the global supply problem, but the economy is not back. The belly is full,” he says.
The businessman from Brasilia is part of the 5% of Brazilians who, according to the BTG-FSB electoral poll, released on April 25, consider Brazil to be experiencing a “good economic moment”. Another 32% believe that Brazil is going through an economic crisis, but has managed to overcome it. But the majority – 62% – think that Brazil is going through an economic crisis and find it difficult to overcome.
Some important economic indicators, such as higher prices, higher unemployment and lower GDP growth, feed this less optimistic scenario. The inflation rate last year, from January to December 2021, was 10.06%, which is the worst rate since 2015. Taking into account the 11 largest economies in Latin America, Brazil comes after Argentina and Venezuela, two countries with deep crises that go beyond the problems that caused by the Covid-19 epidemic and its repercussions.
In March, the Consumer Price Index (IPCA), which is Brazil’s official inflation, accelerated to 1.62%, the highest in 28 years. Recently, the World Bank lowered the forecast for the growth of the Brazilian economy from 1.4% to 0.7% in 2022.
But then, what makes 5% of voters think the economy is doing well? Who is this part of the population?
According to the political scientists heard by the report, the explanation may lie in the strong support of this public for the current government and also in the purchasing power – too rich or too poor. understand:
For political scientist Andrea de Freitas, a professor at Campinas State University (UNICamp), these five percent are mostly people who support Bolsonaro strongly. “I think they are the hard core of support for Bolsonaro. Even in the worst moments of government assessment, Bolsonaro always maintains a 15-20% approval rating,” he told BBC News Brasil.
“When we look at different questions from the polls that direct the interviewee to particular government issues, you always have the hard core, who thinks everything is OK. Those five percent are part of that group.”
According to Freitas, these voters’ perception of the economy is, therefore, more related to getting to know Bolsonaro than it is with the socioeconomic status of these people. This is because, as the professor highlights, although there are sectors that are less affected by inflation and lower economic growth, none of them benefit strongly from the current economic situation.
“I do not think that there is a sector that benefits, either from public policies or from the absence of state public policies for the economy. Everyone is affected in some way by the decline in consumption caused by lower incomes and higher unemployment rates.”
According to her, in this context, voters who are part of the hard core of Bolsonaro will use “two logical tools” to analyze the state of the economy.
One of them, Freitas says, is the division of responsibilities. “He will say that the responsibility lies with the governors who have shut down trade in the pandemic, Congress, the Federal Supreme Court or the Ukraine war. The second is to say the economy could be much worse if not for Bolsonaro.”
Professor Unicamp highlights that pandemic and war are factors affecting the economy. “But when we look at the cold indicators, we find that Brazil is worse than many Latin American economies. And all of them, as well as Brazil, are affected by the war and the epidemic.”
Entrepreneur Marconi de Souza has another assessment. For him, part of the “press and opponents of Bolsonaro” paint a very interesting picture of the economy.
“Brazilian sectors that have problems do not have problems because of the way the government operates. The part that has suffered the most is the informal: the man who sold popcorn on the beach, at traffic lights, near stadiums. casa” During the pandemic, these sectors incurred losses However, the government responded by providing emergency aid,” he said.
“As we are in an election year, people want to take advantage of it. There are people who want to burn down the government.”
Very rich and very poor
Political science professor Maria do Socorro Braga, of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) estimates that the 5% who consider the economy to be doing well are the very rich or the very poor – the latter having recently benefited from Auxílio Brasil.
He estimates that “these people must be part of the richest classes who, regardless of inflation or social and political conditions, will maintain a level of wealth.” “Or it is a very poor segment that, regardless of the situation, does not see the possibility of improving their living conditions. They are people in fragile conditions, with low clarity of what is decided politically and the impact of those decisions on politics.”
Among the members of this poor class, receiving Auxílio Brasil may have contributed to a more positive perception of the state of the economy, says the professor. This income transfer program was created by the Bolsonaro government to replace the Bolsa Família and pays about R$400 per month to about 18 million families. The creation of Auxílio Brasil was controversial, with critics claiming that it would have an electoral nature.
In turn, Andrea Freitas, from Unicamp, believes that benefit alone will not be enough to generate this positive evaluation. For her, the ideological component, in support of Bolsonaro, is the main factor, while the Auxílio Família will be the rational argument used to justify the optimistic conception of the economy.
“It’s not that the help doesn’t make a difference, but I think it gets, again, into this place of rational argument,” he says.
“There may be people getting help and feeling better than before. But I don’t think that is what will necessarily drive a vote for Bolsonaro, because the program implementation process has been confusing and has generated a perception that politics is unstable.”
The economy will be the main topic of the elections
The truth is that the economy should be the main topic of this year’s presidential election. The improvement or deterioration in the indicators should have a direct impact on Bolsonaro’s approval.
According to the international consulting group Eurasia, the primary concern for voters today is “income and employment”. Between March and April, polls of voting intentions revealed progress by Bolsonaro, despite the former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (EN) Continues in all scenarios for rounds one and two. Lula appears with 41% to 45% of voting intent, depending on the poll, and Bolsonaro with 30% to 32%.
On average, the proportion of those approving of Bolsonaro’s administration rose from 30% to 35% in the first three months of this year. Eurasia Group attributes the improvement in Bolsonaro’s assessment to a “modest recovery in income strength” for the poorest population in the early months of this year due to one-off measures.
“In the second half of 2021, real income in Brazil fell by 11%, driven by higher-than-expected inflation, which severely affected low-income families. But in early 2022, these families partially regained lost income. Annually readjusted by 10% of the national minimum wage, the thirteenth salary for retirees, and some of the measures taken by the government, such as forgiveness of student debt and the release of FGTS withdrawals,” says the advisory.
Despite this slight recovery in income, the economic situation in the country remains difficult, with food prices rising and fuel. In the 12-month period, the inflation rate was 11.3%. Food and fuel are among the sectors most affected.
The average price of a liter of gasoline was R$7,283 in the last week of April, which is an increase of 0.18% compared to the previous survey.
This is the highest nominal value paid by consumers since the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) began conducting a weekly price survey in 2004. The unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2022 was 11.1%, the same as the level recorded in the first quarter of 2021. Less than the 11.4% forecast by Bloomberg.
According to consultancy Eurasia, Bolsonaro needs more significant advances in economic indicators to continue growing in opinion polls.
Socorro Braga, a professor at UFSCar, recalls that voters have, historically, blamed the re-election candidate for the current economic crises. But the current scenario, of an epidemic followed by a war in Ukraine, made it possible to list the blame on external factors.
“Inflation in Brazil is high and affects the middle class,” he says. “In previous elections, the higher the inflation, the lower the purchasing power, and as a result, the government was blamed.”
“But part of the population, especially those 5% who think the economy is doing well, blame the impact of the epidemic or the war, not the lack of effective policies to overcome this situation. As a result of the war, the lack of supplies and the epidemic.”
It remains to be seen whether this narrative will gain or lose steam during the election campaign.
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