Volto a dizer: Estamos todos de rabo preso: Republico o artigo de Ricardo Semler

Copiado da Folha de Sao Paulo: 25 de novembro de 2014

Ricardo Semler

TENDÊNCIAS/DEBATES

Nunca se roubou tão pouco

Não sendo petista, e sim tucano, sinto-me à vontade para constatar que essa onda de prisões de executivos é um passo histórico para este país

Nossa empresa deixou de vender equipamentos para a Petrobras nos anos 70. Era impossível vender diretamente sem propina. Tentamos de novo nos anos 80, 90 e até recentemente. Em 40 anos de persistentes tentativas, nada feito.

Não há no mundo dos negócios quem não saiba disso. Nem qualquer um dos 86 mil honrados funcionários que nada ganham com a bandalheira da cúpula.

Os porcentuais caíram, foi só isso que mudou. Até em Paris sabia-se dos “cochons des dix pour cent”, os porquinhos que cobravam 10% por fora sobre a totalidade de importação de barris de petróleo em décadas passadas.

Agora tem gente fazendo passeata pela volta dos militares ao poder e uma elite escandalizada com os desvios na Petrobras. Santa hipocrisia. Onde estavam os envergonhados do país nas décadas em que houve evasão de R$ 1 trilhão –cem vezes mais do que o caso Petrobras– pelos empresários?

Virou moda fugir disso tudo para Miami, mas é justamente a turma de Miami que compra lá com dinheiro sonegado daqui. Que fingimento é esse?

Vejo as pessoas vociferarem contra os nordestinos que garantiram a vitória da presidente Dilma Rousseff. Garantir renda para quem sempre foi preterido no desenvolvimento deveria ser motivo de princípio e de orgulho para um bom brasileiro. Tanto faz o partido.

Não sendo petista, e sim tucano, com ficha orgulhosamente assinada por Franco Montoro, Mário Covas, José Serra e FHC, sinto-me à vontade para constatar que essa onda de prisões de executivos é um passo histórico para este país.

É ingênuo quem acha que poderia ter acontecido com qualquer presidente. Com bandalheiras vastamente maiores, nunca a Polícia Federal teria tido autonomia para prender corruptos cujos tentáculos levam ao próprio governo.

Votei pelo fim de um longo ciclo do PT, porque Dilma e o partido dela enfiaram os pés pelas mãos em termos de postura, aceite do sistema corrupto e políticas econômicas.

Mas Dilma agora lidera a todos nós, e preside o país num momento de muito orgulho e esperança. Deixemos de ser hipócritas e reconheçamos que estamos a andar à frente, e velozmente, neste quesito.

A coisa não para na Petrobras. Há dezenas de outras estatais com esqueletos parecidos no armário. É raro ganhar uma concessão ou construir uma estrada sem os tentáculos sórdidos das empresas bandidas.

O que muitos não sabem é que é igualmente difícil vender para muitas montadoras e incontáveis multinacionais sem antes dar propina para o diretor de compras.

É lógico que a defesa desses executivos presos vão entrar novamente com habeas corpus, vários deles serão soltos, mas o susto e o passo à frente está dado. Daqui não se volta atrás como país.

A turma global que monitora a corrupção estima que 0,8% do PIB brasileiro é roubado. Esse número já foi de 3,1%, e estimam ter sido na casa de 5% há poucas décadas. O roubo está caindo, mas como a represa da Cantareira, em São Paulo, está a desnudar o volume barrento.

Boa parte sempre foi gasta com os partidos que se alugam por dinheiro vivo, e votos que são comprados no Congresso há décadas. E são os grandes partidos que os brasileiros reconduzem desde sempre.

Cada um de nós tem um dedão na lama. Afinal, quem de nós não aceitou um pagamento sem recibo para médico, deu uma cervejinha para um guarda ou passou escritura de casa por um valor menor?

Deixemos de cinismo. O antídoto contra esse veneno sistêmico é homeopático. Deixemos instalar o processo de cura, que é do país, e não de um partido.

O lodo desse veneno pode ser diluído, sim, com muita determinação e serenidade, e sem arroubos de vergonha ou repugnância cínicas. Não sejamos o volume morto, não permitamos que o barro triunfe novamente. Ninguém precisa ser alertado, cada de nós sabe o que precisa fazer em vez de resmungar.

Dilma and Obama: Two Failed Presidencies?

For quite a while now, Obama’s success as President has been challenged not only by Republicans.  We are now in the final two years, so most of what could be expected and accomplished has happened and it’s all in the wind up from here.  In the midterm election with the clear victory of the Republicans in Congress, politicians have been making haste to distance themselves from the President.  Clearly, the Republicans have disliked and obstructed Obama from the beginning, but yet he managed to reform healthcare and pretty much end the US intervention in Iraq.  At the same time, he should receive credit for picking up the pieces after the 2008 crash, avoiding a much longer depression and coming out 6 years later with the stock market at all time highs and corporate profits continuing at record levels.  Still business pretends not to like the president and the shrinking middle class does not feel any benefit from his economic policies.  Even the supposed savings in health with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not palpable to many people.  Obama seems aloof and tied to reacting to foreign policy crises such Russia in Ukraine, Islamic State in Iraq, Assad in Syria and Ebola in Africa.   While I am certain that he is concerned about his legacy, he may be just too complacent and less than willing to defend his record and start any new major domestic initiatives at this point.  I suppose he should take pride in two terms, the fact that he is the first Afro-American president and that history will eventually recognize his significance while current pundits emphasize his weakness and unpopularity.

So what is the situation with Dilma?  Can we compare her to Obama, still generally recognized as the world’s most powerful figure?  At first glance, Dilma seems strong.  The press consistently ranks her as one of the most powerful women in the world, usually just below the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.  Dilma just won her second term in an admittedly tight race and she has a chance at a new start.  However, like Obama she does not have a majority in Congress and her political skills are limited.  She is wed to the social programs she inherited from Lula and now faces an economic crisis of slow to no growth and a flowering of corruption scandals.  Thus far, she has been indecisive in the economic arena.  While she has promised to replace finance minister Guido Mantega, she has been slow in signaling clearly to the market his replacement.  The Real has suffered and now stands at 1US$ to 2.60 Reais and inflation is brewing.  The rating agencies are threatening Brazil’s precious economic grade-bond status.  And while Dilma keeps promising to deal with corruption, she has failed to make any real changes at Petrobras and other affected institutions.

Her legacy is that she is the first woman President of Brazil and has successfully (to date) continued Lula’s redistributionist policies through social programs and education.

Aside from health care, Obama has no major domestic success.  Dilma, in spite of some continuity from Lula, has even less.  So do we have two failed Presidents?  Certainly, the right wing in the US thinks Obama is a failed president.  In the same fashion, the right in Brazil finds Dilma anathema.  The left in the US wants to distance itself from Obama as they see no gain in association with his policies that have done little to put more money in the hands of working people.  The left in Brazil ties itself to Dilma, not so much for ideological reasons but because she controls the levers of power, the sinecures and the ability to allocate resources.  Interest in her is more material than moral or ideological.

Obama, with his message of hope, perhaps offers greater immediate disappointment.  Dilma with hardly any clear message does not offer anything except perhaps muddling through which in Brazil is nothing more than business as usual in the “pais do futuro.”

Business in Brazil

There is a lot of talk on the right about Brazil’s movement to the left.  Lots of people are using words like Bolivar, Chavez, Cuba and Morales thus making the inference that Brazil is becoming some kind of socialist or populist republic.  The basis for this seems to be Dilma’s penchant for ad hoc interventionism.  Certainly, her actions in the electrical and oil based energy sectors have been called into question.  Only this week, she allowed Petrobras a slight increase in the price of gas and diesel.  It does not appear enough to balance the books or even help cash flow at the oil company.  With the continued drought it is also clear that electricity rates will have go up.  Oil based resources have been picking up the power generation slack as hydro capacity falls.

On the other hand, even as Brazil’s economy continues in low gear, barely moving forward, we have to remember that it is still a $2-plus trillion dollar machine ranking in size as the 7th largest in terms of GNP.  So lots of businesses continue to be viable and productive in spite of the slow growth mode of the economy.  Moreover, FDI continues to flow in at around $60 billion per year and this has been consistent over Dilma’s presidency.  Corporate money in spite of the slow growth and leftist lean still sees potential due to the expansion of Brazil’s middle class as well as the continued growth in income at the top of the pyramid.

Doing business in Brazil has always been complicated.  I remember back in the 50’s and 60’s when the Bank of Brazil controlled investments and remittances through CACEX.  It was less transparent and at least as bureaucratic then as it is now. Brazil has not lagged in computerization of public services.  Today, one can go on the Central Bank’s website and track fairly transparently the flows of capital and the procedures are explained in English and Portuguese for foreign investors.  Brazil is a big participant in international wire transactions with billions of dollars negotiated on a daily basis.  Most of the flow goes through Brazil’s Central Bank but a portion goes through the “doleiros”.  It is interesting  to watch news sites such as Folha de Sao Paulo produce pictographs of how funds move.

The biggest mystery in doing business in Brazil continues to be imports from foreign countries.  There is no end to the complaints about goods being tied up in customs.  Still, with trade turnover around $450 billion per year, hundreds of thousands of containers come into the country each year and the vast majority of these are released from customs within a few days and without inspection.  As in the US, the new guys usually get flagged.  Moreover, as the system is highly automated the mismatches in foreign and domestic paperwork create hassles.  Wrong classification, i.e. incorrectly converting HTS number to NCM numbers, errors in weights and quantities, incomplete or incorrect written identification of goods not matching the classification are all good reason for fines, inspection and delayed releases.  Certainly true as well is the existence of some opportunistic inspectors and agents who may be looking for a problem in need of resolution.

Once in Brazil, companies setting up in the major cities are finding it much easier to get started.  The commercial registries (juntas comerciais) are promising to do their part within days.  Often public agencies tied to city hall or the state may be slower.  Some areas that often stand out are timely inspection by the fire service or the environmental authorities that want to make sure your waste water and products are correctly collected and treated.

Overall, Brazil is much too large and complex, too modern (internet access) and too politically diverse to succumb to the type of domination that Chavez established in Venezuela.  Brazil even shies away from the Argentine route and is not likely to accept the same manipulations that Christina Kirchner has used there.

Business in Brazil is complicated.  The tax structure is a labyrinth  and one must count on the permanent advice of your accountant whose role is to follow the ever-changing structure.  Likewise, the legal system lacks transparency and if you wind up in court, the final resolution of the case may take years or even decades.  This, of course, does not  typically favor businesses with strangers or high levels of complex arrangements, but still these deals do happen with lawyers accompanying the process.

While Brazil remains a complicated place and ranks poorly in the classifications of ease of doing business, the fact is that the market is full of opportunity and competition in many sectors is weak or almost non-existent and large profits result.  Talk to people who have success in the market and, while, they may be unlikely to confess how well they are doing, the fact is that many are doing better than ever.

Members of the PT actually tend to see this as a paradox of the recent elections.

Post Election-Hangover and Hope

Let’s look at our behavior just prior to and after the recent presidential election in Brazil. The campaign was quite acrimonius and partisans on both sides contributed to “tabloidization” of the discourse.  Some of this continues as the PTistas lean on the supposed right wingers (real ones, too) for their snide remarks and  discrimination (some real, some alleged) against the nordestinos.  The Tucanos continue to cling to the moralization discourse and group Dilma, Lula and their acolytes in the broad classification of self-serving thievery.  I suppose all of this is to be expected.

Independent of the “wicked” accusations flying back and forth, business goes on and decisions are being made on a daily basis.  We like to say that new administrations in Brazil shake the coconut trees and all the monkeys pretty much fall off their branches, only to scramble up again in the hope of achieving a higher posting or at least maintaining position.  So, new ministers and new staff will be appointed with the required jockeying and justifications.  It remains to be seen if Dilma will have the political fortitude to promote a reform that would reduce the number of Ministries and hopefully reduce federal expenditures.

Dilma has repeated the hackneyed rhetoric of bringing everyone together.  In reality, we know that this is not likely to happen.  She is not a unifying figure nor does she have a program.  Nonetheless, Dilma seeks to leave a legacy.  Moreover, her mentor, Lula, currently hints at wanting to run for president again in 2018, when he will be 73.  Given the tight margin of this year’s race, a strong performance by the PT will be needed to justify another 4 years in power.  It is interesting to compare Bahia and Minas.  Aecio lost Minas and the campaign staff has been held responsible.  As the native son, he should have carried the state, especially as he was trying to make hay with his supposed 90% approval rating on leaving the governorship.  Fernando Pimentel, Dilma’s former Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce (MDIC) easily defeated Pimenta da Veiga for Minas governor.  Veiga admittedly was a weak candidate and in retrospect it is a bit hard to fathom the choice.  In a previous blog, I stated that perhaps Aecio was lucky to lose as he does not have to face the negative economic tide that Dilma has had a hand in creating.  However, by not carrying Minas, his position is totally subject to the PT line: Quem conhece Aecio, nao vota nele (Those who know him, don’t vote for him).

Bahia, on the other hand – our neighboring state to the north and east – also has solid political traditions.   After years of domination by the traditional oligarchy (Antonio Carlos Magalhaes and family), a younger generation of leftist and populists have emerged.  Gilberto Gil, the musician is one example but he supported Marina in the first round.  More important is Jacques Wagner who was governor and helped elect his successor, Ruy Costa.  Wagner, in turn, is being vented as the new president of Petrobras and one who can clean up the company and move it from the crime pages back to a successful business story.  Independently, or under the tutelage of Wagner, Costa has promised to reduce the number of State Secretaries and to work in a very transparent fashion.  Moreover, Dilma, reportedly is resting after a busy campaign at the Aratu Naval Base in Bahia and meeting with Wagner.   So, given his success in Bahia, possible handover of Petrobras, and favorable support, he becomes an alternative candidate in PT should Lula’s health fail.  While Wagner came out of the oil workers union, he has never been considered a radical and has praised Lula for favoring both rich and poor while at the same time extending recognition to the PSDB for achieving economic stability and fiscal responsibility.  So if Wagner has Dilma’s ear and can maneuver within the PT, he mail be able to rival Aecio in 2018.  It is almost certain that Dilma will use combating corruption as her shield against economic criticism and resurrecting Petrobras with Wagner at the helm may be her strong suit.

Much is unpredictable, but it is certain that 2015 will be a major challenge and the question is how Dilma will select her friends and allies to attempt to meet her responsibilities.