Doria takes Meirelles and spending cap to sell candidacy to US investors

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On his first international trip after being confirmed as a candidate for president in 2022 in the PSDB’s caucuses, Governor João Doria (SP) recovered a weapon used by Michel Temer (MDB) when taking over the Planalto in 2016.

In conversations with investors in New York, where he leads a business mission and opened a trade promotion office for the São Paulo government this Thursday (2), Doria took out Henrique Meirelles and the spending ceiling to present himself as a liberal and responsible candidate in the economy.

The former finance minister, now his secretary in the area, was named the coordinator of his economic program.

The toucan has already met former mayor Michael Bloomberg, with the direction of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs bank and Morgan Stanley on Wednesday (1). This Thursday, he will also speak at JP Morgan and, on Friday, with investors, the Council of the Americas, Itaú and the largest fund manager in the world, Blackrock.

“There is fiscal instability and political instability. Investors want stability, because they are not speculative investments, but rather long-term,” stated Doria.

“The situation is very similar to that of 2016, when I took over the Ministry of Finance,” said Meirelles. In office, he delivered an administrative reform to which he credits the slack of R$ 50 billion in investments until the end of 2022, a record in the state’s recent history.

That year, after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff (PT), Meirelles was called by the new president, Michel Temer, to try to get around the recession that had lasted more than a year. “The issue was responsibility, but also fiscal credibility. Upon regaining confidence, we lowered the Brazil risk and other indicators, controlling inflation.”

Meirelles credits the implementation of the spending ceiling, proposed to limit federal spending for 20 years, with such a credibility shock. And the solution for 2023? “The spending ceiling must be respected,” he said, needling the fiscal tricks of the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government.

Doria was in the same vein. “It is absurd to pierce the ceiling, there is no humanitarian justification for this, because piercing the ceiling creates hunger,” the governor said at a press conference, repeating Meirelles’ arguments.

Meirelles, in conversation with journalists, outlined the three points that he considers most immediate for the economy: administrative reform to release resources for investment in social and infrastructure, present a new federal tax reform and support the proposal of the states that reached Congress and stimulus to privatizations and concessions below.

“We are not going to stick to acronyms. We are going to make a model suitable for the country at the moment,” he said, regarding the controversial replacement of Bolsa-Família by Auxílio Brasil.

He cites the proliferation of small and medium-sized public works in São Paulo as an example to be followed, due to their capillarity in the economy and in the generation of jobs.

As the boss already did, he defended the sale of Petrobras. “But we have to divide it into three or four companies, so as not to create a private monopoly,” he said. Doria has also defended a fund to stabilize fuel prices, funded by the winners of privatization.

The toucan has already stated that he wants a council with six people working under Meirelles’ coordination in the economic area. The secretary did not want to decline names, obviously, but in the government of São Paulo the name of the former secretary of Finance of Goiás Ana Carla Abrão is taken for granted.

Meirelles should go after former collaborators, people like his former Treasury secretary Mansueto Almeida, who also held the post in the Bolsonaro government, until he left in the middle of last year.

The orthodox recipe of the former minister, who was president of the Central Bank during the eight years of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s (PT) government, is criticized in several ways — some flexibility in the draconian ceiling rules is the subject of intense debate.

Meanwhile, the administration Paulo Guedes (Economy) decided to dodge it by supporting measures such as the PEC dos Precatórios, deteriorating the economic situation and market expectations.

Doria also attracted the political curiosity of investors, who questioned its viability. The answer, according to sheet heard from participants in the conversations, it was descriptive.

The toucan passed on his victory in the first electoral dispute he held, to the City of São Paulo in 2016, in which he also faced tough caucuses and low numbers in polls. Two years later, already better known, he went through the same process and arrived at Palácio dos Bandeirantes.

Now, skating around 5% of voting intentions for months and facing competition from names like former judge Sergio Moro to try to get Bolsonaro out of the presumed runoff against Lula, Doria presented himself as someone who grows on arrival.

Meirelles, in turn, also faces a peculiar political condition. He will be running for senator for the PSD in Goiás. But the party presided over by Gilberto Kassab wants senator Rodrigo Pacheco (MG) in the presidential race against Doria and others.

“There are no problems, they are different issues at the national and local level. When I accepted Kassab’s invitation, it was to have total autonomy in Goiás,” he stated. “We all respect each other.”

In this “roadshow” of the São Paulo government, no investment announcement has been made so far, contrary to what usually happens. At the inauguration of the office of InvestSP, the state’s investment and business promotion agency, Doria recounted the history of this model of international insertion.

He recalled that the initial contract of Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac with the Butantan Institute took place at the opening of the InvestSP unit in Shanghai, in August 2019.

Cooperation on the Zika virus ended up leading to joint production by Coronavac, which was the most used immunizer against Covid-19 in the country in the first months of the vaccination campaign. “This is a great example of the usefulness of this model,” stated the agency’s president, Gustavo Junqueira.

In addition to Meirelles, two other secretaries of state and the presidents of Sabesp and Butantan travel with Doria. There are 18 state employees in all, at a cost of R$ 34,000 per head, on average — there are people in New York for longer, others just for five days.

The so-called New York Commercial Mission is supported by 30 businessmen from the delegation and sponsors in the private sector, and cost R$ 4 million in total.

Journalist Igor Gielow travels at the invitation of InvestSP

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