Those around President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) consider that Roberto Campos Neto, head of the Central Bank, burned bridges with the PT government and reduced his chances of influencing the nomination of new directors for the autarchy.
The tension in the relationship with the head of the monetary authority, appointed by Jair Bolsonaro (PL), occurs after the BC has kept interest rates at a high level for the fourth time in a row and in the midst of an escalation in Lula’s criticism of the institution.
The assessment of members of the PT government is that Campos Neto was inept with Copom’s decisions and the tone of the last communiqué —which signaled that the Selic would be maintained at the current level for longer. In the view of Planalto allies, there was a confusion between BC autonomy and isolation.
The main consequence, according to Lula’s interlocutors, is that Campos Neto may be excluded from central choices for the BC’s board of directors. The next exchange is scheduled for February 28, when the terms of two members end.
On the other hand, an operation to reconcile the two sides is also underway. A wing of the government says that the environment is tense, but that it is possible to appease. So far, the president of the monetary authority has not signaled that a movement in this direction will come from him.
The law on the autonomy of the monetary authority, passed into law in 2021, determined that it is up to the President of the Republic to indicate the names of directors. The PT’s initial idea was to discuss the choice with Campos Neto, who, in turn, expected to make a decision in consensus with the government.
“Even in the recent past, I discussed all the names with the directors present and some were even suggested by other directors. So, it is a process in which everyone discusses”, stated the BC president in December.
The Minister of Finance himself, Fernando Haddad (PT), said that he had been talking to the president of the Central Bank about nominating the new monetary policy director.
As shown to Sheet, Campos Neto even started conversations with financial market agents in search of a replacement for Bruno Serra Fernandes, holder of the position, who has a mandate until February 28. For the Audit Board, the expectation is that Paulo Souza will be reappointed for another term.
This was before the BC’s decision to keep the high Selic level stable and signal that the interest rate cut could be postponed, which made Lula raise the tone of criticism.
In the economic team, the intention remains to reach a name with dialogue, but it is not known if this will still be possible, given the president’s position.
On Monday night, the Minister of Finance said that he is receiving suggestions from Campos Neto and that the practice is to make a technical choice for the positions, but considered that the prerogative belongs to the Chief Executive.
“Our role is to inform President Lula of the best names available so that he can eventually choose,” he said.
Minister Alexandre Padilha (Institutional Relations) said this Monday that, although the issue is not yet under discussion, Lula will exercise his power of choice for the board.
“The law and the prerogative belong to the President of the Republic. Not only for the Central Bank, but for any other agency. President Lula will follow exactly what is in the law, build a name to be nominated, to be analyzed by the Senate” , he stated.
Lula’s stance is considered by a wing of the government as not very constructive for a solution to interest rates. The assessment is that the BC will not give in to pressure and the criticisms only make the environment more tense, which was once more conducive to dialogue.
The president and ministers consider that Campos Neto betrayed the government’s trust, which was counting on the body to overcome the current economic problems without a recession, as shown by the Mônica Bergamo column.
Complaints extend to linking the BC president with Bolsonarism. The criticisms were accentuated after an image captured by the photographer of the Sheet Gabriela Biló, on January 10, show that Campos Neto was still a member of a WhatsApp group called “Ministers of Bolsonaro”.
In 2021, he appeared at a fraternization barbecue with Bolsonaro government ministers, such as Ciro Nogueira (PP), then leader of Centrão in Congress.
This Monday (6), Lula reinforced his criticism of the Central Bank’s actions and raised his tone, saying that the country’s current basic interest rate, the Selic, is “a shame”.
“There is no justification for the interest rate to be at 13.50% [o patamar da Selic é, na verdade, de 13,75%]. Just look at the letter from the Copom for us to know that this interest rate increase is shameful,” said Lula.
The demonstration took place during the inauguration of the new president of the BNDES, Aloizio Mercadante, in Rio de Janeiro. Haddad’s team has shown discomfort with the president’s statements behind the scenes. The minister avoided being next to Lula at the event and stayed in Brasília.
In front of the ministry’s headquarters, Haddad said on Monday that the BC’s warnings about the fiscal situation refer, above all, to the legacy left by the Bolsonaro government for the current administration, but that the monetary authority could have been “a little more generous” after the R$ 242.7 billion package to improve public finances.
“In that regard, I think the note could be a little more generous with the measures we have already taken,” he told reporters.
Last week, the Copom (Monetary Policy Committee) maintained the basic interest rate at 13.75% per annum for the fourth consecutive meeting – the first since President Lula took office. The monetary authority signaled that it may keep interest rates at the current level for longer, given the scenario of fiscal uncertainty and worsening inflation expectations.
Lula’s criticisms of the BC’s management, however, have raised inflation projections and pressured interest rates, generating an effect contrary to that intended by the government.
“The problem is not an independent bank, it is not a bank linked to the government. [O] problem is that this country has a culture of living with high interest rates”, stated Lula.
The president also called on sectors of the business community to make demands on interest rates in the country. Lula said that the “business class needs to learn to demand, to complain about high interest rates”.
“When the Central Bank depended on me, everyone complained. The only day Fiesp [federação da indústria paulista] spoke was when interest rates increased. It was the only day […]. Now, they don’t talk.”
UNDERSTAND: AUTONOMY OF THE CENTRAL BANK
- What is Central Bank autonomy?
The rule disassociated the BC from the Ministry of Economy and made it an autarchy of a special nature. The main change was the creation of fixed terms of four years, with the possibility of reappointment, which distances the body from political influence.
- When was the BC autonomy law passed and why?
With the aim of shielding the institution from government interference and creating fixed mandates, the bill was approved in 2021 and then sanctioned by then-president Jair Bolsonaro (PL).
- Can board members be fired?
They can leave office when they perform insufficiently to achieve the BC’s objectives, with a decision by the President of the Republic and the approval of the Senate in a secret ballot being necessary. They may also be exonerated at their request or if they contract a disease that makes it impossible to hold their position. In addition, they may be dismissed if convicted, by means of a final and unappealable decision or issued by a collegiate body, for the practice of administrative impropriety or a crime whose penalty temporarily prohibits access to public office.
- How was the first term defined fixed?
The president and two directors will have terms until December 31, 2024, and the others will end their periods in a staggered manner. Two of them have already ended their term on December 31, 2021. The next two end on February 28, 2023; and two others, on December 31, 2023.
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