A1: Despite the severe economic crisis, in 2015 and 2016, Brazil has put forward a transformation agenda which comprises the broadest set of structuring reforms for the past thirty years based upon the pillars of fiscal balance, social responsibility and increase in productivity.
The results are already visible. The economic recession in Brazil has been reversed and the Brazilian economy has been growing. In 2017, a positive GDP growth of 1% totalized USD 2,06 trillion, and inflation closed below 3%. Purchasing power got better with an increase of more than 6% in real wages. Trade balance has recorded a surplus of over 60 billion dollars, and until November, the net inflow of direct investments totaled 64 billion dollars.
This virtuous cycle lies at the root of the recovery of trust in the Brazilian economy. The Brazil Risk (Emerging Market Bond Index - EMBI) ratio has dropped from 544 basis points (Jan 2016) to 247 basis points (Apr 2018). The IBOVESPA index has surpassed 80 thousand points in January 2018, recovering from 38 thousand points at which it stood in January 2016.
In the energy sector, important investments are expected over the next few years, creating up to 500 thousand new jobs. Aiming at raising productivity, an employment reform has been passed. Without removing rights, the law was modernized and brought many workers from the shadow economy into formal employment.
In order to realize the dimension and the solidity of Brazilian economy, I would like to remind the readers
that Brazil is the sixth largest foreign investor in EU (excepting fiscal paradises), with a stock of EUR 97 billion, according to Eurostat data, following EUA, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and China.
The reinstatement of fiscal responsibility along with the economic growth has enabled an increase in the resources allocated to social welfare. The health and education budget lines have increased. The rationalization of health care management has brought more resources to essential services. In the field of education, the high-school/ secondary school reform has updated the curriculum for the students taking into account individual skills and the realities of the employment market. Besides, with the launch of the Geostationary Satellite, a decisive step has been taken towards the universalization of access to broadband Internet in Brazil.
The results show that Brazil has left the economic crisis behind. The next step will be the continuity of reforms, which will ensure solvency and survival of the system. Simplifying tax law, another priority, will increase the competitiveness of our domestic production.
Q2: In the past few years, domestic politics has been rather confusing in Brazil. How do you see the possible scenarios of the presidential election to be held in autumn?
A2: Two weeks ago, the deadline (7 April 2018) for contenders holding executive mandates to give in their positions was due. The same deadline was valid for party affiliation as well (by law, independent candidates cannot run in Brazil). More than 15 declared pre-candidates have overcome that first step and are still able to run for the presidency. From 20 July to 5 August 2018, the conventions of the political parties are entitled to choose their candidates. After that, the parties have to register their candidates to the Electoral Court before 16 August 2018, when the campaign officially begins.
Since 1994, presidential elections in Brazil have been dominated by two center-leftist parties – the Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) and the Workers Party (PT) – with the support of two conservative parties, respectively, Democrats (DEM former PFL) and Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB former PMDB). However, for 2018 most of the local analysts believe that such polarization will not take place again, especially because of the corruption scandals that are undermining the chances of more traditional political figures. Besides, an expressive part of the electorate is particularly concerned about domestic security issues. Hence, the main trend between political scientists now is to forecast a scenario where at least three competitive names will effectively try to conquer hearts and minds.
Q3: After spending more than a year in Hungary, how do you see the development of the Brazilian-Hungarian political, economic and foreign trade relations; and how do you think Hungarians could contribute to strengthening these relations?
A3: After almost 15 months in Budapest, I see our relationship characterized by the desire to strengthen, further develop and diversify our economic and commercial relations as well as technical cooperation in various sectors on a mutually beneficial basis. One important step to accomplish our goals is to support a balanced, ambitious and comprehensive agreement between MERCOSUR and the EU. I am glad that our countries have already stepped forward for this trade agreement. Another relevant step was the Opening to the South policy of the Hungarian government, adopted in 2011. This policy is contributing to bring the long-term cooperation in political, economic and trade fields between Brazil and Hungary to a new level. I would like also to remind that Hungary entered in the CPLP - Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries as observer member. Hungarian participation and contribution in this forum could also raise new opportunities for our bilateral cooperation in different fields.
I see many possibilities to enhance bilateral cooperation between Brazilian and Hungarian micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the field of ICT, agriculture, chemical industry, water management and production of medical devices. In this context, the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development and the Hungarian National Trading House signed a technical cooperation agreement on 15 November 2017.
Last year we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Hungary. That celebration strengthened our resolve to continue carrying on high-level cooperation in order to not only bolster mutual political confidence, but also extend practical partnerships in all fields.
Q4: Our educational relations have been developing dynamically in recent years, and we all know that these ties effect and contribute a lot not only to research and science, but also to culture, tourism, and personal relationships. What advancement opportunities do you see in this field as for the next decade?
A4: As a matter of fact, I am willing to benefit from this successful educational platform – which, by the way, is the result of the close cooperation between the Embassy and the Magyar Rektori Konferencia (MRK), whose support to the Ciência sem Fronteiras (CsF)- Science without Borders- programme was invaluable – in order to prospect more opportunities of cooperation in the field of science, technology and innovation. In 2011, an important momentum took place to effectively install and maintain, on the margins of the Brazilian-Hungarian Joint Economic Commission, a subcommittee for science, technology and innovation. Unfortunately, it was not possible to organize the first meeting of the subcommittee at that time, but the motivations still exist.
Brazil views science, technology and innovation as structural axes of its development strategy and assigns an essential role to them in the pursuit of sustainable development. Therefore, throughout cooperation in science and technology I can foresee a new Brazilian economy, in which the transition to a green and creative model will assure a more prosperous and equal society.
Innovation is a priority. For the next ten years, I believe that we have to both identify and develop cooperation opportunities to increase innovation capacity in the business sector and foster increased business participation in R&D investments. The development challenge we have ahead requires progress in capacity building and skills in strategic areas of scientific and technical knowledge, as well as progress in structuring an economic base supported by an endogenous and dynamic process of innovation. I believe that we have to work together in this field, in order to use our synergy for mutual benefit.
Q5: As you know, in 2013, the Hungarian government has come up with a new initiative, the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship programme, which – in the spirit of reciprocity – is available for Brazilian students (and researchers as well), resulting in the growing number of Brazilian students in the country. Do you happen to know if there are new higher education-related initiatives in Brazil that Hungarian institutions could contribute to?
A5: From 2013 to 2016, under the auspices of the Ciência sem Fronteiras (CsF) programme, more than 2 thousand Brazilian students have attended courses in Hungarian universities for one or two semesters. Undoubtedly, that significant flow of students not only demonstrated the relevance of Hungary to CsF, but also paved the way for the Stipendium Hungaricum (SH) initiative towards Brazil.
By the end of 2016, affirming that the programme had fulfilled its purpose, the Brazilian government phased out CsF. Since then, the concerned authorities in Brazil are taking into consideration the possibility of launching a brand-new programme, whose focus will be on graduated students.
Bearing in mind both the outstanding numbers of CsF in Hungary and the crescent demand for SH scholarships in Brazil, I am confident that the Hungarian universities have all the credentials to take part in any initiative of the Brazilian government in the field of higher education.
Finally, I would like to say that I am pleased with the fact that two events will convene Brazilian rectors in Hungary this year: ABRUEM International Mission and the General Assembly and International Seminar of the Grupo Coimbra. MRK is definitely playing a key role by supporting the internationalization efforts of the Brazilian universities.