Brazil’s Economy Seen Shrinking 3.8% This Year

The latest Brazilian central bank survey of economists shows increasing pessimism amid the country's prolonged recession and political turmoil.
Matthew HellerApril 18, 2016

Amid what could be Brazil’s worst recession in more than a century, economists are becoming more pessimistic about the country’s economic outlook.

In its weekly survey of 100 economists, Brazil’s central bank found that gross domestic product is expected to shrink 3.8% this year, compared with expectations a week ago for a 3.77% contraction. The survey showed a downward revision for the 13th straight week.

Economists have reduced their outlook for growth in 2017 to just 0.2% from 0.3%.

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The International Monetary Fund last week predicted Brazil’s economy will contract 3.8% this year and level off to zero growth in 2017, warning that the uncertain pace of recovery could force another downward revision. Brazil’s government is expecting 1% growth next year, according to budget guidelines released last week.

Brazil’s “once high-flying economy is impaired by a political crisis that may result in the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff in the next few months,” Dow Jones said. On Sunday, Brazilian legislators in the lower house of Congress voted to approve Rousseff’s impeachment, sending the case on to the Senate.

“The economy is not functioning properly,” Ramon Aracena, chief Latin America economist at the Institute of International Finance, said earlier this month. “And there is chaos in the political system, with spillovers in the economic sphere.”

The IIF forecasts a drop in GDP of 4.5% this year and a small rebound of 0.5% of GDP in 2017. “It could be another year of recession if the political situation does not improve,” Aracena said.

Moody’s, the ratings agency, has described Brazil as an “extreme case” in Latin America due to both its very high debt to GDP ratio and its very low debt affordability. “Domestic uncertainties continue to constrain the government’s ability to formulate and execute policies,” the IMF said.

The central bank also reported that economists reduced their estimate for Brazil’s inflation rate in 2016, as measured by the consumer-price index, to 7.08% from 7.14%. For the next year, they cut their forecast to 5.93% from 5.95%.