Coalition or Big Names

The Michel Temer interim government intended to have a ministry of notable names, but ended up hostage to the outdated coalition formula.

by Rogério Silva (rsilva@tvparanaiba.com.br)
Translated by Loretta Murphy

michel-temerHe cozies up to parties from the allied base in order to maintain peaceful support from Congress. We’ve seen these names such as Eliseu Padilha, José Serra and Sarney Filho in previous governments and they are easily remembered from recent Brazilian political history. Not to mention the previously ousted Henrique Eduardo Alves and Romero Jucá.

Would it be absurd to think of a ministry in terms of experts in their field? Who would be the career employee at the Ministry of Education who understands the statute and knows the underlying regiments of the department? Would s/he not be eligible to be the Minister of Education? Who is the best known diplomat in our Foreign Relations department? Would s/he not be an expert Chancellor?

The discussion about experts vs purely politically known appointees leading ministries, is not exclusive to Brazil. Even in developed countries it is common. American Secretary of State John Kerry was a candidate for president of the United States, and defeated by George W. Bush in the 2004 elections. The problem is the insistence on names that have already failed in the past, due to lack of competence in the performance of their duties, or to deviations in purpose, corruption scandals and various accusations.

It seems utopian at this early stage, to resort to looking at names of those individuals who have only technical expertise. This would weaken the government’s ability to approve important agendas, like political and labour reforms. But one must understand that the country does not stop due to the vacant post of a minister. The work continues to flow just the same, perhaps even more easily. It is true that the civil service has a clear understanding of the boss’s political role. Rare are the ministers who provide records and actively tend to the daily duties of their ministry. And so maybe, the constant change of these leaders has little influence on the daily routines of their departments.

A minister’s name serves more as a guarantee given to certain sectors. The best example is Henrique Meirelles. Regardless of his talent in currently directing fiscal policy and his experience in monetary policy in the Lula government, the business community reacted positively to his name as a nod to a favourable path towards the free market, with low State intervention.

But most often it happens that the minister hinders more than helps. Just looking within the interim Temer government, note the example of the PMDB member and Government Secretary Geddel Vieira Lima. He was involved with the “Budget Dwarves” scandal and was investigated in the “Operation Car Wash” case. Will he go far in office?

Hélder Barbalho, of the National Integration Plan, is the legitimate heir of Jader Barbalho who, among other pearls on his resume, was involved in the Banpará and Sudam scandals, and even an unbelievable story about his wife’s ghost frog farm, funded with public money.

Even if Michel Temer becomes the new president, in view of the possible impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the coalition formula will continue to be adopted. And following Temer’s in two years, whoever replaces him will be pressured to maintain the same players on the board, moving them from house to house whenever a party expresses its interest in doing so.

So what is the way out? I see only one: professional management in government. If one of these ministers can be the executive of a large company, he’s in the right place. If you don’t trust him to sell you a used car, he’s not up to the job. Who will have the courage to take on this role?

Rogério Silva is a journalist, director of TV Paranaíba. Rogério is the director of journalism at Educadora FM, in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

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