INTERVIEW-Brazil may ease fiscal discipline to bolster economy-Augustin
(Adds Augustin comments and context)
* Treasury chief says economy to determine fiscal policy
* Says missing budget goal not a risk to finances
* Government considering adopting overall budget goal
BRASILIA, Jan 9 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government is willing to relax its fiscal discipline to prioritize economic growth in 2013, Treasury chief Arno Augustin told Reuters, backing away from one of the country's main economic pillars of the last decade.
Augustin said Brazil does not need to meet its closely watched primary budget surplus target in full to keep finances in good standing as the economy has matured.
"What's new, and has been for several years now, is that the government prioritizes the economy to determine fiscal policy," Augustin said in a interview late on Tuesday.
"In the past, if we didn't meet the primary target, the debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio increased. Now, if we do a primary a bit below or above the target, the ratio will continue to fall."
His comments are some of the most explicit by an official to recognize that the Brazilian government is moving away from its strict fiscal management rules credited with ushering in macroeconomic stability after decades of crises.
Augustin went as far as to say that the government could even drop the primary surplus target in favor of an overall budget balance goal that includes debt payments. However, he stressed that no decision has been made on the matter.
The primary surplus - or revenues minus expenditures excluding debt payments - is a gauge of a country's ability to repay its obligations watched by investors.
The government of President Dilma Rousseff missed its 2012 primary surplus goal of 139.8 billion reais ($68.64 billion) by a long shot. Officials were forced to tap the government's sovereign wealth fund and brought forward dividends from state companies to meet a reduced primary goal. ($1 = 2.0368 Brazilian reais)
(Writing by Alonso Soto; editing by Christopher Wilson)