Bolsonaro says he's pro-business, so why is Brazil's economy in the dumps?

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Bolsonaro says he's pro-business, so why is Brazil's economy in the dumps?

Jair Bolsonaro's pro-markets stance helped him win the support of Brazil's business elite — and eventually the presidency. So why do some experts say his policies have held back the country's economic potential?
Thu, Jan 20 202211:25 PM EST

At the turn of the century, Brazil was touted for its huge economic potential. 

The South American country was named alongside Russia, India and China as the emerging markets with the ability to eclipse the world's biggest economies. 

"But then from 2011 to 2014, you had a slowdown in the Brazilian economy. This was due both to changes in the external sector, but also what I consider some mistakes in the economic policy framework," said Laura Carvalho, a Brazilian economist and best-selling author. 

The deep economic recession that followed, coupled with political turmoil, fueled the rise of an unlikely winner in the 2018 general election: Jair Bolsonaro. 

Among his supporters were Brazil's business elite, who were optimistic that Bolsonaro could turn around the Latin American country's fortunes. 

That belief appeared supported by Bolsonaro's appointment of businessman and free-market advocate Paulo Guedes as economy minister, as well as by the Brazilian leader's pro-business speech at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos in 2019. 

"We will work to lower the tax burden, streamline rules and make life easier for those who wish to produce and do business," Bolsonaro said then. 

Brazil's economic comeback, however, has not happened. Economists like Carvalho point to several policies that are holding the country back. 

"Even the people who were supporting him for that reason are very disappointed," she said, "because he did not carry out the structural reforms and the type of economic policies that have been promised in his campaign." 

What went wrong? Watch the video above to learn more.