Brazil’s economy edges up 1.1 pct. for second straight year


Brazil’s economy inched up 1.1 percent for the second straight year, continuing a slow recovery following a deep recession, the state-run IBGE statistics agency said Thursday.

The South American giant’s 1.1 percent growth rate in 2017 came on the heels of 3.6 percent and 3.8 percent contractions in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

The 2018 GDP number was in line with the forecast of financial markets, which expected the economy to expand by 1.2 percent last year.

Growth was driven primarily by a 1.9 percent increase in consumer spending, the main engine of Brazil’s economy, while public-sector spending was virtually unchanged.

Investment rose 4.1 percent in 2018, the first increase in four years.

Accumulated agricultural output for the four quarters of last year inched up just 0.1 percent, while industrial output climbed 0.6 percent, its first annual gain since 2013.

The services sector, which accounts for more than 75 percent of Brazil’s GDP, expanded by 1,3 percent, according to the IBGE.

Economists attribute Brazil’s slow recovery in 2018 to a truckers’ strike that caused widespread economic disruptions over 10 days last May and a sharp 2.5 percent drop in investment in the fourth quarter due to uncertainty surrounding the presidential election.

But the tepid growth also has been blamed on structural problems, including a large budget deficit that many regard as the biggest threat to Brazil’s economy.

Rightist President Jair Bolsonaro submitted a pension-overhaul proposal to Congress this month that aims to save 1.2 trillion reais over 10 years by tightening eligibility requirements for public-sector employees.

Brazil’s GDP grew 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 relative to the same three-month period of 2017 and expanded by 0.1 percent in the October-December period compared to the third quarter.

Consumer spending rose just 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter; that key indicator was up 1.5 percent relative to the final quarter of 2017.

Industrial output declined in the fourth quarter, falling 0.3 percent compared to the third quarter and 0.5 percent relative to the same quarter of 2017.

The agricultural sector posted strong growth in the fourth quarter, expanding by 2.4 percent relative to the final quarter of 2017.