BNDES Responds to Bloomberg Article

To the Editor:

Re article entitled, “Brazil’s Debt King: The Professor Who Oversaw a Boom Gone Wrong” (Dec. 10):

Placing a group of facts together, even when they are true, doesn’t necessarily lead to a truthful or balanced understanding. That’s what Bloomberg did in its reporting. The story presents a distorted and biased view of the BNDES and its president, Luciano Coutinho. It’s a viewpoint in which the voice of the bank’s critics is loud and clear, while the bank’s side is hidden and muted.

The text does no less than associate BNDES with all of Brazil’s economic troubles: weak investment, rise of public debt, inflation, corruption scandals. In short, the bank’s alleged miseries are symbolic of the country’s “spreading disaster” and contribute to “Brazil’s meltdown”.

The truth is that even the bank’s critics recognize that BNDES plays an important role in stimulating investment. There is research and data that support this view, and all of this was mentioned by the bank. The same goes for inflation: The bank’s disbursements have a very limited impact on inhibiting the efficiency of monetary policy; there is certainly a fiscal impact caused by the bank’s policies, but that impact can be positive if you analyze BNDES’ actions in a more comprehensive way, putting both costs and benefits into consideration.

The story accuses the bank of “secretive” practices and praises the fact that its books are being “pried open” due to pressure from corruption scandals. The truth is that BNDES made several improvements in 2015 in the way it presents information to citizens, but it wasn’t done overnight, and Bloomberg obviously knows that, as it’s been using search tools on our website, and asking and receiving bank data to produce news stories. Even before this year’s improvements, the bank’s level of transparency was among the highest for development institutions.

Bloomberg’s intention, from the start, was not to reveal or entertain a true debate, but rather to confirm prejudices and stereotypes. Like in its caricature of president Coutinho’s hearing at Petrobras’s congressional inquiry, the reporter didn’t establish a dialog with the bank, but “grilled” it until it got the desired result. The outcome was extremely unfair to the BNDES and misleading to Bloomberg readers. 

It’s also curious to notice that not long ago, during Brazil’s “go-go years,” as Bloomberg says, journalists from the newswire would frequently reach out to BNDES executives for their insights. As they now think the tide has turned, they are quickly pointing their fingers at the BNDES as the main villain of the Brazilian economy.

Paulo Braga
Chief Press Officer, Brazilian Development Bank - BNDES Dec. 12, 2015

(Editor’s note: Coutinho declined requests to be interviewed for the story.)

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