How the Bolsonaro government will spend R$32 billion that it will receive from Petrobras

Petrobras has been the target of constant criticism from President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), who says he takes a bad look at the rise in fuel prices, announced after the state-owned company declared record profit in the first quarter of this year. However, the representative avoids mentioning that the federal government will receive R$ 18 billion in dividends from the state company, referring to the period.

The amount is part of a total of R$ 32 billion that will be transferred until the end of July to the Union, which controls 50.3% of the company. From 2019 to 2021, the government had collected another R$34 billion in dividends. To UOLthe Ministry of Economy reported that the amount is used to reduce the public debt, currently valued at R$ 5.5 trillion.

In the opinion of Gilberto Bercovici, professor of economic law at USP (University of São Paulo), these transfers represent a deviation from the public interest. “It’s not about how the Union uses the amounts it receives from Petrobras. The problem is that this money has gone too far to pay dividends. The public interest is for Petrobras to be able to expand its infrastructure and operations and guarantee a fair price for fuel — not enrich shareholders.”

Bradesco’s report, published in May this year, shows that from 2011 to 2021 the federal government received 15 times more than Petrobras’ minority shareholders through taxes and dividends paid by the state-owned company. According to analysts Gustavo Sadka and Vicente Falanga, who signed the study, in 10 years, the Union received R$ 1.4 trillion. In the same period, the minority partners gained R$ 94 billion.

Transfers to the Union are lost, say auditors

Federal Revenue auditor Kleber Cabral says that the high price of fuel causes an inflationary effect, which, in the end, can result in an increase in public debt. “The increase in inflation generated, including because of the increase in fuel prices, means that the debt rollover needs to be paid in the future with a higher interest, which becomes much more harmful than the dividends that the Union receives” , says.

With rising inflation, the amounts invested to pay off the public debt are wasted, according to auditor Marcus Dantas. “Unfortunately, what would be a benefit, for example, for us to have a reduction in interest rates in the future or the government to have resources for investments, will not be possible, since the debt is increasing. losing and not bringing concrete benefits to the Brazilian people.”

Taxes are directly reverted to the population

Petrobras headquarters building

Image: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

In addition to dividends, intended to pay off the public debt, Petrobras also pays the government federal taxes such as IRPJ (Corporate Income Tax) and CSLL (Social Contribution on Net Income). These, yes, are used to defray public budget expenses, such as social security, social assistance and civil servants’ salaries.

The chief economist at Ryo Asset, Gabriel Barros, explains that the payment of these resources is reversed in actions aimed at areas such as health, public safety and education. “These payments are mandatory expenses, which the government cannot avoid paying, as they are an obligation by the right that retirees and pensioners, the elderly and people with disabilities have to receive in view of the design and presence of public policies”, says the analyst. .

From 2008 to 2021, the state-owned company profited BRL 403 billion and effectively collected around BRL 63 billion in IRPJ and CSLL from the Federal Revenue. The amount is equivalent to 16% of the profit obtained in the period.

“Despite the significant volume of resources paid by Petrobras and several other large companies to governments, there is a misuse of these resources. It is precisely this inefficiency of public spending that reduces the effectiveness of policies for the benefit of society, so that one of the priorities is to make smarter public management so that with the same volume of resources, we can deliver better results for society”, says Barros.

What is public debt?

Public debt arises and increases whenever the government spends more than it collects and turns to creditors to cover expenses. Economist Pedro Menezes, founder of the Instituto Mercado Popular, a political and economic analysis, says that specific rules define that the Union can only get into debt to invest or pay off old debts.

“The National Treasury receives dividends from state-owned companies. What the government does with this money is defined by the competent institutions and by legislation. Fiscal rules — such as the golden rule and the tax ceiling spending- are important because they establish parameters on how much and how the government should spend”, says the analyst.

What does Petrobras say?

In a note to UOLPetrobras informed that the percentage destined to shareholders is calculated after making the necessary investments for the company’s sustainability.

“There is no contradiction between the payment of dividends and the company’s ability to expand its infrastructure and operations. All investments are being carried out as planned and responsibly. It should also be clarified that Petrobras does not set the market price of fuels. The company’s performance in this segment complies with the current legislation that underlies the obligation to practice market prices.”

what does the government say

In a note, the National Treasury stated that using dividend resources to reduce public debt helps in a good management of public spending.

“Just as the good use of credit by a citizen facilitates the achievement of great achievements, public indebtedness, if well managed, makes it possible to expand the well-being of society and favors the proper functioning of the economy. Public indebtedness guarantees adequate levels of investment and the provision of services by the government to society”.