RIO DE JANEIRO, June 14 Brazilian President
Dilma Rousseff on Friday angrily dismissed the growing chorus of
media criticism of the country's lackluster economy as
"terrorism," insisting that her government remains committed to
fiscal discipline and fighting inflation.
With Brazil on track for the third straight year of
disappointing growth and inflation running at the ceiling of the
official target range, Rousseff's still-high popularity has
edged lower and her stewardship of the economy has come under
increased scrutiny in both the local and international press.
Many economists also have become more pessimistic about
Brazil's economic outlook, citing worries about government
spending and the country's struggle to increase investment
rates. Those concerns prompted U.S. rating agency Standard &
Poor's to warn last week that it could downgrade Brazil's debt.
In a speech on Friday in a sprawling shantytown in Rio de
Janeiro, a stern Rousseff said the criticism was misguided and
ticked off a list of Brazil's economic strengths - a robust job
market, a low debt-to-GDP ratio, and a firm government
commitment to keep public spending and inflation under control.
"They say that Brazil is a country in trouble.... Not only
is Brazil not going through a rough patch, we are extremely
solid," she said. "Everybody has to be humble and accept
criticism, but not terrorism."
"We have enough resources to maintain investments and social
spending, in a serious, responsible way that ensures solid
public finances and keeps inflation under control," she added.
The speech was the second time this week that Rousseff
forcefully addressed her critics and sought to reassure
investors that Brazil remains committed to fiscal discipline and
low inflation - two pillars of the country's hard-won economic
stability over the past decade.
Other Rousseff administration officials have been sounding a
similar note in their own media offensives over the past week,
publicly backing the central bank's recent interest rate hike as
a necessary step to slow consumer price increases.
Some economists caution that the government may find it hard
to cut spending amid growing demands for cash ahead of next
year's presidential election and the upcoming sporting events
that Brazil will host, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Rousseff, a left-leaning economist who is widely expected to
run for re-election in 2014, saw her approval rating slip
slightly in two opinion polls over the past week, in part
because of the sluggish economy and high inflation. Still, the
polls showed she remains the clear favorite in next year's race.