Brazil government sees $100 billion interest savings, wiping out primary deficit by 2022

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian government’s interest payment bill on the national debt could fall by 417 billion reais ($100 billion) over the course of its four-year term ending in 2022, by which time the primary budget deficit could also be completely eliminated, a senior Economy Ministry official said on Thursday.

The fall to a record low 4.5% in the central bank’s benchmark interest rate since the middle of last year accounts for the interest savings, and the public finances could be even stronger if economic reforms accelerate growth further, said Waldery Rodrigues, special secretary to the Economy Ministry.

Speaking to journalists in Brasilia, Rodrigues said the primary budget deficit, before interest payments are taken into account, was on track to end last year at 1% of gross domestic product, well below the official goal of 2.3% of GDP.

The deficit could be wiped out entirely by the end of 2022, bringing almost a decade of budget shortfalls to an end. Rodrigues also said the national debt was on track to end last year at 77% of GDP or below, having struck a record high 79% in August.

Getting the public finances back on a more even keel was the government’s No. 1 economic aim last year, with a sweeping reform of the social security system aimed at generating savings of 1 trillion reais over the next decade its main achievement.

The government hopes Congress will continue the reform process and approve three constitutional amendments in the first half of this year, including the “federative pact” new framework for federal and local government finances, Rodrigues said.

Perhaps optimistically, he also said he expects Congress to approve three of the government’s main economic reform agenda planks this year: the complex tax reform, administrative reform and “fast track” privatization bills.

The government is barely halfway through the fiscal adjustment needed to completely balance its books and will do what is necessary to keep the process on track, Rodrigues said, but added that he hopes there will be no need for spending freezes this year.

As well as lower interest payments, the fiscal outlook this year will be strengthened by state asset sales, while state development bank BNDES will also return the full 165 billion reais of loans it still owes the government by the end of 2022, Rodrigues said.

Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis