Brazil's Bolsonaro gives Economy Minister Guedes full backing

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends the Brazil Investment Forum in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday gave his full backing to Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, an apparent effort to quash recent press speculation of a rift between the two.

Speaking at conference in Sao Paulo after Guedes himself had addressed the audience, Bolsonaro said Guedes has total control over economic policy and that there is no “plan B”.

On Monday Guedes told Reuters there was “zero basis” for a Brazilian newspaper report that he plans to leave Bolsonaro’s cabinet early next year after a landmark overhaul of the country’s pension system has cleared Congress.

Bolsonaro also reinforced the independence of the central bank, saying the bill to give the central bank an official seal of autonomy will not make “much difference” because it already operates independently from political influence.

"I only call the president of the central bank after interest rate decisions are made," Bolsonaro said, a likely reference to news last week that prosecutors were investigating Banco BTG Pactual SA BPAC11.SA and former central bank and finance ministry officials over allegations of illegal leaking of interest rate decisions between 2010 and 2012.

In his address to the conference, Guedes said Brazil has already met its privatization targets for this year and the process continues to accelerate, part of the government’s drive to deregulate the economy.

The Economy Ministry said last week that privatization and asset sales in the first nine months of the year had totaled $23.5 billion, already surpassing the 2019 target of $20 billion.

While Petroleo Brasileiro SA PETR4.SA, or Petrobras, may not be on the privatization bloc itself, Guedes said the state-run oil giant is breaking up its monopolies.

Oil bidding rounds for exploration and production rights off the Brazilian coast are being held on Thursday, ahead of the much larger so-called transfer-of-rights bidding round and 6th pre-salt round scheduled for early November.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Jamie McGeever