Folha and the Economic Struggle

One cant say it values diversity in opinions when it is rarely enforced

Minister Paulo Guedes's team is planning to present economic proposals that will have drastic changes, like the elimination of the mandatory percentage for investments in health and education.

I believe that the reader wants to understand these proposals better so that they can position themselves on the subject. In addition to the opinion of the newspaper columnists, readers want contextualized articles with a wide range of sources.

But this week, listening to different voices in the economy has become more difficult. On Thursday (24), economist Laura Carvalho wrote her last column after four years at Folha.

There is always a commotion when a columnist leaves the newspaper, and this time was no different. But, in addition to regretting the farewell of the USP professor, readers touched on another point: how does change affect the coexistence of divergent voices in Folha, something that is so dear to the newspaper itself?

"Laura is a contradictory voice to the political and economic orientation implemented in recent years," said Ismael.

"I subscribe to Folha because it is the only major vehicle that offers any room for a heterodox view of the politics and economics," Nubio said.

In Brazil, issues like the need for state intervention to activate economic growth divide economists into waterproof, almost insurmountable fields. It is rare to find a situation like that of American Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate recognized by his peers, but who stands left in the political spectrum.

Another relevant issue is that, in the mainstream press, bank and consultancy economists receive more attention than academics, which influences the economic debate.

It is in this context that the dispute for space occurs — and for the readers' attention. Hence the importance of being able to have different and, if possible, independent voices, especially in print, which, with its scarce space, is still considered the showcase of the newspaper.

From the group of market columnists, it is reasonable to say that Carvalho and Nelson Barbosa, former minister of Dilma Rousseff, were dissonant voices. Others, when approaching economic policy, end up reinforcing the arguments that the newspaper's own editorial line adopts: the liberal inspiration.

Two people will replace Carvalho: Cida Bento, executive director of the Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequalities, and Solange Srour, chief economist at fund manager ARX Investimentos.

It is not an issue of questioning the competence of both, but of demanding the newspaper do what it advocates in its Writing Manual: a broad ideological spectrum of columnists.

Srour has a solid background in the financial market, so he should not deviate from the majority discourse. Bento, a doctor of psychology who has been dealing with the insertion of women and blacks in the job market for decades, is undoubtedly a dissenting voice, but will not write weekly in the newspaper.

Carvalho wrote every week, and Barbosa shared the space with businessman Pedro Passos. Now Barbosa will write weekly, and the new duo will take turns.

Editorial director Vinicius Mota finds it very impoverishing to divide the world in which columnists sail between orthodox and heterodox, liberal and antiliberal. "The vast majority of readers do not seem interested in these club definitions, but in the quality and vigor of the divergences that are conveyed on Folha's pages."

Mota highlights the articles published on the so-called spending ceiling, which sets a limit on the growth of government spending.

I think that the divergences in the economic debate interest the reader and occur precisely in the interaction between these "clubs," different schools of economic thought.

They are marked not only by theoretical tensions but, above all, by political disputes, where ultimately the allocation of public resources and the direction of the country. To cultivate them is to allow new proposals to emerge.

In the discussion of government spending, disputes were evident in a rush among economists to point out inconsistencies in someone else's text or in Folha's own decision to publish a "Mistake" on one of the opinion pieces — when it is customary to let the writer do it.

The newspaper obviously has the freedom to choose its columnists and to position itself institutionally. There is no point in claiming that you value plurality in the economic debate when you do so on time.

In a previous column (Echos from the Master's House) Globo's journalism director, Ali Kamel, denies that Maria Júlia Coutinho's alleged errors motivated any meetings of the station.

Flavia lima

A reporter specializing in economics, she holds a degree in social science from USP and a law degree from Mackenzie. She has been an ombudsman for Folha since May 2019.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon