Category Archives: Felipe C. Rezende

Minsky Meets Brazil Part IV

By Felipe Rezende

Part IV

This last part of the series (see Part I, II, and III here, here and here) will focus on the Brazilian response to the crisis.

What Should Brazil do?

The Brazilian current crisis fit with Minsky’s theory of instability (see here, here and here). The traditional response to a Minsky crisis involves government deficits to allow the non-government sector to net save. That is, if the private sector desire to net save increases, then fiscal deficits increase to allow it to accumulate net financial assets. The sharp increase in budget deficits in 2015 comes as no surprise. Rezende (2015a) simulated Continue reading

Minsky Meets Brazil Part III

By Felipe Rezende

This part of the series (see Part I and II, here and here) will focus on macroeconomic and microeconomic aspects to financial fragility and provision for liquidity. Minsky’s framework not only sheds light on how to detect unsustainable financial practices, but the position adopted in this paper is that the current Brazilian crisis does fit with Minsky’s instability theory. This is a Minsky’s crisis in which during economic expansions market participants show greater tolerance for risk and forget the lessons of past crises so economic units gradually move from safe financial positions to riskier positions and declining cushions of safety.

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Minsky Meets Brazil Part II

By Felipe Rezende

This series will discuss at length the underlying forces behind Brazil’s current crisis.

Building on Keynes’ investment theory of the cycle, Minsky’s work suggests that the structure the economy becomes more fragile over a period of tranquility and prosperity. That is, endogenous processes breed financial and economic instability. While Minsky adopted Keynes’ “investment theory of the cycle”, he added a financial theory of investment, with a detailed exposition of the theory in his book John Maynard Keynes (1975), which put at the forefront the interrelation between investment decisions and the financial structure designed to allow economic units to take positions in assets by issuing debt. In this regard, debt accumulation is at the core of Minsky’s instability theory. His financial theory of investment incorporated Kalecki’s approach in which aggregate profits are created, mostly, by the autonomous components of demand (Minsky 1986, 1989). One can add to this analysis Godley’s three balances approach, which explores the interlinkages between the government sector, the private sector, and the external sector. This means that a surplus must be matched by an equal deficit and flows accumulate to stocks.

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Minsky Meets Brazil

By Felipe Rezende

Part I

This series will discuss at length the underlying forces behind Brazil’s current crisis.

A consensus has emerged in Brazil (and elsewhere) blaming Rousseff’s “new economic matrix” policies for the country’s worst crisis since the Great Depression (see here, here, here, here, and here).  With the introduction of policy stimulus through ad hoc tax breaks for selected sectors seen as a failure to boost economic activity and the deterioration of the fiscal balance – which posted a public sector primary budget deficit in 2014 after fifteen years of primary fiscal surpluses – opponents argued that that government intervention was the problem. It provided the basis for the opposition to demand the return of the old neoliberal macroeconomic policy tripod and fiscal austerity policies. There was virtually a consensus that spending cuts would create confidence, reduce interest rates, and stimulate private investment spending. Fiscal austerity, according to this view, would be expansionary and pave the way for economic growth.

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Is there a solution to Brazil’s crises?

By Felipe Rezende

This is the first of a series of posts on the Brazilian crises.

There are two major crises Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is facing: one is a political crisis and the other is Brazil’s sharpest recession in 25 years.

Brazil’s Political Crisis

The political crisis has two main pillars: a) a vast corruption scandal (with evidence of a kickback scheme funneling billions of dollars from state-run firms and, more recently, in a massive data leak over possible tax evasion, Brazil politicians linked to offshore companies in Panama leaks); and b) impeachment proceedings to move forward against President Dilma Rousseff.

The Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) announced in 2015 that it had rejected the accounts of Rousseff’s administration for the year 2014. In a unanimous vote, the federal accounts court, known as the TCU, ruled Dilma Rousseff’s government manipulated its accounts in 2014 to “disguise fiscal deficits” as she campaigned for re-election. The allegation is that Ms. Rousseff manipulated Brazil’s account books to hide a growing fiscal deficit.

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Endogenous financial fragility in Brazil: Does Brazil’s National Development Bank reduce external fragility?

By Felipe Rezende


The creation of new sources of financing and funding are at the center of discussions to promote real capital development in Brazil. It has been suggested that access to capital markets and long-term investors are a possible solution to the dilemma faced by Brazil’s increasing financing requirements (such as infrastructure investment and mortgage lending needs) and the limited access to long-term funding in the country. Policy initiatives were implemented aimed at the development of long-term financing to lengthen the maturity of fixed income instruments (Rezende 2015a). Though average maturity has lengthened over the past 10 years and credit has soared, banks’ credit portfolios still concentrate on short maturities (with the exception of the state-owned banks including Caixa Economica Federal [CEF] and the Brazilian Development Bank [BNDES]).

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Reactions to S&P Downgrade: S&P analyst confirms there is no solvency issue

By Felipe Rezende

In previous posts (see here and here), I discussed Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgrade of Brazil’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating to junk status, that is, to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘ and its decision to downgrade Brazil’s local currency debt to a single notch above “junk” status.

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Credit Rating Agencies and Brazil: Why The S&P’s Rating About Brazil Sovereign Debt Is Nonsense

Felipe Rezende

So S&P has downgraded Brazil’s rating on long-term foreign currency debt to junk and lowered its long-term local currency sovereign credit rating to ‘BBB-‘ from ‘BBB+’.

First, what are sovereign debt ratings? Standard & Poor’s sovereign rating is defined as follows:

A current opinion of the creditworthiness of a sovereign government, where creditworthiness encompasses likelihood of default and credit stability (and in some cases recovery).

So that ratings are related to “a sovereign’s ability and willingness to service financial obligations to nonofficial (commercial) creditors.”

What does this tell us? To begin with, credit rating agencies have repeatedly been wrong. The same agencies that rated Enron investment grade just weeks before it went bust, the same people that assigned triple A rating to toxic subprime mortgage-backed securities are now downgrading Brazil sovereign debt. As the FCIC report pointed out “The three credit rating agencies were key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval.” (FCIC 2011)

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S&P threatened to downgrade Brazil to junk

By Felipe Rezende
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

S&P has issued a negative outlook regarding Brazilian sovereign debt. The S&P’s announcement stated that “Over the coming year, failure to advance with (on- and off-budget) fiscal and other policy adjustments could result in a greater-than-expected erosion of Brazil’s financial profile and further erosion of confidence and growth prospects, which could lead to a downgrade. The ratings could stabilize if Brazil’s political certainties and conditions for consistent policy execution–across branches of government to staunch fiscal deterioration–improved. It is our view that these improvements would support a quicker turnaround and could help Brazil exit from the current recession, facilitating improved fiscal out-turn and provide more room to maneuver in the face of economic shocks consistent with a low-investment-grade rating.”

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Keynes’s Relevance and Krugman’s Economics

By Felipe C. Rezende

It is true that Krugman considered himself a saltwater economist. But he is closer to Post Keynesian economics than he imagined. In his post “The greatness of Keynes …” he wrote: “The key to Keynes’s contribution was his realization that liquidity preference — the desire of individuals to hold liquid monetary assets — can lead to situations in which effective demand isn’t enough to employ all the economy’s resources.”

That is precisely what Post Keynesian economists have been arguing since Keynes’s revolution. Given uncertainty in the Knightian sense, it is the existence of money and the organization of production around money that cause unemployment of labor and productive resources. This is so because money is special in a capitalist economy, it affects economic decisions both in the short-run and in the long-run. According to Keynes (1936), money has special properties such as almost zero elasticity of production, almost zero elasticity of substitution and low carrying costs. See Krugman’s introduction to the new edition of Keynes’s General Theory, Wray (2007) and Davidson (2006) for further details.

As Wray (2007) put it:

In my view, the central proposition of the General Theory can be simply stated as follows: Entrepreneurs produce what they expect to sell, and there is no reason to presume that the sum of these production decisions is consistent with the full-employment level of output, either in the short run or in the long run. Moreover, this proposition holds regardless of market structure—even where competition is perfect and wages are flexible. It holds even if expectations are always fulfilled, and in a stable economic environment. In other words, Keynes did not rely on sticky wages, monopoly power, disappointed expectations, or economic instability to explain unemployment. While each of these conditions could certainly make matters worse, he wanted to explain the possibility of equilibrium with unemployment. (Wray 2007:3)

Krugman also refuted the New Keynesian claim that involuntary unemployment exists due to price and wage stickiness. According to Krugman, “there’s no reason to think that lower wages for all workers — as opposed to lower wages for a particular group of workers — would lead to higher employment.” Keynes explained why flexible wages do not assure full employment and, as Krugman noted, Keynes wrote a whole chapter entitled “changes in money wages” to explain that the cause of unemployment is not due to wages and prices rigidities as New Keynesians wrongly claim. (See for instance here, here, and here)

Wray also pointed out that

“Keynes had addressed stability issues when he argued that if wages were flexible,then market forces set off by unemployment would move the economy further from full employment due to effects on aggregate demand, profits, and expectations. This is why he argued that one condition for stability is a degree of wage stickiness in terms of money. (Incredibly, this argument has been misinterpreted to mean that sticky wages cause unemployment—a point almost directly opposite to Keynes’s conclusion.)” (Wray, 2007:6)

In fact, Krugman observed that flexible wages and prices can make things worse rather than better even if one includes real balance effects. Wage and price flexibility are destabilizing forces which also trigger a Fisher-type debt deflation process.

On Say’s Law, Krugman argued (here and here) that

“If there was one essential element in the work of John Maynard Keynes, it was the demolition of Say’s Law — the assertion that supply necessarily creates demand. Keynes showed that the fact that spending equals income, or equivalently that saving equals investment, does not imply that there’s always enough spending to fully employ the economy’s resources, that there’s always enough investment to make use of the saving the economy would have had it it were at full employment.”

“The understanding that Say’s Law doesn’t work in the short run — that a fall in consumption doesn’t automatically translate into a rise in investment, but can lead to a fall in output and employment instead — is the central insight of Keynes’s General Theory.”

On the Loanable funds model of the interest rate he pointed out (here and here) that:

“One of the key insights in Keynes’s General Theory — actually, THE key insight— was that the loanable funds theory of the interest rate was incomplete. Loanable funds says that the interest rate is determined by the supply of and demand for saving; Keynes pointed out that the supply of saving is endogenous, depending on the level of output. He even illustrated the point with a remarkably ugly diagram.”

Krugman also argued that “saving and investment depend on the level of GDP. Suppose GDP rises; some of this increase in income will be saved, pushing the savings schedule to the right. There may also be a rise in investment demand, but ordinarily we’d expect the savings rise to be larger, so that the interest rate falls”

It means that as income expands, for instance due to government spending, there is a downward pressure on the interest rate. This is the crowding in effect. As he noted government spending “does NOT crowd out private spending”

He then pointed out that what is moving interest rates “it is not deficits. It’s the economy.”

He also has been using a framework that Post Keynesian economists have been using for a long time. See for instance here, here, here, and here. Check also Krugman’s posts here and here.

Krugman, clearly following Minsky (1986), concluded that “government deficits, mainly the result of automatic stabilizers rather than discretionary policy, are the only thing that has saved us from a second Great Depression.” This is precisely the point that Minsky made in the first chapters of his book “Stabilizing an Unstable Economy”.

The above statements are precisely what Post Keynesian Economists have been arguing for years. They completely refute the basis of the mainstream economics which guide policy both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. However, there is definitely a convergence of economic thought between Paul Krugman’s economics, Post Keynesian economists and the specialized media (see here and here). Keynes’s and Minsky‘s economics provide the basis for the next generation of economic models.

As Greenspan admitted before the members of the Congressional committee :”I found a flaw in the model that I perceive is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works. That’s precisely the reason I was shocked….I still do not fully understand why it happened, and obviously to the extent that I figure it happened and why, I shall change my views”.

Shall they?