SAO PAULO – Brazil’s government lowered on Wednesday its 2017 growth forecast to less than 0.5 percent amid a political crisis that could force President Michel Temer from office.
Temer is in legal hot water after the nation’s attorney general Rodrigo Janot, charged him with accepting around $150,000 in bribes from the former chairman of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS, Joesley Batista, who leveled the accusations as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
“It will be a little less than 0.5 percent, but it will definitely be positive,” Henrique Meirelles told investors at an event Wednesday in Sao Paulo.
The government had forecast in March that the nation’s gross domestic product would come in at 0.5 percent, down from its previous projection of 1 percent growth.
“We’re evaluating the effect of all that (the political crisis) in reaching a conclusion,” Meirelles said.
Temer is the first sitting president in Brazilian history to face criminal charges. A two-thirds majority of the lower house is still required to put Temer on trial, which would take place before the Supreme Court.
The scandal has held up efforts to pass a labor and pension overhaul and has raised doubts about the course of Brazil’s economy, which came out of recession in the first quarter with growth of 1 percent.
The South American country’s economy contracted 3.6 percent in 2016, remaining in recession for two consecutive years for the first time since the 1930s.
Latin America’s largest economy shrank by 3.8 percent in 2015, its worst result in 25 years, and eked out just 0.1 percent growth in 2014.
Amid the persistent corruption scandals affecting high-ranking politicians, economists have lowered their forecast for Brazil’s growth in 2017 to 0.39 percent, according to a Central Bank survey released Monday.
A month ago, those economists had forecast growth of 0.49 percent.
Temer also faces allegations that he encouraged the payment of hush money to a political ally already convicted of graft in connection with a $2 billion scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Those charges were leveled by Joesley Batista and his brother Wesley, owners of JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company.