Economy

Dilma’s Disastrous Legacy, Destroyer Of Brazilian Wealth

Regardless of when or how she exits the political stage, the Brazilian president will leave chaos in her wake.

Dilma Rousseff last month at the Palacio do Planalto presidential palace.
Dilma Rousseff last month at the Palacio do Planalto presidential palace.

-Editorial-


SAO PAULO â€" Members of Dilma Rousseff's government are trying their best to convince members of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies to vote against her impeachment. But except for promises of quid pro quo, it's hard to see what could convince them to support the current occupier of the Palácio do Planalto.


Her main showpiece is Petrobras, the state oil company at the center of the anti-corruption operation Lava Jato (“Car Wash”). It's Brazil's biggest company. And yet, it's crumbling under debt, its activity is contracting as it's being dismantled. It is losing money on a monstrous scale.


As if the debts caused by price-fixing, bad investments and corruption weren't enough, Petrobras has had to shoulder the costs of an industrialization program that forced it to buy national products at much higher prices than imports. Put together, these factors amount to billions in losses.


The spectacular scale of Petrobras' collapse diverts attention from other, similar cases in many sectors of our economy, which have also suffered greatly from this government’s heavy-handed meddling, incompetence and attachment to outdated economic ideas.


The government’s attempt to force down energy prices in 2012 contributed to the losses registered that year by Eletrobras, Brazil's second largest state-owned company and Latin America's largest power utility provider. The manipulation of fuel and electricity prices ruined Petrobras and the entire oil industry and shrank the biofuel sector, while dragging the electrical sector into chaos and debt.

Meanwhile, the politicized management of state-owned companies' pension funds has provoked unprecedented deficits. Beyond revealing sheer governmental incompetence, these funds were routinely used to finance projects of the Workers' Party "Big Brazil" plan, among them the rig leaser Sete Brasil, almost certain to face bankruptcy, and the Belo Monte dam, costly and still under construction.


Nobody knows when or how Dilma Rousseff's tenure will come to an end. But we do know that the president will leave behind a legacy of incomparable destruction.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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