|Full name:||Persio Arida|
|Birth date:||March 1, 1952|
|Birthplace:||Sao Paulo, capital|
|Training:||PhD in Economics|
|Outstanding positions:||President of the BNDES, from 1993 to 1995, and president of the Central Bank, from January to June 1995.|
Who is Persio Arida?
Persio Arida, an economist from São Paulo, graduated from USP (University of São Paulo), with a doctorate from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology🇧🇷 He taught at USP itself and at PUC-Rio (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro), a period in which his ideas and interpretations of Brazilian problems began to attract attention.
His career in the public sector began in the mid-1980s, when he joined the Ministry of Planning in the José Sarney government and was director of the Central Bank (BC) – the institution of which he would assume the presidency in early 1995, in a period of consolidation. of the Real Plan, of which he is one of the creators.
Before taking over the BC, he was president of BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development).
Arida also has more than 30 years of experience in the private sector. Among the prominent positions are that of director of Vale, Unibanco and Itaú; director of SulAmérica and Brasil Warrant; managing partner of Opportunity Asset Management; and founding partner and president of BTG Pactual.
In 2018, he was part of the economic team of Geraldo Alckmin, then PSDB candidate for the Presidency of the Republic. Recently, in early November, the former governor of São Paulo, current vice-president of elected president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), announced Arida as one of the members of the technical group in the economic area that will compose the government transition team .
From academic prestige to the presidency of BNDES and BC
Persio Arida was born in São Paulo, the capital, on March 1, 1952. Descendant of Arabs living in Brazil, he attended the traditional Escola Caetano de Campos.
After finishing high school, he even studied History, Philosophy and Mathematics at USP before opting for Economics – a course which he also almost dropped out of. A decisive fact to change his thinking was when a professor of microeconomics explained to the class what a model was.
“I understood right away what it was about because I had, shall we say, a background in philosophy of science and was reasonably good mathematician”, says Arida, in the book “Coleção História Contada do Banco Central do Brasil”, published in 2019. “I found it interesting to use the rigor of modeling for something that was relevant to the historical process.”
After graduating in economics in 1975, he skipped the master’s and went straight to the doctorate, obtaining a Ph.D. by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology🇧🇷
From 1978 to 1979, he was a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies from Princeton (USA). Upon returning to Brazil, he taught at USP and PUC-Rio, from 1980 to 1984. Initially, he lived in São Paulo and spent two years on the airlift before moving to Rio, in 1981, which would represent a new chapter in your life.
At the time, there was an intense debate by experts on how to counteract inflation. Arida then writes an article on the subject, in 1983, with a proposal that basically consisted of forcibly synchronizing all contracts. At the same time, his friend and fellow economist André Lara Resende proposed changing the monetary standard. The fusion of ideas gave rise to the famous academic article entitled “Larida”, a combination of the surnames of the authors.
In some interviews, Arida says that the proposal was heavily criticized at the time, both in academia and in the press. As it provided for the coexistence of two currencies, it was considered unconstitutional by lawyer Saulo Ramos, General Counsel of the Republic. The recognition of the so-called “Plano Larida” only occurred in the following decade, serving as a basis for the elaboration of the Real Plan.
After setting up the Economics department and teaching at PUC-Rio – a performance that earned him the reputation of a “genius” – Arida spent time in Washington (USA) as a researcher at one of the Smithsonian Study Centers. He returned in 1985 with the idea of participating in the redemocratization process in Brazil.
It was when he entered public life, joining the Sarney government, as secretary of Economic and Social Coordination of the Ministry of Planning and as director of the Banking Area of BC. During this period, he participated in the implementation of the Cruzado Plan – which he strongly criticizes.
In the words of Arida himself, the Cruzado was born “conceptually dead”, due to the bonus and salary trigger, but the determining factors for its demise were the absence of restrictive fiscal and monetary policies.
This assessment is part of one of the interviews given to the team at the Center for Research and Documentation of Contemporary History of Brazil at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (CPDOC/FGV), within the scope of the “Project Memory of the Central Bank of Brazil”.
In 1993, Arida was chosen to preside over the BNDES. He left in 1995, right at the beginning of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) government, to take over the BC presidency. He remained in office for only five months, a period in which the Plano Real was strengthened.
He ended up leaving the command of the monetary authority after disagreements with economist Gustavo Franco, then director of the institution’s External Area. The main focus of friction was the exchange rate policy.
At that time, Arida faced accusations that BC had leaked exchange information that supposedly benefited Banco BBA Creditanstalt. He gave explanations to Congress and the case was closed. Years later, the Public Prosecutor’s Office also closed the inquiry.
In 1998, his name was involved in another accusation, that the BNDES favored Opportunity, owned by controversial banker Daniel Dantas, in the Telebrás privatization auction. Subsequently, the action was dismissed.
Another milestone in his trajectory occurred at the end of 2015, when he took over the interim presidency of BTG Pactual, after the arrest of founder André Esteves, accused of planning to obstruct investigations of Operation Lava Jato, conducted by the Federal Police.
In May 2017, Arida left his position as a director at BTG and announced that he would sell his shares in the bank, to run projects of “intellectual interest”.
In addition to Princeton, he also served as a researcher at the Center for Brazilian Studies and the Blavatnik School of Governmentboth in Oxford, England.
Prison, torture and passion for Corinthians
A striking episode in Arida’s youth was his arrest by the military regime in 1970, at the age of 18, accused of crimes against national security. In the long essay entitled “Rakudianai” (“it’s not easy” in Japanese), published in the piauí magazine in April 2011, he tells that he was arrested in the capital of São Paulo when he was going to meet with a militant.
The approach by plainclothes soldiers took place on Rua Frei Caneca, almost on the corner of Marquês de Paranaguá, in the late afternoon. “They searched me screaming, they wanted to know what weapons I, as a revolutionary militant, should be carrying (but I wasn’t even carrying a penknife), they threatened to kill me if I showed any reaction, it was the outcome of a bad dream” , describe.
Arida was involved with Captain Carlos Lamarca’s VAR-Palmares (Vanguarda Armada Revolucionaria-Palmares), but he says that his only act was to participate in the placement of a banner over the tunnel on Avenida Nove de Julho, with the words: “Armed fight against the dictatorship of the bosses”. He drove the Beetle that took other students to the location.
After being imprisoned for some time in São Paulo, he was transferred to the Army Police headquarters on Rua Barão de Mesquita, in Rio, where he was beaten and tortured with electric shocks. He was released days later.
“I held firm in my humble outfit, asking for mercy and begging them to stop. I begged for mercy. I appealed to God. But I didn’t say anything new”, reports Arida, in the piauí report.
After being acquitted by the Military Court, he dropped out of History and quit his job at an advertising agency. He even dabbled in other courses, but ended up settling on Economics.
Later, before leaving for his doctorate in the United States, his mother, Alice Farah Arida, made an appeal for him to be baptized, as he had prayed a lot during his son’s imprisonment. Arida says she remains an atheist.
From this period abroad, he tells of the letters that “overflowed with affection” written by his father, Riad Arida, a Lebanese merchant. The family was from Palmeiras, but Persio supports Corinthians, “spontaneously converted to the Champion of Champions from an early age, enchanted by its glorious anthem”.
At the time, Timão was experiencing a lack of titles and his Riad narrated in letters the suffering campaigns of Corinthians in search of redemption.
“It was only when winning the title in 1977 [após 23 anos] that I understood that obsession of yours”, says Arida. “His Corinthians was the entire Brazilian people. He saw in the sweaty musketeer campaigns a metaphor for the country’s difficult march to democracy. In that historic victory of 1977, tomorrow dawned, which will be another day, as in the music of Chico Buarque, and the Brazil for which his son had suffered so much was rescued.”
Persio Arida and the defense of liberalism
In an interview with the newspaper Valor Econômico, in June 2017, Persio Arida defined himself as an old-fashioned liberal. “Every well-educated economist, who really understands how the market works, tends to be liberal”, says the article, published in the section “À Mesa com o Valor”.
On the occasion, he defended the idea of seeking market solutions and minimizing, whenever possible, state interference. “But I’m liberal through and through. In favor of gay marriage, the legalization of drugs, policies that ensure the reduction of disparities between genders… liberalism has to incorporate a social inclusion agenda.”
Recently, on November 15th, with her name already confirmed in the transition team of Lula’s new government, Arida participated in an event of the Group of Business Leaders (Lide) in New York. He highlighted the need for the country to advance jointly in the fiscal and social spheres.
Weeks earlier, at a virtual event promoted by the France-Brazil Chamber of Commerce (CCIFB), he defended the creation of a single tax and an environmental agenda.
In the economic area, he is the organizer of the books “External Debt, Recession and Structural Adjustment: Brazil in the face of the crisis” (1983) and “Brazil, Argentina and Israel – Zero Inflation” (1986), in which he also integrates the list of authors. He also has in his curriculum several articles in specialized magazines and newspapers, in Brazil and abroad.
In cinema, Arida is one of the characters in the film “Real – O Plano por Trás da História”, directed by Rodrigo Bittencourt, with the proposal to reconstitute the backstage of the creation of the Real Plan.
He says, however, that the producer refused to show him the script, which is why he did not give up the image rights. I found out about the preview in the newspapers and, after watching the feature, he didn’t spare criticism of the result: “It’s bad, it’s grotesque. It oscillates between fantasy and lies,” said Arida, in an interview with Valor in 2017, the year the film was released.
He met his first wife at USP, sociologist Suzi Solon Arida, with whom he has two daughters, lawyer Anna Lívia Arida and filmmaker Maria Alice Arida.
He has also been married to economist and lawyer Elena Landau and economist Ana Carla Abrão.
Profile of Persio Arida at FGV CPDOC – https://www18.fgv.br//cpdoc/acervo/dicionarios/verbete-biografico/arida-persio
Profile and interview of Persio Arida at the Institute of Economic Policy Studies, Casa das Garças – https://iepecdg.com.br/podcast/podcast/persio-arida/
Interviews by Persio Arida for the book “Coleção História Contada do Banco Central do Brasil” – https://www.bcb.gov.br/historiacontada/publicacoes/hc_bc_volume_20_persio_arida.pdf