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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Brazil`s Rousseff begins second term under cloud...........

Brasilia: Brazil`s President Dilma Rousseff begins her second term Thursday, aiming to get economic growth back on track, and to rebuild government credibility after a major kickbacks scandal.
Thousands of supporters -- and pockets of detractors -- were due to gather and watch the 67-year-old left-wing former urban guerrilla arrive to receive the seals of office at a ceremony in Brasilia slated for 3:00 pm (1700 GMT).
Rousseff, the 200 million-strong South American giant`s first female leader, will first be driven in a Rolls Royce down the Ministries Esplanade to Congress, where she will take the oath before heading to the presidential palace to make a national address.
Following the ceremonies, Rousseff will have no time to bask in her electoral triumph, conscious of the overriding need to kickstart an economy that has spluttered along over the past four years with pallid growth showing no sign of returning to 2010`s heady heights of 7.5 percent. 
The world`s seventh-biggest economy boomed for a time under her Workers Party predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who put in place a decade ago the extensive welfare programs which helped secure Rousseff`s narrow poll win in October over social democrat and business world favorite Aecio Neves.
Voters heavily reliant on the programs helped Rousseff land a second term which now starts with her government dogged by scandal amid a legal probe into a huge network of corruption at Petrobras, the state oil firm she used to chair.
The scandal has tainted many of her allies in a broad ruling coalition and weakened her hand.
Rousseff saw off challenges in her first term, including unprecedented mass street demonstrations that for a time threatened to take the shine off even set-piece spectacles such as last year`s football World Cup.
"Today, I am much stronger, calmer and mature for the task I have been assigned," Rousseff insisted following her election win.The Petrobras scandal and the ongoing police investigation -- dubbed "Operation Car Wash" -- erupted just a few months before Rousseff won re-election but failed to derail her campaign. 
So far suspicion has fallen on 39 people, including former Petrobras directors and pro-government politicians, a network which allegedly laundered around $3.8 billion creamed off from inflated contracts.
Rousseff says she will leave "no stone unturned" with regard to the probe, while giving a vote of confidence to Petrobras head and ally Graca Foster.
"The Petrobras scandal is part of the problem of trying to restore confidence in Brazil," political analyst David Fleischer of Brasilia University told AFP.
Aside from dealing with the crisis at Brazil`s highest-profile firm, Rousseff`s priority will be to revive economic growth -- although economists expect 2015 to bring little cheer.
A new economic team led by orthodox pro-market Finance Minister Joaquim Levy has set in motion moves designed to make savings, including a reduction in unemployment insurance. On the plus side, the official jobless rate in November stood at a record low of 4.8 percent.