No time to party

For the first time, recession fears forced many cities in Brazil to rein in their carnival festivities.

In an unprecedented move, major Brazilian cities cancelled their annual carnival parades this year in the face of what is shaping up as the worst recession since the 1930s, reports The Financial Times

Not even the 2008 financial crisis succeeded in scrapping the February festivities, which are meant to chase away mundane cares and troubles.

Campinas, home to three million people in São Paulo state, cancelled its carnival events, as did Macapá, capital of the northern state of Amapá, and Lavros do Sul in the south. Fortunately, the famous Rio de Janeiro parade went ahead.

Emblematic of the current economic rut, Fitch Ratings downgraded Brazil’s debt to junk status last December, the second rating agency to do so. After a fall of 3.7% in 2015, the economy is predicted to fall by another 2.99%, according to economists polled by the central bank. Meanwhile, unemployment is rising and inflation is obstinately stuck at double-digit levels.

Public sentiment is that many of Brazil’s problems are self-inflicted. Picking from the large profits of the commodities boom, President Dilma Rousseff followed populist and expansionary fiscal policies that helped lift millions out of poverty. However, she neglected to invest in wider structural reforms that would have shielded the country from the collapse in commodities prices.

Suppliers of carnival masks and costumes are among the many who feel the impact of the recession. One producer of masks told the Times: “The economic situation here is even worse than most people imagine. Shops that were spending R$40,000-R$50,000 with us are now placing orders for R$3,000.”