Rio de Janeiro, Mar 2 (IANS/EFE): Brazil's government has blamed global economic woes for paltry GDP growth last year, but it expects the country to rebound in 2013 and expand by up to 4 percent.
"In times of crisis, there's weak performance and it's inevitable that the economy will decelerate," Finance Minister Guido Mantega said at a press conference Friday.
Brazil's gross domestic product grew at a tepid 0.9 percent in 2012, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics said.
"Most countries had weak growth or even a slowdown," Mantega, who in early 2012 had forecast growth of 3-4 percent for that year, said.
The minister acknowledged that the growth rate came in "below (the government's) expectations" but he said the economy picked up pace in the fourth quarter with 0.6 percent growth and that that momentum has been maintained in January and February.
The most important thing for Brazil is that, despite the weak economic performance, the crisis "did not hit home" for citizens, Mantega said.
"For most of Brazil's population, 2012 was a good year," the minister said, adding that "1.3 million new jobs were created (last year) and the total wages bill increased 6 percent, which is not insignificant".
Private economists say inflation in 2013 will be equal to or even higher than last year's rate of 5.84 percent, potentially posing a threat to household spending, one of the main drivers of Brazil's economy.
The Getulio Vargas Foundation released a report Friday indicating that vegetable prices rose by an average of 30.14 percent in the first two months of this year.