Expanding nursery provision, improving educational standards and providing more vocational training to adults will be at the heart of Brazil’s efforts to fight poverty and inequality over the next few years, according to the country’s social development minister.
While she trumpeted the successes of the bolsa familia poverty-relief programme – the cash handout given to almost a quarter of Brazilian families on condition that their children go to school and get vaccinated – Tereza Campello insisted that the country still had a long way to go in creating a fairer and more prosperous society.
Introduced in 2003 by the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the bolsa familia is estimated to have kept 36m families out of extreme poverty and to have been responsible for a dramatic drop in infant mortality, with 0-5 deaths from diarrhea falling by 46% and deaths from malnutrition down by 58%.
David Biller, Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/20/2012
For a decade Geane Menezes earned no more than $250 a month cleaning the home of a wealthy Brazilian family. Now she sells souvenirs at an airport store in the northeastern city of Recife and plans to open a business.
“I feel more valued and earn twice as much,” Menezes, 34, said while tending the store’s hammocks and cashews.
Menezes isn’t the only one hanging up her apron. With unemployment in Latin America’s biggest economy at record lows, poor women who for decades formed a pool of cheap domestic labor for the middle and upper classes are pursuing better-paying, higher-skilled jobs. The result is a shrinking supply of help, which has allowed the remaining nannies, maids and cooks to command wage increases at more than double the rate of inflation since 2006.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced yesterday an increase of nearly a fifth on financial aid under a flagship social welfare program, after implementing a series of austerity measures in recent weeks.
The move, which she announced during a trip to the northeastern state of Bahia, is likely to be seized on by critics as a sign that her commitment is wavering on budget cuts needed to cool the economy and stamp out inflation.
Rousseff, who pledged after winning last October’s election to eradicate extreme poverty in Latin America’s largest economy, said financial aid under the Bolsa Familia program would rise by an average of 19 percent.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Friday he will work on alleviating poverty in Africa when he steps down from office, but played down speculation that he might be interested in heading the United Nations.
The enormously popular Lula, attending his last international summit as president, heard appeals from other South American leaders that he continue to represent the region in international affairs. Bolivian President Evo Morales suggested that he head the United Nations.
Darío Montero interviews MARTÍN HOPENHAYN, head of ECLAC’s Social Development Division
Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay and even Brazil are close to being able to provide a universal basic income to all citizens, which is the way to make cash transfers an effective tool in fighting inequality, according to Martín Hopenhayn.
“The premise is that citizens, as such, are entitled to a minimum level of subsistence,” said Hopenhayn, the director of the Social Development Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
But in order to sustain such payments, in-depth reforms of tax systems in the region are needed, Hopenhayn told IPS in an interview during a late November seminar organised by ECLAC in San Diego, California to disseminate and highlight the results of its five-year Experiences in Social Innovation contest.
Brazil has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. It has set its economy on the right course, reduced poverty, lessened inequality and consolidated its democracy. The ghosts of the past — authoritarianism, political persecution and censorship — have been left behind, as Brazilian democracy passed important tests such as the impeachment of a president and the rise to the presidency of a former trade-union leader.
Brazil has now passed another test: having a woman at the height of executive power. The challenges facing President-elect Dilma Rousseff are huge, but so are her advantages. The basis for continued rapid economic development has been established, and there is nothing to suggest the possibility of significant change in inflation targets, the autonomy of the central bank or the floating exchange rate.
Rousseff owes her victory to outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the success of his administration. She knows that Brazil’s progress under Lula was supported by stable economic growth, higher social transfers to poor households through programs such as Bolsa Familia and democracy.
THREE generations of the Teixeira family live in three tiny rooms in Eldorado, one of the poorest favelas (slums) of Greater São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas. The matriarch of the family, Maria, has six children; her eldest daughter, Marina, has a toddler and a baby. Like many other households in thefavela, the family has been plagued by domestic violence. But a few years ago, helped in part by Bolsa Família (family grant)—which pays mothers a small sum so long as their children stay in education and get medical check-ups—Maria took her children out of child labour and sent them to school.
The programme allows the children to miss about 15% of classes. But if a child gets caught missing more than that, payment is suspended for the whole family. The Teixeiras’ grant has been suspended and restarted several times as boy after boy skipped classes. And now the eldest, João, aged 16, is out earning a bit of money by cleaning cars or distributing leaflets, taking his younger brothers with him. Marina’s pregnancies have added to the pressure. She gets no money for her children because she lives with her mother and the family has reached Bolsa Família’s upper limit. After rallying for a while, the Teixeira family is sliding backwards, struggling more than it did a couple of years ago.