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Brazzil - Politics - June 2003

Brazil: We Have No Roadmap

The Lula administration still lacks an action script. The President's
Workers Party should have started drafting one 12 years ago, when
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for President for the first time. What
we hear is that we must resume growth. But we remain
generic. We need a true Action Plan.

Carlos Chagas


We may well be living the hora da virada (turning point), however slowly and gradually, with the lowering of interest rates, higher taxes on bank profits, funds approved for important infra-structure works and the first results of the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) Program. However—and I'm not trying to talk like the Joãozinho of the joke (the man who only thinks of one thing)—I must say this: the Lula administration took power without the benefit of a roadmap for action.

While acknowledging that the administration chose to start off by following the previous economic model, avoiding thus any possible `earthquakes', the government still lacks an action script, now that neoliberalism seems to be fading out. The PT (Workers Party) should have started drafting one 12 years ago, when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for President for the first time.

Between then and now, a plan could have been drafted which would have been an alternative to globalizing interests, containing concrete proposals about what to do to reduce unemployment, expand the domestic market, multiply production and socially integrate the country.

Just generic enunciations

Taking into consideration the optimistic perspective of abandoning the economic policy which made our lives hell for so many years, the conclusion may be that there was nothing to do besides generic enunciations. Something about what to do, but nothing about how to do it.

Of course time goes on, realities change and new conditions demand constant alterations and improvements, but things could be different now if there had been, since the beginning of the campaign, some alternative basic plan. Some kind of textbook, permanently perfected and adapted, and ready to be implemented by the PT.

Maybe not right on January 1st, so as not to traumatize conservative segments, but at least ready to be announced at an opportunity such as the one coming up now. Let's consider unemployment and the need to lower it, for example. What will president Lula do? Should the government be talking about how to do it? Okay, we should help small and medium size companies with easier-to-obtain credit, but on what terms? In what parts of the country? Which credit institutions will be involved? Government-sponsored labor fronts able to rebuild and even implement roads, yes, but which fronts? How to finance them? On what terms? Covering what kinds of workers?

Expanding the domestic market—another example. What mechanisms should be used? Wage increases? Lowering production costs by decreasing the tax burden? Or should we hit only the richest Brazilians, starting with the huge fortunes, the inheritance tax and the high salaries? Direct incentives to local governments? How are we to channel the necessary funds? Larger subsidies to agriculture? Which products? Limits on superfluous imports, yes, but which ones? Multiplication of agricultural production by advancing on big lands in the interior? Or improvements in productivity?

Agrarian reform? Further distribution of land with no detriment of the concentration into huge estates? Easy credit for the interior? Should we adopt transgenics or commit to a new and massive attempt with wheat? What about subsidies for cattle raising? Should we explore biomass as a cleaner and cheaper source of energy? What about the overall social integration of the country—should we do with welfare planning only? Or get all programs together into a single one? Should we give incentives to domestic savings? Using which alternatives?

Again the question is where, how and when. Because the truth is that no program, not even an incomplete one, has been put forward by the PT, with all its economists. What we hear is that we must resume growth. But we remain generic. We are missing, it's very clear now, a true Action Plan from the government.

Two faces of the same coin

Congresswoman Jandira Fhegalli, of the PC do B (Brazilian Communist Party) did not run in defense of Fidel Castro, with the big buzz in the press still going on about the death conviction of two Cubans who tried to escape to Miami. She reminds everyone, though, that they were convicted in accordance with the laws of that country. And she asks why do newspapers and newscasts not give the same treatment to the hundreds of death convictions taking place in the United States, also in accordance with those laws. After all, the death penalty doesn't exist only in Cuba…

And he even flew in the presidential plane...

A comment overheard in the more orthodox segments of the administration and the PT who don't accept the possibility of any dialogue or understanding between Lula and José Alencar, after last Thursday, in Salvador, when the vice-president restated in public the criticism made to the financial system: "And he even used the presidential plane at his disposal…"

Carlos Chagas writes for the carioca daily Tribuna da Imprensa (Rio) and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com 

This article appeared originally at Tribuna da Imprensa - http://www.tribuna.inf.br

Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a carioca who has lived and worked in the U.S. for 19 years. Accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: tbragaling@cs.com  


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