In no other country in the world is more importance given to the UN Human
Development Index (HDI) than in Brazil. This is not out of concern for the
people of Brazil but rather for the image of the various administrations.
Ex-ministers and current
ministers compete to determine if Brazil is in 72nd or 68th
position among the nations that most mistreat their people when it comes to
literacy programs, basic K-12 education, health care, income concentration.
The ex-ministers accuse
the Lula government of committing the unjustifiable mistake of presenting
data from the 2000 Census, instead of data from the 2001 PNAD (National Research
for Sample of Domiciles).
The current ministers
justify the matter by saying that they submitted the data that best reflect
the scope of illiteracy. No one focuses upon the reality: Brazil, one of the
richest economies in the world, displays one of the greatest illiteracy indexes.
The indignant ex-ministers
say that Brazil does not have 109,113 illiterates. There are only 106,057.
In the same way, the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb could say that there
were not 109,113 deaths. There were only 106,057.
The difference can signify
that Brazil's Human Development Index would not trail the island of St. Lucia's
and Romania's; it would instead follow those of Suriname, Bosnia, Albania
Presidents Lula and Fernando
Henrique should have to join hands and together apologize for how little has
been done to improve the Brazilian quality of life in these nine and one-half
years of governments led by two left-wing politicians and by parties founded
upon dreams of the Left.
No one can doubt that
there were advances in the field of education during the eight years of President
Fernando Henrique Cardoso's administration. Despite this, there will be nothing
to commemorate as long as a single child remains out of school and a single
school does not achieve the minimum level of quality demanded by the modern
Lula took office in a
Brazil on the march in education and quality of life, but it was a slow march.
The Bolsa-Escola (School Grant) was seven reais (US$ 2.3) a month per child
and had no rigor in controlling school attendance.
The resources for Fundef
(Fundo de Manutenção e Desenvolvimento do Ensino Fundamental
e de Valorização do MagistérioThe Fund for the
Maintenance and Development of Elementary Teaching and for the Valorization
of the Teaching Profession) do not even fulfill the very law that created
it and they grant a small raise in salary for teachers.
The number of children
enrolled has increased, but 1.5 million children remain out of school; enrollment
has not been transformed into regular attendance; the quality of education
hardly improved at all and in some cases worsened. The concentration of income
continues to be the same, and the advance in health care, insignificant.
When it comes to quality
of life, President Fernando Henrique's administration does have something
to show for itself but does not have something to commemorate. He must show
what he did by apologizing for what he did not do. Even though arguments do
exist showing the limits that impeded him from doing more.
In improving the quality
of life, the Fernando Henrique government was slow and right wing. It did
little during the ten percent of the century that the FHC period lasted.
In the 18 months of the
Lula government, neither an acceleration of the previous pace nor a turn to
the left can be perceived. The government is not demonstrating its priority
for improving the quality of life.
In his speeches the President
talks about hunger, economics and international politics. There is no clear
message about education. The resources for Fundef still do not fulfill the
law and the little funding budgeted is contingent.
The programs initiated
in 2003, with the aim of universalizing school enrollment, were halted; the
Bolsa-Família merely unified what had already been done and, in practice
and in name, lost its commitment to keeping children in school.
The quest to improve quality
by means of the teacher and the on-line school was suspended. The Brasil Alfabetizado
(Brazil Literate) Program is paralyzed; the office specifically in charge
of the matter disappeared; the ambition of eradicating the illiteracy problem
Not a single cent of the
185 million reais reserved for 2004 had been spent by the end of June.
The Ministry of Education has been reoriented towards university instruction.
Under these conditions,
in 2012 the government at that time will be sending the United Nations the
results of the 2010 census, and President Lula's ex-ministers are going to
complain that the data falsify reality. That Brazil is not behind St. Lucia;
it is behind Bosnia. This will happen if those countries do not make a leap
in the quality of life and greatly surpass Brazil.
There is still time for
Fernando Henrique and Lula to unite, apologize and form an alliance for improving
the quality of life: the Human Development Index alliance of those indignant
with human underdevelopment and in favor of the United Nations millennium
The Lula government would
not send any more outdated statistics, the Fernando Henrique government would
stop commemorating so little, and the two would unite to do what still has
not been done at the speed necessary.
In a few years we could
together commemorate the positive results of the Human Development Index instead
of arguing over the negative results clearly visible in the reality surrounding
us, with data from 2000 or from 2002. And reality will continue demonstrating
this when we use the statistics from 2004.
Cristovam Buarque - email@example.com
- has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District
and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education
from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.