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Brazzil - Politics - July 2004

'Be Patient,' Lula Asks Brazil

"The art of government is the art of patience. We do not have
the right to lose patience even in moments of great adversity,"
said Brazilian President Lula to his cabinet and congressional
allies reviewing 18 months of his administration. Lula reiterated
that he will fulfill all of his campaign promises before his term ends.

Nelson Motta


Picture President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urged his cabinet and parliamentary allies to be patient as the government attempts to do its job. "The art of government is the art of patience. We do not have the right to lose patience even in moments of great adversity," said the President.

Lula spoke at a ceremony commemorating 18 months of his administration, saying that the members of the government had to be careful not to get too anxious. "Sometimes a soccer player is so anxious he misses an easy goal, you know," said the President, who frequently uses soccer metaphors. Lula added that no one should expect his administration to do in such a short time what others were unable to do in decades.

Lula said that one achievement during his 18 months in government was the establishment of a healthy relationship between the executive and legislative branches, based on the public welfare rather than the quid pro quo wheeling and dealing of the past.

The President made it clear that he would make regular reports on the progress of government activities. He challenged his critics to compare the results of his government with any other.

Lula warned his ministers and congressional allies that discussion of public policy should not be limited to election seasons, pointing out that mid-term elections would take place this October, and presidential elections at the end of 2006.

He recalled the political cost of the debate on the minimum wage of US$ 85.90 (260 reais), saying that the salary was so low because former administrations had allowed it to lose so much value.

Lula said he was surprised to see allies of the Cardoso government support a bigger minimum salary after they spent eight years in power without allowing it to recover its purchasing power.

"That is an example of when we need to keep calm. Now the fact is that the people know what is happening and can distinguish what is real and what is false... If anyone can recover the purchasing power of the Brazilian minimum wage it is this President," said Lula.

At the end of his speech, Lula urged all of the cabinet members to remain united in the effort to fulfill the commitments in his government program. "I am certain we will keep the campaign promises we made in order to be elected by the time we reach the end of our term of office," he said.

How to Grow

Further growth in Brazil is going to depend on renewed investments by the private sector, mainly domestic corporations, declared presidential Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, speaking at the same ceremony attended by Lula.

"It is important to point out that even with the difficult adjustments we had to make, the government is spending US$ 3.9 billion (12 billion reais) on essential investments for the country, such as basic sanitation and infrastructure," said Dirceu.

These investments are occurring gradually by the government and the private sector. He added that the Brazilian BNDES (Banco Nacional do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social—National Bank for Economic and Social Development) has been a "secure anchor" for such projects as it increases its own investments.

One government priority is highway repair. Dirceu reported that 2,106 kilometers of highways had been repaired and that services had been contracted for the conservation of another 37,610 kilometers, besides the placement of signs on 12,191 kilometers of highways. Dirceu added that work on the Transnortheast and North-South railroads was underway again.

Through the Merchant Marine Fund, a total of 21 vessels had been launched and construction contracts for an additional 13 signed. The vessels will operate in Ponta da Madeira, Maranhão state; Caravelas, in Bahia and Barra do Riacho, in Espírito Santo. Some will be put to work for Petrobras. Dirceu also announced that work on subways in Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and Belo Horizonte was once again underway.

The Chief of Staff said that one of the highlights of government investments was the rural electrification program, Luz para Todos (Light for All), which aims to give all Brazilians electricity by the year 2008.

The government has also renewed construction on 16 hydroelectric power plants. "During the last 18 months we have added 5,184 MW to the country's energy grid and 5,116 kilometers of transmission lines," he said.

Finally, the minister said that the government is investing in digital inclusion. A service to provide Internet access (Gesac) had set up 3,200 telecenters where 4 million people had become users. Dirceu announced that digital TV was on its way and would provide users with superior quality in sound and image, besides internet access.

Dirceu made a point that "this administration does not steal, does not let anyone steal, and is committed to combating corruption."

As for the economy, he pointed out that the government has reduced purchases, and goods and services contracts, by 29 percent.

"If funds are scarce, you must spend wisely and efficiently, without waste. You spend only on the priority needs of the country. We are spending on programs to alleviate poverty and misery. We are spending on social and economic infrastructure," declared the minister.

Nelson Motta works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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