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Brazzil - Social Issues - July 2004

Only a Civic Guerrilla War Can Save Brazil

Brazilians will not be able to explain to future generations why
the people who instigated the Plan Real leap forward through
monetary stability did not succeed in doing the same to eliminate
the poverty in which more than 50 million Brazilians live. Little
has been done in 10 years. We need a Social Plan Real.

Cristovam Buarque


Picture This month Brazil commemorated the tenth anniversary of the monetary Plan Real and the first 18 months of the Lula Government.

Although apparently unconnected, these two facts are related.

We need to recognize that the Plan Real is an example of a program that Brazil demonstrated to the world. After 30 years of inflation deep-rooted in the Brazilian social fabric, we broke through the inertia and attained a stability that would have been impossible to imagine only a short time ago.

We also need to recognize that little has been done in these ten years to establish a Social Plan Real. A plan that would carry to the Northeast an economic standard equal to the rest of the country, put all children in school, assure teachers dignified remuneration, and promote an employment program guaranteeing housing, running water, and plumbing to Brazilians living in the poor regions.

These ten years have seen advances in school enrollment but we still have 1.5 million children out of school and only 40 percent completing their high school education. We have made great advances in healthcare, but these are insufficient when compared with the success of the monetary plan.

I am drawing an analogy between the ten years of the Plan Real and the 18 months of the Lula government. During the first eight and a half years of the Plan Real, there were no significant advances in social services. We must acknowledge, however, that the Fernando Henrique government established the Bolsa-Escola on a national level, but with an insignificant amount of money, and that a program existed to combat child labor and child prostitution, although in a very timid manner.

Likewise, after 18 months of the Lula government, we must admit that we have still not made the necessary leap forward in the area of social services. We still have not created the Plan Real against poverty and in favor of social services.

We made progress when, during the discussions of the minimum wage, we agreed to incorporate the objectives that would administer a social shock to Brazil into the LDO (Lei de Diretrizes Orçamentárias—Budget Guidelines Law), the federal budget guidelines.

The Federal Government has made a commitment to send the Senate a program creating the Elementary Education Development Fund and set a Salary Floor for the teacher. Included in the LDO social shock proposal is the hiring of 500 thousand workers for the water and plumbing projects to aid the poor populations of Brazil, as well as a program setting goals for the abolition of child labor and child prostitution.

While the previous government implemented the Eradication of Child Labor Program and the Bolsa-Escola (School Grant), we must recognize, as the responsible opposition, that this was done on an insignificant level.

We also need to say with critical loyalty that, in the present situation, our government has not make a greater leap forward than that made by President Fernando Henrique's administration.

The social shock inserted into the LDO is one step, albeit a timid one. It will not be possible to explain to future generations why the people who instigated the Plan Real leap forward through monetary stability did not succeed in doing the same to eliminate the poverty in which more than 50 million Brazilians live.

The National Congress also must assume its responsibility by launching the idea of a Social Plan Real, so that Brazil will do with poverty and with social services that which it did with the currency.

We need to transform the approval of the budget into an act of true civic guerrilla warfare, maintaining fiscal balance, guaranteeing another ten years of the Plan Real, and ensuring in the next 18 months of the Lula Government clear guidelines and the resources necessary to change Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque - cristovam@senador.gov.br - 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 (2003-04).
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.

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