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Brazzil - Politics - September 2004
 

Brazil Is Growing, Like a Donkey's Tail

Brazil's 2005 budget was announced: US$ 4 billion for education,
health, sanitation, highway maintenance work, housing, social
programs, and everything that would contribute to further development.
And US$ 73 billion to the pockets of foreign predators of our
economy, those who speculate with the lives of Brazilian citizens.

Carlos Chagas


Brazzil

Picture Brazil and the numbers remain in open conflict. As if the festival of patriotism and foolishness displayed by sportscasters and commentators over the ridiculous number of medals obtained in the Olympic Games were not enough, now comes the government celebrating figures that would be comical were they not tragic: our GNP will not increase only 3,5% this year! We'll grow by 4%...

Well, at this rate, we are going to grow like a donkey's tail: downwards. Needless to say, our national necessities increase much faster. Worse yet, amid cries of exaltation and good news praises, the government announced the 2005 Budget: US$ 3 billion (9 billion reais) to personnel expenses, US$ 6 billion (18 billion reais) to Social Security, and US$ 21 billion (63 billion reais) to cover the heavy cost of running the government.

So, what's to celebrate?

Sounds okay, were it not for two figures—one announced in an apologetic fashion, the other hidden under the carpet. The first is that surrounded by a load of spending obligations the administration managed to put aside US$ 4 billion (12 billion reais) for direct investments.

The second, the one that no one takes responsibility for, pertains to the US$ 73 billion (220 billion reais) we are paying and will pay until December, in interest on our foreign and domestic debts.

The reader must confront the numbers: US$ 4 billion for education, health, sanitation, highway maintenance work, housing, social programs, and everything that would contribute to further development; and US$ 73 billion straight to the pockets of the relentless predators of our economy, money that will flow abroad or to the pockets of those who speculate with the lives of Brazilian citizens.

Something yet more diabolic: this year's the forecast for direct investments was US$ 4 billion, but as of September 1, the government had made available US$ 430,000, a little over 10% of the meager total. The remainder still sits in the coffers, likely to join to the US$ 73 billion.

What are they celebrating? According to President Lula, the anticipated inclusion of Brazil among the six largest economies in the world…

Meanwhile, Labor Minister, Ricardo Berzoini, one of the few who is used to dealing with reality, forecasts that by the end of the year no more than 6 million jobs can be created.

Four million would still be missing (from the 10 million promised) if we were still in campaign, however, because two years have gone by since taking office, 3 million must be added to the number of unemployed. Is it or is it not the fitting image of growth of a donkey's tail?

Jail Not Enough

As soon as the Monetary Policy Committee released the minutes of its latest meeting, those in the financial system once again rushed to reach into the pockets of the innocent public.

The men responsible for monetary policy, on top of not reducing the interest rate in effect by even a measly percentage point, also alerted to the possibility of raising rates in the future, as a means of avoiding the resurgence of inflation.

Terrible news, but even worse were the consequences. In a move of their own, banks increased their rates in anticipation. Meanwhile, a worker who has not had a raise in years will now pay 140% interest when accessing the special credit line on his checking account. The same more or less applies to credit cards, not to mention personal or business loans, which rose to 62.8%.

The government has yet to raise interest rates. It has only threatened; but to guard themselves—not society—from the threat, banks resorted to their master key. It's no use for a John Doe to come looking for the bank manager with a newspaper clip showing that rates are at 16%. To the bank, it's at 140%...

Can't the State see this kind of robbery? If it can't do anything to arrest the thief, it could at least act in a way to protect the victim.

The problem is that everything goes according to the guidelines of the neo-liberal economic model. To the speculators, all. To the victims of speculation, the legal sentence.

Thanks to circumstances like these bank profits in Brazil have surpassed limits never established worldwide since the Phoenicians times.


Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email: eaqus@adelphia.net.




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