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 figuresone 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
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
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 themselvesnot
societyfrom 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 email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.