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Brazzil - Nation - September 2004
 

What Brazil Lacks Is a Project of Inclusion

Over the decades we have created in Brazil the idea that economic
growth is the road to building a solid nation. History has already
shown, however, that the economy is a necessity but that, far
from solving Brazil's problems, it can in some cases aggravate
them. Growth does not solve social justice questions.

Cristovam Buarque


Brazzil

Picture The September 1st edition of a Brazilian newspaper carried a headline about the country's 4.2% growth in the first six months of this year. Just below was a photograph of a man depositing flowers in honor of the beggars who were killed in the street.

We do not know if it was a coincidence that the newspaper placed these two articles together, but they illustrate the reality of a country that is growing but is not solving—at times it is aggravating—its social problems.

I owe to Hélio Jaguaribe the idea that Brazil has an "inviable social profile." If we continue growing without changing the social reality, the Brazilian nation will disintegrate.

This change is made increasingly difficult by the mistake of concentrating the national project upon the economic pillar. Over the decades we have created the idea that economic growth is the road to building a solid nation.

History has already shown that the economy is a necessity but that, far from solving Brazil's problems, it can in some cases aggravate them. The lack of growth brings problems, but growth does not solve social justice questions.

Until the 1980s we imagined that, besides growth, a socialist revolution was necessary to bring the economy under the control of social interests. This idea lost currency but no other took its place.

We lived for decades without ideas marking a new course.

Brazil does not have, for example, a Project of Inclusion. Poverty is treated like a lack of economic growth, even though experience shows that the latter is incapable of overcoming poverty or including the excludeds, and that its benefits are concentrated upon the small part of the workers who are already incorporated into modernity.

A Project of Inclusion would signify building a society in which everyone would have access to essential goods and services. Economic growth will not generate a substantial increase in employment and the eventual increase will not employ the illiterate, the uneducated, the residents of poor cities.

A Project of Inclusion would define goals to assure everyone access to quality healthcare, universal, competent education, efficient public transportation, housing with sewerage and running water.

It would be project of social policies, not one of growth inducement. Social policies that would guarantee access and not income.

The decade lost for ideas did not define a Project of Revenue Distribution. It was erroneously imagined that when revenue increases, the wealth is spread.

Revenue distribution only occurs when there is a project of professional training—the principal instrument for raising salaries—and a policy to raise the income of the lowest classes more rapidly.

A project that, followed for the next 10 or 15 years, would change our shameful situation as champions of income concentration.

We do not have a Reduction of Regional Inequalities either. For decades, we believed that reproducing São Paulo's industrial growth in the North and Northeast Regions would reduce this inequality. The result was a fiasco.

A project of reducing regional inequalities implies, in first place, an intense social policy for the country's poor regions and, secondly, the adoption of measures establishing economic projects in those regions, even if these may not show the greatest efficiency from a purely economic point of view.

We do not have a Project for Reducing Violence or for Ending Corruption, or for Saving our Cities, or for Protecting the Environment. The world of ideas spans one or more lost decades.

We lost the capacity to dream of alternative projects, believing that it is enough for the economy to grow without inflation and with political democracy.

Our social profile is inviable and new ideas are nonexistent. What we lack, above all, is a Project of Liberation from the Single Way of Thinking that continues dominating the world, even when the administrations change. And it is not the fault of the administrations.

The fault lies in the political parties that do not like to debate ideas, in the universities that only like to debate old topics, and in the intellectuals, who fell into the lost decade and think that it was the economy that stopped growing.


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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