President Lula might be wondering whether the order should ever have been made. On Saturday the government received its new presidential jet, at a cost of US$57m. Already nicknamed AeroLula, it’s generated much critical comment and highlighted the government’s weak management of the media.
On Monday the website edition of the Folha de São Paulo presented ministers with a bad smell. The story claimed that Lula’s government had spent less on water and sanitation than at any time since 1995, spending less than R$500m last year and not enough if it wants to make services universal by 2020.
As if that didn’t make uncomfortable reading, another story by the same organisation suggested the governing party’s spending priorities seemed somewhat skewed. According to the accounts, Lula’s party colleague, Marta Suplicy, spent R$1.9bn last year during her failed bid for re-election as São Paulo mayor. Compared Celso Pitta, Marta’s predecessor, that’s R$530m more than the debt he left behind for her in 2000.
Meanwhile Marco Antonio Villa, a historian who has written on the droughts in the Northeast during the 19th and 20th centuries, argued that the government ”“like previous ones ”“ has failed to come up with an anti-drought plan. Given Lula’s roots in the Northeast, the criticism suggests the president has forgotten his roots.
And in Congress the uncertainty continues to build. At the beginning of the year the government announced a number of ministerial changes go on. But they won’t take place till February, which has only added to the jitters spreading throughout the political class.
Unfortunately the longer it drags on the more bad feeling is generated. Already some ministers are worrying that they might be the ones replaced while PT deputies have expressed alarm; São Paulo congressman Ivan Valente made it clear that he wasn’t happy at the prospect of the right-wing parties, the PFL and PP being represented in the government.
Whether Lula will listen to this is another matter. With a legislative programme including political and social security reform this year, the government will need all the support it can get. And according to its allies, the success of the measures is vital if Lula is to be re-elected next year. The PT’s national president José Genoino said on Friday that the party would make space available in the government to politicians of other parties. “To win we have to make alliances. [We need them] to govern as well.”
But the unanswered question remains hanging: who on the opposition benches wants to help deliver that outcome for Lula?