Brazilian President Calls New Health Amendment a Present of Greek

Line at SUS Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff called it a “Greek’s present,” a Portuguese expression Brazilians use to recall the unwelcome Trojan Horse left by the Greek in Troy and said she did not want it. She and the country are about to get it anyway.

Congress has set a date, September 28, to vote for appropriate legislation of a constitutional amendment (Amendment 29), which will set a mandatory percentage of revenue that the federal government, states and municipalities will have to spend on health.

It will mean an increase in spending on health care provided by the state in Brazil.

In a radio interview, president Rousseff declared that more money for health had to have specific funding sources. “I do not want to be given a Greek present. I would really like to guarantee quality health services for our people, but I must know where all the money to pay for it will come from. This is not a good time, in the middle of an international financial crisis, to approve more spending without saying exactly how it will be paid for.”

According to the leader of the PT in the Chamber of Deputies, Paulo Teixeira, the idea is to approve a basic text and deal with the details of funding later in negotiations with political parties and society. “We must find a just source of funding that does not overload society,” said Teixeira.

One idea is to tax exactly those activities that overload the health system: smoking, drinking and driving.

“Cigarettes and alcohol aggravate health problems. Cars are responsible for accidents,” Paulo Teixeira pointed out. He also raised the possibility of a tax on the rich. “There is a school of thought around the world that people with more money should pay more taxes,” he said.

Another source of new revenue to pay for higher health costs that has been aired is gambling. However, high-ranking members of the administration have voiced opposition to that idea.

“The government is not happy with legalizing gambling. We just do not think it is a healthy idea to tax gambling in order to pay for health care,” declared Gilberto Carvalho, the president’s top administrative aide.

As for the creation of a new tax similar to the old “CPMF,” a tax on financial transactions, Carvalho said the administration was treating the matter of funding with great care, but did not have a set position on the matter at this time.

President Dilma has repeatedly said that better health care for the population was one of her campaign promises and that she intends to make good on the promise.

But, she points out, Amendment 29 is not going to be a panacea for the sector. “Quality in health care calls for big investments, you have to invest in hospitals and doctors, for example,” she said.

GDP Growth

Brazil’s GDP reached 1.02 trillion reais in the second quarter of this year, an increase of 0.8%, compared to the first quarter. Compared to the second quarter of 2010, the increase was 3.1%.

First half GDP growth in Brazil was 3.6%, compared to the first half of 2010. Cumulative GDP growth over the last 12 months was up 4.7%, compared to the prior 12-month period.

ABr

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