In Washington, while speaking on the world economic crisis during her visit to the United States at the beginning of the week, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff described the situation as one that forced people to search for ways to overcome paradigms and find new opportunities.
As for Brazil, Dilma said the growth of the middle class was a stimulus for the country to maintain efforts for economic growth. According to Dilma, by 2018 fully 60% of Brazil’s population will be middle class.
“The middle class is the key to economic growth in our country,” she said to an audience of Brazilian and American business leaders. “The crisis has placed enormous challenges before us. But it has also been a moment that enabled us to move beyond paradigms.”
The Brazilian middle class consists of what are known as economic classes C1 and C2 in a much-used table by the Association of Brazilian Research Companies (ABEP), where earnings range from R$ 1,194 to R$ 2,905 per month per individual in C2, which they calculate as reaching a ceiling of R$ 4,778 for a family of four.
Earnings per month per individual vary from R$ 2,012 to R$ 4,778 in C1, reaching a ceiling of R$ 8,050 for a family of four. Another table, by the government statistical bureau (IBGE), defines the middle class, “C,” as having monthly earnings between 6 and 15 minimum wages (that is, from R$ 3,732 to R$ 9,330).
With the dollar at R$ 1.80, the ABEP ceiling for C2 would be $2,654 ($31,848 per year) and $4,472 ($53,664 per year) for C1. On the other hand, in dollars the IBGE middle class would earn monthly wages in dollars between $2,073 and $5,183 (between $24,876 and $62,196 per year).
The US minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which works out to $15,080 per year for a person working full time at the minimum wage.
Dilma said that Brazil’s efforts to overcome economic difficulties were based on solid pillars. She pointed out that Brazil had more reserves than debt and that whereas in 2002 the debt to GDP ratio was 64%, it is now 36.5%.
Dilma explained that the government was making an effort to be more transparent and efficient in the use of public funds. She said the effort was in response to demands by the public and private sectors, as well as a clamor from Brazilian society.
“It is important to emphasize that the initiative is by the government, the business community and the Brazilian people,” she said.
Dilma went on to say that Brazil had made “a clear option” to achieve economic growth with social justice and more democracy. “What we want is a mass consumer market where there is social justice,” she said.
As she defended the use of the Brazilian middle class to propel economic development, Dilma pointed out that similar processes were underway in other BRICS nations, Russia, India, China and South Africa where large nations face similar challenges of empowering marginalized populations that are poor and hungry.