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.
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 solvingat
times it is aggravatingits 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 trainingthe principal
instrument for raising salariesand 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
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
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 – email@example.com
– 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
from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.