Titanic Brazil

 Titanic 
        Brazil

During
Brazil’s entire history, those above deck have thrown
leftovers to those in the holds, the better to maintain a
living workforce and to prevent violence. We created an
economy for the few and assistance to delude the rest.
by:
Cristovam Buarque

 

Brazil
is a slave ship bound for the future. A slave ship, with millions of
excluded poor in the holds lacking food, education, healthcare, and
an elite above deck enjoying a high standard of living and bound for
a disastrous future. Because our economy has been based upon social
exclusion and upon the short term, Brazil is a slave ship Titanic, insensitive
both to those in the holds and to the icebergs ahead.

One
hundred fifteen years after Abolition, our economy still treats poor
Brazilians as if they did not figure in its objectives and views long-term
planning as if it did not exist. Our economy has been administered in
a manner insensitive to the present necessities of the poor and the
future objectives of the nation.

During
our entire history, those above deck have thrown leftovers to those
in the holds, the better to maintain a living workforce and to prevent
violence. We created an economy for the few and assistance to delude
the rest. In the times of slavery, the economic texts taught how, where,
and at what price to buy a slave; how to feed him or her at the least
possible cost, while maintaining maximum profitability; how to limit
violence so as not to cripple the slave. At the same time, the economic
texts functioned as protective entities for slaves, although they did
not advocate abolition.

The
slave-ocratic system ended but the assistance-instead-of-abolition era
continued.

Throughout
our history since Abolition in 1888—and, above all, in the last
two decades of full democracy—the Brazilian economy has made no
commitment to abolition. At best, it stimulated assistance. We gave
assistance to street children, while believing it impossible to abolish
child abandonment; we gave assistance to child prostitutes, while believing
it impossible to abolish child prostitution; with pride we announced
that the number of working children had diminished but did not make
the effort necessary to abolish child labor; we say we have 95 percent
of children enrolled in school but neglect to ask for forgiveness from
the 5 percent who are abandoned, just as in 1870 it was said that "only"
70 percent of black Brazilians were slaves.

After
the one hundred fifteen years since Abolition and the Proclamation of
the Republic, Brazil now has a government committed to replacing assistance
with abolition. To constructing an abolition economy. An economy that,
instead of concerning itself only with increasing wealth, will formulate
ways to abolish poverty; one that will view unemployment as a tragedy
to be confronted and not as a lack of equilibrium to be coldly described;
an economy that will give priority to producing food for the poor in
the holds and not for export to pay for the orgies above deck. An economy
that will consider spending on education and healthcare as a priority.

During
the time of slavery, many in favor of abolition said that there were
no resources to acquire the owners’ vested property rights by buying
the slaves before liberating them. Others said that abolition would
disrupt the process of production. Today we say the same thing about
spending on the education, healthcare, and feeding of our people. The
public sector’s commitment to vested rights does not permit fulfilling
the resource needs for education and healthcare in the public sector
budgets.

An
abolition economy must remain vigilant of monetary stability because
inflation weighs most heavily on those in the holds of Ship Brazil;
it is impossible to increase the enormous fiscal burden already weighing
upon all Brazil; nor can we ignore the strength of the creditors. But
a country with our national income, with the power of our public sector
to collect taxes, has the resources necessary to implement an abolition
economy serving its people, one that guarantees education, healthcare
and food for all.

Our
major problem is not the lack of resources; rather, it is the legacy
of centuries of a society accustomed to traveling above deck while despising
those in the holds and feeling satisfied with providing merely short-term
assistance.

Brazil
elected a different government in October of 2002, but this new government
will only show its true face at the end of 2003 when the public-sector
budget will be decided upon. Only then will we discover if Brazil is
going to swerve its titanic destiny around the iceberg and begin bringing
the excluded part of its slave ship up from the holds.

To
do this, all Brazil must manifest its will to choose abolition and leave
assistance behind, directing its public spending with the radicalism
necessary to attend to the needs of the excluded. The true victory of
a president lies not his election but, rather, in the budget that he
succeeds in approving afterwards. While his election augments his political
résumé, the budget consolidates his legacy as a statesman.

Unlike
dictators, kings, and prime ministers, a president of the Republic has
the major task of persuading his people what future course their country
should take. President Lula is persuading us that the time has come
to leave behind assistance and complete the process of abolition, to
leave behind a Republic with an aristocracy in favor of a Republic of
citizens: it is time to swerve from the iceberg’s course and bring the
poor above deck.

 

Cristovam
Buarque – cristovambuarque@uol.com.br,
59, Ph.D. in economics, is Brazil’s Minister of Education. He was
the rector of the University of Brasília (1985-89) and the
governor of the Federal District (1995-98).

Translated
by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com

 

 

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