Curbing inflation, taking legal action against corrupted officials, taking great effort in early foreign debt repayment – there are quite a few parallels between Brazil and Russia these days.
Apart from India and China, Brazil and Russia are the member states of BRIC, the world’s most rapidly developing market economies.
Both Brazilian and Russian authorities often complain about inheriting the economic system that was virtually a shambles. Ensuring the economy’s steady growth is top priority for the governments of both countries.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the 39th and current President of Brazil, who took office on January 1st, 2003, says he is trying to achieve this goal. The former shoeshine boy and metal worker became Brazil’s first left-leaning president in the last four decades. The Brazilian president gave this interview to Pravda.
What did you manage to achieve during your term in office?
I had to deal with two major problems after taking office. First, the country’s development had been deliberately stalled for a long time, Brazil had a real-zero-growth budget, corruption rate was sky-high, there was neither economic stability nor economic security, and many people called our sovereignty into question.
In short, Brazil plunged into an economic crisis. Second, there was a shortage of expertise and qualified specialists as the national economy started to pick up and new opportunities emerged for the government to exert influence on the process of economic recovery.
As a result, we took over the country that was virtually in ruins. The government managed to alter the situation for the better. Brazil’s economy is gradually recovering. We began repaying our foreign debt.
The minimum wage and its purchasing power are continuously increasing. Nowadays the minimum wage buys twice as many goods and services as it did in 2003.
The studies show that the number of the Brazilians below the poverty line has dropped by 8% over the last three years. In other words, about 3,200,000 people improved their financial and social situation.
What are the other problems your government still has to address?
Improving the population’s standard of living while reducing the gap between the poor and the rich is our top priority. We expect the economic measures to bear fruit. Hopefully, we’ll be able to curb inflation and receive more revenues.
We also aim to step up our efforts to fight poverty and cut taxes. We are planning to lend more money to the population. In particular, we devised one of the most effective social programs called Bolsa Família (Family Grant), which provides for an increased social package for the poorest citizens.
What kind of a foreign policy are you going to pursue?
Brazil has assumed an active role in international politics. Our foreign policy is aimed at strengthening ties with the European Union and United Nations. Brazil energetically supports the World Movement Against Hunger. We build our relationships with other countries on the basis of mutual respect and nonintervention.
We are planning to pay special attention to building our relationships with African countries. At the same time, we are going to increase our presence in major markets of North America, Europe, and Asia, while maintaining positive relationships with our partners.
Brazil plays a special role in the world ecological system. The Amazonian rainforest is considered the world’s principal "lungs." What are your priorities in the field of ecology?
Our government has already taken a number of steps aimed at nature protection. From 2004 to 2005, the forest utilization in the Amazônia decreased by 31%. We expect to see another 11% decrease by the end of this year. We issued a law to set apart nearly 20 hectares as a forest reserve. The area in question is three times larger than that of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
We intend to give more incentives to the population in terms of alternative sources of energy. We are also going to pass a law to regulate activities related to the use of genetically modified materials.
What are your priorities in the field of culture?
We are planning to allocate funds for a social project called "A Pass to Culture" designed to make cultural values and events more accessible to the people. We are going to revise the charter of the National Culture Fund in order to include cultural events expenditure into the consumer basket. We are also going to pass a supervisory law to ensure transparency and public control over financing activities related to cultural projects.
How are you going to tackle the problem of urbanization?
We are planning to fund a housing loan program which would enable people to get access to decent housing with all modern conveniences. We are going to pay special attention to resolving the problem of uncontrolled property development in the suburbia of megalopolises. Another program will focus on the development of affordable municipal housing.
What are the measures to fight corruption?
Fighting corruption has been an issue of special importance for our government from day one. The Supervisory Committee has been reshuffled and became a ministry, its funding was increased and additional staff was hired.
No other Brazilian government has ever instituted so many lawsuits and referred them to court. Many of those corruption cases which are being exposed and investigated now stem from decades ago. In the last three years, the federal police have investigated 300 cases related to corruption, 137 government officials have been taken into custody.
This interview appeared originally in www.pravda.ru.