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US$ 13 bi: The Low Price to End Brazil’s Poverty

 US$ 13 bi: The Low Price 
  to End Brazil's Poverty

With a little more
than 2 percent of its revenue Brazil could put
an end to its poverty. By using US$ 13 billion annually, in a few years
Brazil could assure all its children good schools. Everyone would
have housing and healthcare and no one would go hungry. And
these projects would generate employment and revenue.
by: Cristovam
Buarque

Between 1999 and 2002 I traveled a great deal defending the idea of a "Socio-Global
Marshall Plan for the Eradication of Child Labor and Guarantee that Every
Child Is in School." Each time I spoke of this matter I dreaded hearing
the question, "What authority do you have to speak about this since your
country is not doing its part?"

Sixty years ago, the United
States launched a recovery plan for a Europe devastated by World War II. Named
the Marshall Plan after the American Secretary of State who coordinated it,
in few years it successfully restored the Old World after its destruction
by the war. This week President Lula is proposing the creation of a Marshall
Plan to facilitate the growth of poor countries.

More than any other country
in the world, Brazil has the best conditions to make that proposal. Brazil
is a perfect portrait of humanity in these times. Perhaps we may be the only
country that has all the problems of humanity’s tragedy at the beginning of
this century and, at the same time, all the necessary resources to solve those
problems.

Other countries have either
the problems without the resources or the resources without the problems.
This is why the idea of a Marshall Plan to confront worldwide poverty originated
here.

During the next months,
however, we run the risk of seeing our proposal become discredited if Brazil
itself does not set an example by demonstrating the possibility of carrying
out a vast program of poverty abolition.

If conditions are present
in the world to abolish poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, then the
conditions are present in Brazil to abolish poverty at home.

If a Marshall Plan for
the world is possible, then a Marshall Plan—certainly with another name—will
also be possible for Brazil. Should we not create one, our proposal will be
ridiculed and discredited.

The entire world would
need a small percentage of its revenue, which amounts to US$ 40 trillion,
to eradicate poverty. Brazil would need a little more than 2 percent of its
revenue (1.6 trillion reais—US$ 516 milion) to put an end to its
poverty.

By using R$ 40 billion
(US$ 13 billion) annually, in a few years Brazil could assure all its children
well-equipped, good schools with well-prepared, well-paid and dedicated teachers.
All houses would have running water and plumbing.

Everyone would be guaranteed
housing, a preventative healthcare system and a network of top-quality hospitals
where no one would have to wait for medical attention. And no one would go
hungry since the expenditures to carry out these projects would generate employment
and revenue.

President Lula is the
right person to propose the Marshall Plan for the world, but he is, even more,
the right person to propose our own Marshall Plan. He can inspire the Brazilian
population to pay that small 2 percent to accomplish the great social shock
that Brazil has awaited for centuries. It should have begun decades ago and
for 18 months Brazil has been waiting for the Lula government to initiate
it.

The Lula government is
still our hope for the emergence of a new mentality, one that understands
that the transfer of revenue, to those who need it, will thus dynamize the
economy, benefiting not only those who receive revenue but also those who
transfer it.

By transferring billions
of dollars, back in the 1940s, for the recovery of Europe, the United States
was an ultimate beneficiary. Just like the poor Brazilians, the 10 percent
most wealthy will benefit from a poverty-abolition program.

From the point of view
of economics, thanks to the decurrent growth; from the point of view of ethics,
thanks to the decency of living in a country without shameful inequality,
thanks to the reduction of violence, thanks to the increase in education and
in national culture. Thanks to the pride of living in a decent country.

But the United States
not only understood the advantage of transferring revenue to a Europe devastated
by war, it also saw the necessary of doing it soon after the war ended. The
Lula government cannot wait any longer to set up our Marshall Plan.

With each passing day
the President loses more of his credibility to propose new ideas and ask for
sacrifices. Because of this, an idea as important as a Marshall Plan for the
world does not have the repercussions that it should: People, here and abroad,
are asking themselves why he is not doing here what he is proposing for the
world.

Lula must not give up
his Marshall Plan for the world but he also needs to present Our Marshall
Plan because, should he not do this, his proposal will appear to be merely
a speech, without major consequences.


Cristovam Buarque – cristovam@senador.gov.br
-, 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
(2003-04).

Translated
by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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