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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