‘Be Patient,’ Lula Asks Brazil

     'Be Patient,' Lula Asks 

    "The art of government
    is the art of patience. We do not have
    the right to lose patience even in moments of great adversity,"
    said Brazilian President Lula to his cabinet and congressional
    allies reviewing 18 months of his administration. Lula reiterated
    that he will fulfill all of his campaign promises before his term ends.

    by: Nelson

    President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urged his cabinet and parliamentary
    allies to be patient as the government attempts to do its job. "The art
    of government is the art of patience. We do not have the right to lose patience
    even in moments of great adversity," said the President.

    Lula spoke at a ceremony
    commemorating 18 months of his administration, saying that the members of
    the government had to be careful not to get too anxious. "Sometimes a
    soccer player is so anxious he misses an easy goal, you know," said the
    President, who frequently uses soccer metaphors. Lula added that no one should
    expect his administration to do in such a short time what others were unable
    to do in decades.

    Lula said that one achievement
    during his 18 months in government was the establishment of a healthy relationship
    between the executive and legislative branches, based on the public welfare
    rather than the quid pro quo wheeling and dealing of the past.

    The President made it
    clear that he would make regular reports on the progress of government activities.
    He challenged his critics to compare the results of his government with any

    Lula warned his ministers
    and congressional allies that discussion of public policy should not be limited
    to election seasons, pointing out that mid-term elections would take place
    this October, and presidential elections at the end of 2006.

    He recalled the political
    cost of the debate on the minimum wage of US$ 85.90 (260 reais), saying that
    the salary was so low because former administrations had allowed it to lose
    so much value.

    Lula said he was surprised
    to see allies of the Cardoso government support a bigger minimum salary after
    they spent eight years in power without allowing it to recover its purchasing

    "That is an example
    of when we need to keep calm. Now the fact is that the people know what is
    happening and can distinguish what is real and what is false… If anyone
    can recover the purchasing power of the Brazilian minimum wage it is this
    President," said Lula.

    At the end of his speech,
    Lula urged all of the cabinet members to remain united in the effort to fulfill
    the commitments in his government program. "I am certain we will keep
    the campaign promises we made in order to be elected by the time we reach
    the end of our term of office," he said.

    How to Grow

    Further growth in Brazil
    is going to depend on renewed investments by the private sector, mainly domestic
    corporations, declared presidential Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, speaking
    at the same ceremony attended by Lula.

    "It is important
    to point out that even with the difficult adjustments we had to make, the
    government is spending US$ 3.9 billion (12 billion reais) on essential investments
    for the country, such as basic sanitation and infrastructure," said Dirceu.

    These investments are
    occurring gradually by the government and the private sector. He added that
    the Brazilian BNDES (Banco Nacional do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social—National
    Bank for Economic and Social Development) has been a "secure anchor"
    for such projects as it increases its own investments.

    One government priority
    is highway repair. Dirceu reported that 2,106 kilometers of highways had been
    repaired and that services had been contracted for the conservation of another
    37,610 kilometers, besides the placement of signs on 12,191 kilometers of
    highways. Dirceu added that work on the Transnortheast and North-South railroads
    was underway again.

    Through the Merchant Marine
    Fund, a total of 21 vessels had been launched and construction contracts for
    an additional 13 signed. The vessels will operate in Ponta da Madeira, Maranhão
    state; Caravelas, in Bahia and Barra do Riacho, in Espírito Santo.
    Some will be put to work for Petrobras. Dirceu also announced that work on
    subways in Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and Belo Horizonte was once again underway.

    The Chief of Staff said
    that one of the highlights of government investments was the rural electrification
    program, Luz para Todos (Light for All), which aims to give all Brazilians
    electricity by the year 2008.

    The government has also
    renewed construction on 16 hydroelectric power plants. "During the last
    18 months we have added 5,184 MW to the country’s energy grid and 5,116 kilometers
    of transmission lines," he said.

    Finally, the minister
    said that the government is investing in digital inclusion. A service to provide
    Internet access (Gesac) had set up 3,200 telecenters where 4 million people
    had become users. Dirceu announced that digital TV was on its way and would
    provide users with superior quality in sound and image, besides internet access.

    Dirceu made a point that
    "this administration does not steal, does not let anyone steal, and is
    committed to combating corruption."

    As for the economy, he
    pointed out that the government has reduced purchases, and goods and services
    contracts, by 29 percent.

    "If funds are scarce,
    you must spend wisely and efficiently, without waste. You spend only on the
    priority needs of the country. We are spending on programs to alleviate poverty
    and misery. We are spending on social and economic infrastructure," declared
    the minister.

    Nelson Motta works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
    of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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