Brazil Is Rich, Brazilians Are Poor

     Brazil Is Rich, Brazilians 
Are Poor

    Brazil’s per capita
    income continues to grow. According to the
    UN, that index has risen by US$ 40 to US$ 7,700. The problem
    is the distribution of income among Brazilians. More than 8
    percent of the Brazilian population survives on less than US$1 a
    day. Another 22 percent have to make do with a mere US$ 2.
    by: Nasi

    A report released by the UN Development Program shows that Brazil’s per capita
    income has risen US$ 40, to US$ 7,770 (it was US$ 7,730 last year). The report
    goes on to say that Brazil’s problem is to transform wealth into well-being
    for the population.

    With regard to the Human
    Development Index, Brazil is in 72nd place in a list of 177 nations.
    Last year the country was in 65th place. If only per capita income
    was considered, Brazil would rise to 63rd place on the list. Brazil’s
    per capita income is the same as the average for the world, and slightly higher
    than the average for Latin America.

    However, when other items
    are factored in, such as education and life expectancy, Brazil drops in the
    list. One problem is that 22 percent of Brazil’s population lives on less
    than US$ 2 a day. Another 8.2 percent lives on less than US$1 a day.

    In the latest survey,
    life expectancy in Brazil rose from 67.8 years to 68. There was a significant
    improvement in education, with 92 percent of school age children in the classroom,
    and the illiteracy rate went down to 13.6 percent.

    At the end, Brazil’s not-so-hot
    life expectancy of 68 proved to be the factor that lowered the country’s Human
    Development Index. Just to get an idea of how bad that is, if the list was
    only based on life expectancy, Brazil would be in 111th place.

    The HDI is based on three
    factors: education, live expectancy and income. It is a simple method used
    to measure development. "It works out to the minimum needs of a population,"
    explains José Carlos Libânio, a UN aide. "It measures access
    to knowledge, health and money."

    Commenting on the results,
    presidential Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, said: "We should look
    to the future and take this report as another sign that the country needs
    urgently to invest in social, sanitation, living and transport programs and
    to create jobs and distribute wealth."

    UN Campaign

    For the first time, Brazil
    will participate in a worldwide UN campaign to improve the lives of the planet’s
    most needy by drumming up support for what is known as the Millennium Development
    Goals, which were set up by 191 countries, including Brazil, in the 2000 UN
    General Assembly.

    The Millennium Development
    Goals, which are supposed to be achieved by the year 2015, include eliminating
    extreme poverty and hunger, making elementary education universal, the promotion
    of sexual equality, women’s rights and maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS,
    malaria and other diseases, protecting the environment and setting up a worldwide
    partnership for development.

    Brazil’s participation
    begins on August 9, the anniversary of the death of social activist, Betinho.

    Brazilian Protest

    Two years ago, the then
    president of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea), Roberto Martins,
    complained saying that Brazil’s Human Development Index was higher than the
    UN said it was.

    "The UN Development
    Program, which conducts the index survey, is using outdated numbers on the
    situation in the country. With updated numbers that the Brazilian government
    has, the HDI would be 0.769," said Martins. The UNDP says it is 0.757.

    UN representative Libânio
    explained, however, that the HDI is calculated using statistics from international
    agencies and that there are differences between those numbers and numbers
    that governments use.

    According to him, the
    data shows that Brazil is producing more riches, but that it is badly distributed.
    Brazil is third in the world in wealth concentration.

    A Youngster Look

    Young people who took
    the writing test in last year’s National High School Examination (Enem/2003)
    believe that social inequality is the main cause of violence in Brazil. Hunger,
    income maldistribution, and urban ghettoization were identified as factors
    that aggravate the process of inequality and lead to violence in society.

    The results of the study
    were announced this month by the Ministry of Education’s Anísio Teixeira
    National Institute of Educational Research (Inep/MEC), in charge of administering
    the writing tests.

    Last year’s theme was:
    "Violence in Brazilian society: how to change the rules of this game?"
    Over 600 teachers corrected the compositions written by 1.2 million students
    and transcribed the passages they had in common. Lack of schooling and family
    disorganization were also mentioned by the students as causes of the problem
    of violence.

    For Maria Stella Grossi,
    a sociologist who teaches in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University
    of Brasília (UnB), the fact that the students identified social inequality
    as one of the causes of violence demonstrates a degree of maturity in the
    way they regard the issue. According to her, young people tend to blame violence
    on the poverty of the population.

    "It’s a slightly
    more sophisticated way for young people to view the problem. It means a slightly
    more complex understanding of the issue, since it ends up condemning the poor
    population as the source of violence," judges the sociologist, who has
    been studying society’s opinion on violence for over 10 years.

    From her standpoint, despite
    the progress, it is necessary to point out the growing participation of members
    of the middle and wealthy classes in the statistics on violence, not just
    as victims, but as perpetrators.

    "This is a fact that
    needs to be stressed, because, otherwise, we can get the impression, which
    is still somewhat biased, that those who are disadvantaged provoke the violence,"
    the specialist warns.

    Another point underlined
    by Grossi is the fact that young people perceived the lack of schooling as
    one of the causes of violence. "It is not so much the lack of schooling
    as the lack of schools, a gap whose consequences, sooner or later, can lead
    to violent behavior," she explains.

    The Enem examination is
    held every year for the purpose of evaluating the quality of instruction absorbed
    by students who are finishing secondary school or who have already graduated
    and desire to test their knowledge.

    Nasi Brum works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
    of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at

    from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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