Titanic Brazil

     Titanic 
Brazil

    During
    Brazil’s entire history, those above deck have thrown
    leftovers to those in the holds, the better to maintain a
    living workforce and to prevent violence. We created an
    economy for the few and assistance to delude the rest.
    by:
    Cristovam Buarque

     

    Brazil
    is a slave ship bound for the future. A slave ship, with millions of
    excluded poor in the holds lacking food, education, healthcare, and
    an elite above deck enjoying a high standard of living and bound for
    a disastrous future. Because our economy has been based upon social
    exclusion and upon the short term, Brazil is a slave ship Titanic, insensitive
    both to those in the holds and to the icebergs ahead.

    One
    hundred fifteen years after Abolition, our economy still treats poor
    Brazilians as if they did not figure in its objectives and views long-term
    planning as if it did not exist. Our economy has been administered in
    a manner insensitive to the present necessities of the poor and the
    future objectives of the nation.

    During
    our entire history, those above deck have thrown leftovers to those
    in the holds, the better to maintain a living workforce and to prevent
    violence. We created an economy for the few and assistance to delude
    the rest. In the times of slavery, the economic texts taught how, where,
    and at what price to buy a slave; how to feed him or her at the least
    possible cost, while maintaining maximum profitability; how to limit
    violence so as not to cripple the slave. At the same time, the economic
    texts functioned as protective entities for slaves, although they did
    not advocate abolition.

    The
    slave-ocratic system ended but the assistance-instead-of-abolition era
    continued.

    Throughout
    our history since Abolition in 1888—and, above all, in the last
    two decades of full democracy—the Brazilian economy has made no
    commitment to abolition. At best, it stimulated assistance. We gave
    assistance to street children, while believing it impossible to abolish
    child abandonment; we gave assistance to child prostitutes, while believing
    it impossible to abolish child prostitution; with pride we announced
    that the number of working children had diminished but did not make
    the effort necessary to abolish child labor; we say we have 95 percent
    of children enrolled in school but neglect to ask for forgiveness from
    the 5 percent who are abandoned, just as in 1870 it was said that "only"
    70 percent of black Brazilians were slaves.

    After
    the one hundred fifteen years since Abolition and the Proclamation of
    the Republic, Brazil now has a government committed to replacing assistance
    with abolition. To constructing an abolition economy. An economy that,
    instead of concerning itself only with increasing wealth, will formulate
    ways to abolish poverty; one that will view unemployment as a tragedy
    to be confronted and not as a lack of equilibrium to be coldly described;
    an economy that will give priority to producing food for the poor in
    the holds and not for export to pay for the orgies above deck. An economy
    that will consider spending on education and healthcare as a priority.

    During
    the time of slavery, many in favor of abolition said that there were
    no resources to acquire the owners’ vested property rights by buying
    the slaves before liberating them. Others said that abolition would
    disrupt the process of production. Today we say the same thing about
    spending on the education, healthcare, and feeding of our people. The
    public sector’s commitment to vested rights does not permit fulfilling
    the resource needs for education and healthcare in the public sector
    budgets.

    An
    abolition economy must remain vigilant of monetary stability because
    inflation weighs most heavily on those in the holds of Ship Brazil;
    it is impossible to increase the enormous fiscal burden already weighing
    upon all Brazil; nor can we ignore the strength of the creditors. But
    a country with our national income, with the power of our public sector
    to collect taxes, has the resources necessary to implement an abolition
    economy serving its people, one that guarantees education, healthcare
    and food for all.

    Our
    major problem is not the lack of resources; rather, it is the legacy
    of centuries of a society accustomed to traveling above deck while despising
    those in the holds and feeling satisfied with providing merely short-term
    assistance.

    Brazil
    elected a different government in October of 2002, but this new government
    will only show its true face at the end of 2003 when the public-sector
    budget will be decided upon. Only then will we discover if Brazil is
    going to swerve its titanic destiny around the iceberg and begin bringing
    the excluded part of its slave ship up from the holds.

    To
    do this, all Brazil must manifest its will to choose abolition and leave
    assistance behind, directing its public spending with the radicalism
    necessary to attend to the needs of the excluded. The true victory of
    a president lies not his election but, rather, in the budget that he
    succeeds in approving afterwards. While his election augments his political
    résumé, the budget consolidates his legacy as a statesman.

    Unlike
    dictators, kings, and prime ministers, a president of the Republic has
    the major task of persuading his people what future course their country
    should take. President Lula is persuading us that the time has come
    to leave behind assistance and complete the process of abolition, to
    leave behind a Republic with an aristocracy in favor of a Republic of
    citizens: it is time to swerve from the iceberg’s course and bring the
    poor above deck.

     

    Cristovam
    Buarque – cristovambuarque@uol.com.br,
    59, Ph.D. in economics, is Brazil’s Minister of Education. He was
    the rector of the University of Brasília (1985-89) and the
    governor of the Federal District (1995-98).

    Translated
    by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com

     

     

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