Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told his compatriots Monday, January 16, that Brazil "has begun to walk on its own two feet" after paying off in full its US$ 15 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund.

    Latin America’s biggest nation – and No. 2 economy – has gone from being a debtor to a "sovereign partner" of the IMF, the President said in an address to mark the beginning of the last year of his four-year term, which was broadcast live on all radio and television outlets.

    The settlement of the debt to the IMF was accomplished last week in a ceremony held in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia with Fund Managing Director, Rodrigo Rato. on hand.

    "Brazil has begun to walk on its own two feet and now will be able to invest more" in social spending, said Lula, who is nominally a Socialist but has pursued conservative fiscal and monetary policies since taking office three years ago.

    The head of state hailed the coincidence that the IMF debt payoff came during a period when Brazil has been having "the best results of recent years in the creation of jobs, income distribution and poverty reduction."

    He cited the fact that Brazilian exports "are breaking records every month" and that that is occurring at the same time as "the biggest social investment in its history" was being undertaken.

    That investment, Lula said, will directly benefit some 40 million poor Brazilians, which he reiterated was the main goal of his administration, though many of his own erstwhile allies on the left have attacked his government for being too tight-fisted.

    Lula also promised greater investment in education, health and highway construction and maintenance, but he made no mention of the Oct. 1st presidential elections, in which he is expected to seek re-election.

    "Don’t think I believe that everything is marvellous," said Lula, saying that he was aware that "much remains to be done." "Brazil has not changed in three years, but I guarantee that we will do everything possible to get better results than those that many of the (presidents) who preceded me had," he said.

    In his closing remarks, he said that "the time has come to take a new step," after which he said that in the next few days he would announce a new program to fund production and social investment.

    He also rejected criticism from the opposition, who has said he has been "electioneering" in his latest announcements on social and economic matters.

    Lula’s chances of winning a second term are problematic given last year’s massive corruption scandal surrounding his Workers Party. A poll in December found him trailing the center-right hopeful he defeated in 2002, José Serra, by 37 percent to 31 percent.

    Mercopress – www.mercopress.com

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    • Guest

      Of course, he is doing \”electioneering\
      Billions and billions of Reais were supposed to be freed AND spent for various social programs.

      Some of the money was not freed and spent, due to budget austerity the government said, and suddenly it will be available in the election year !

      That is manipulation just as was the vote buying corruption.

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