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Bolsa Família| The Invisible 54 Million

Bflula

Source GGN.

In the pages of O Globo — via Vi O Mundo — and GGN, respectively, Ali Kamel and Luis Nassif debate the significance of the Bolsa Familia family subsidy on its tenth anniversary.

On the Web site of his institute, Lula says in a podcast he would do it all over again — making the Bolsa Familia his first priority.

The response on the part of O Globo is a little surprising. Econ maven, for example, Miriam Leitao declares the program a resounding success. Which it is.

Ali Kamel

Ali Kamel is currently the director-general of news and sports at TV Globo, after having headed up the news division for a number of years.

His  is one of the most strident voices against the social subsidy, despite its celebration as model public policy by international think tanks.

His central argument here: “Let them eat cake!”

As he concludes:

This policy will condemn today’s children, like their parents, to depend on the Bolsa-Família to buy a microwave, while a massive investment in education would turn them into independent, productive beings indispensable to our bright future.

Ali is obsessed with the “abuse” of the new-found purchasing power to buy a refrigerator to keep the cesta basica cool and fresh.

All of us are testimony to the fact that, when it was launched, the purpose of the Bolsa-Família family subsidy was to satisfy the hunger of 54 million Brazilians. My readers also know that since the very beginning, I have been saying these 54 million hungry Brazilians do not exist.

Very well, then, let  us visit the Web page of the Ministry of Social Development …

Hmmm. When I go to visit the site, I am stopped at the front door by a log-in widget.

I finally locate a site map and it does not do me any good. Brazilian .gov.br domains are hell. In any event, good blogging manners would dictate pointing the reader to the URL we are talking about.

The results will surprise you. There, the government announces various studies showing that the Bolsa-Família has helped beneficiaries to buy electrical appliances.

You heard me right. Not the rice, beans and meat that has graced the table of the Brazilian poor for some time now, as proven by the Family Budget Survey of the IBGE. What are being bought now are refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines, stoves, blenders, electric ovens, televisions and DVD players.

Rosa Maria Marques of PUC-SP is quoted as saying that in the past, all this surplus income was used to buy food, but that this has changed, thanks to the multiplier effect of the Bolsa-Família: “Over time, families feel secure because they know they will receive the benefit, and can budget part of their income to buying appliances.”

Rosa cites other factors to explain the growth of sales of these types of goods, such as the constant rise in the minimum wage, the stability of the currency , the growth of the market for formally registered jobs and the expansion of credit on consignment, but the focus of the press release of the MDS is the injection of assets into the Bolsa-Família — expected to reach R$ 10.9 billion this year.

The press release also cites Felícia Madeira, Seade (São Paulo), in whose view variations in the family budget have long prevented poor families from making purchases they need in the long-term, a situation now remedied by the Bolsa-Família: “Because the payments are guaranteed, people can plan. They can even arrange a credit agreement to buy an appliance or work equipment.”

Here are some  examples of this mystery. Trash-picker Rosineide dos Santos, 47, of Maceió, with three children, receives R$ 76 from Bolsa-Família, but declares earnings of R$ 200. With this, she was able to take out a R$500 loan from the Banco do Cidadão, a microcredit organization that funds popular enterprises.

The release said that Rosineide has a stove, blender, coffee maker, and electric oven, and that as soon as she pays these off, she means to buy a television. That is to say, Bolsa-Família is not used by beneficiaries to feed themselves and the Banco do Cidadão is not always used for a small business. It is used to pay the electricity bill.  Patrícia Belmira Henrique, 43, a manicurist from Minas Gerais, receives  R$112.00 from the Bolsa-Família.

The money, according to the release, is helping to buy a washing machine.  “I am happy because this is my first washing machine. Before, I had to wash clothes by hand. It was a huge amount of work.”

The release also cites economist Cícero Péricles de Carvalho, from the Federal University of Alagoas, in whose view the Northeast is being transformed by a wave of productive investments. The release goes on to say: “The explanation for this growth, along with tempering regional inequalities, comes always from the same origin: the growing social subsidies and social investments that impact the majority of the Northeasterners. ”

The text concludes, proudly, with the case of Alagoas, which has undergone 45 months of consistent growth, “without, however, the existence of economic development to justify and explain this spike in consumer spending. According to the MDS, the reason is simple: The R$ 2 billion paid to retirees in the region (double what was paid in 2002) and the R$ 300 million in Bolsa-Família payments distributed in one year to half the population of the state.

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Luis Nassif

A great nation, justice and strong, is built by its capacity for inclusion–  Uma grande nação, justa e forte, se faz pela capacidade de inclusão – dos miseráveis à alimentação básica; dos pobres ao consumo; dos pequenos, ao mercado; das minorias, ao seu direito de viver diferente; dos pequenos empresários, à oportunidade para desenvolver seus negócios.

É por meio da inclusão que uma nação se forma e captura, para o bem geral, a energia individual esmagada em cada falta de oportunidade, o talento que pode estar escondido em um barraco nas palafitas ou nas favelas, os futuros campeões que podem estar nascendo em uma microempresa.

É por meio da solidariedade que se criam os laços sociais e econômicos que vão tecendo a grande rede do desenvolvimento e os grandes processos civilizatórios.

Mesmo assim, cada capítulo é uma guerra entre a modernidade e o atraso, entre o novo e o velho carcomido. Nos Estados Unidos, o maior processo de inclusão – a libertação dos escravos – resultou na mais sangrenta guerra do século 19. Na Europa, os grandes movimentos de urbanização, dos anos 20, resultaram em intolerância e no florescimento de doutrinas autoritárias.

* * *

Por isso mesmo, esses movimentos sempre refletem a luta da barbárie contra a civilização, da selvageria contra a solidariedade. Os herois sempre terão seu lugar na memória nacional; os recalcitrantes, no lixo da história. O país reconhece José Bonifácio, Joaquim Nabuco, José do Patrocínio, André Rebouças, Luiz Gama como seus fundadores. Os contrários  tornaram-se apenas \”conservadores\” ânonimos, anacrônicos, menores.

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Não será necessário distanciamento histórico para que esse mesmo reconhecimento ocorra em relação ao Bolsa Família. Para sorte de seus descendentes, os trogloditas que enxergaram no programa a \”bolsa esmola\”, o estímulo à preguiça, que previram o desastre fiscal, que se escandalizaram com pobres adquirindo geladeiras, ou com fazendeiros não podendo mais pagar salário de fome aos seus colonos, serão tratados apenas como \”conservadores\”., símbolos da parcela mais atrasada, colonial, desinformada e insensível, uma espécie de sub-elite intelectual impermeável a qualquer sopro de cidadania. *** A história brasileira do século 20 têm episódios relevantes. Provavelmente nenhum desses episódios sobrepujar, em relevância e alcance, a criação do Bolsa Família. São 11 milhões de famílias atendidas, 40 milhões de pessoas incluídas e o desenvolvimento de uma metodologia incorporando os mais avançados modelos estatísticos com os avanços da Internet. Tornou-se padrão mundial.

* * *

Mas é apenas o início. As políticas sociais trouxeram nova dimensão ao mercado interno, novas demandas, nova escala de produção às empresas. Mais que isso. Sair do nível da miséria mudou totalmente a natureza social e pública desses 40 milhões de brasileiros. Eles se tornaram cidadãos, alguns tornaram-se empreendedores.

Entendendo seus direitos, tornar-se-ão cada vez mais exigentes, rompendo a inércia histórica do setor público e político. E se tornaram cidadãos sem tutela política. Quem quiser conquistar seu apoio terá que demonstrar o que têm a oferecer daqui para diante.