Information and news on Brazil

Food Insecurity in Brazil
Despite being the third largest exporter of agricultural commodities, Brazil is now suffering a food crisis caused by inflation. In 2022, inflation triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated hunger in Brazil. The inflation rate in Brazil stood at 13.9% in the middle of 2022, according to the World Bank. According to a Brazilian press article by correspondent Anne Vigna in June 2022, 33.1 million Brazilians endure hunger and 30% of families are at risk of food shortages. Furthermore, the sanctions against Russia have affected the supply of fertilizers, which are essential to Brazilian agriculture and food production. When vital products are restricted and the exports-imports are reduced, the prices go up. Social Good Brazil and the World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence are committed to addressing food insecurity in Brazil.

“Regarding inflation [in Brazil], consumer prices remain high, with increases spread among several components and continue to be more persistent than anticipated. Over the 12-month period ended in July [2022], consumer inflation reached 10.1%,” said Central Bank of Brazil Governor Roberto Campos Neto in an interview with Global Finance on September 27, 2022.

Inflation in Brazil: Food Shortage

“Hiking prices lead to loss of purchasing power of households and food insecurity. In Brazil, the costs of food increased by 13.43[%] in the 12 months to August 2022,” the World Bank reports. In 2022, severe food insecurity in Brazil stood at 9%, but in 2022, severe food insecurity has risen to 15.5%.

According to Campos Neto, “disruptions in supply chains generated by COVID-19 and in energy and food markets caused by the war in Ukraine, may lead to higher or more persistent inflation and more aggressive monetary policy tightening in major economies.” Campos Neto explains that long periods of high inflation may put countries at risk of economic deceleration.

Brazil is responsible for 8% of fertilizer consumption worldwide and is the “world’s fourth-largest fertilizer importer,” according to Farmdocdaily. Roughly one-fifth of these imports come from Russia. As a result of sanctions applied against Russia, Brazil now suffers from a lack of fertilizers, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, which are essential for crops. According to an article by Brazilian journalist Julio Bravo in May 2022, the cost of fertilizer per ton rose rapidly from $231.05 to $524.42 in only 12 months.

Impact on the Poor

Increased prices of goods reduce the purchasing power of low-income families and raise food insecurity while increasing rates of poverty. The national report “Olhe para a fome,” created by Rede Penssan (The Brazilian Network of Research on Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security) and partners, gathered data between November 2021 and April 2022 that presents a grim situation. According to the report, in 2022, 33.1 million Brazilians face severe levels of food insecurity, which equates to 15.5% of the population. The second National Study on Food Insecurity in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil showed that 58.7% of Brazilians suffer from some level of food insecurity in 2022.

During the peak of the pandemic, local supermarkets in Brazil began to sell animal bones and leftovers to people in desperate need of food. Some people had to scrummage in supermarket rubbish bins in search of discarded food. Brazilian Sandra Maria de Freitas told BBC News Brazil in 2022: “I wake up at 4 a.m. every day, take my handcart and come to wait for the rubbish truck at this same place… where I live.”

Fighting Against Hunger

The World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence came about as a partnership developed in 2011 between the Brazilian government and the WFP to address hunger in several countries, including Brazil. The Center of Excellence focuses on school feeding programs, research, working with smallholder farmers and more.

In terms of the WFP’s school feeding initiatives, in 2020, a total of “15 million schoolchildren received nutritious meals and snacks from WFP.” Providing support to 65 countries’ school feeding programs, WFP helped another 39 million children with nutritional support.

Social Good Brazil is an NGO that raises funds via a crowdfunding U.S. platform called GlobalGiving. Social Good Brazil raised $1,108 for the project called Fight Hunger in Brazil Using Food Waste. In essence, the project aimed to reduce food waste by redistributing wasted but good food to fulfill the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable citizens. The project has the potential of helping 52 million Brazilians suffering from food insecurity.

Despite the struggle against inflation, organizations are stepping up to continue the fight against food insecurity in Brazil.

– Olga Petrovska
Photo: Flickr

Brazil’s Election
On October 30, 2022, Brazil’s presidential race between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and ‘Lula’ da Silva came to a close, with Lula narrowly edging out a victory with 50.9% of the vote. As news agencies, foreign leaders and millions of people all over Brazil accepted the results of Brazil’s election, one figure remained notably silent: President Bolsonaro. Though he did not expressly concede, Bolsonaro half-heartedly signaled that the transition process could begin. Prior to the election result, Bolsonaro made baseless claims of electoral fraud, stirring up unrest among his supporters. However, Brazil still expects a smooth presidential transition.

Post-Election Protests

Soon after the election, pro-Bolsonaro supporters began protesting against the election results and demanded military intervention. Protesters then blocked Brazil’s major highways with barricades, with some policemen encouraging the blockades. Breaking his silence on the Tuesday after the election, President Bolsonaro “tacitly backed the protestors,” saying the “current popular movements are the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice about how the electoral process played out,” the Guardian reports.

In Paranagua, a commercially critical city in Brazil’s south, the port authority said vehicles transporting grain exports could not access the port due to protester blockades. Other blockades of trade routes across the nation also impacted the transportation of agricultural exports such as soybean, corn, fertilizer and meat. This has ignited concerns for Brazil’s fragile economy.

In a relieving turn of events for Brazil’s democracy and economy, officials and everyday citizens have helped to restore order following the elections. Brazil’s highway police cleared more than 600 of the barricades within three days of the election, easing fears of shortages across the country. Local soccer fans, some inspired to defend their democracy and others wanting to get to their games, also played an important part in clearing roads.

Fragility in Brazil

Brazil’s stability is of paramount importance as the world economy threatens to enter a recession. Although world inflation could rise substantially through 2022, inflation in Brazil started to ease in August 2022. Food and supply shortages could significantly raise the price of everyday goods, sending the country’s economy into a tailspin. According to the World Bank, 28.4% of Brazil’s population lived in poverty in 2021 and a political struggle with economic damage could exacerbate poverty levels in the country.

A New Presidency Brings Hope

President Bolsonaro’s successor, Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, promised to prioritize poverty during his previous four years in office. During his presidency from 2003 to 2010, Lula created one of the most successful conditional cash transfer programs in modern history, Bolsa Familia. By making welfare conditional on health checkups and children’s school attendance, the program reduced extreme poverty by about 25%. This made Lula immensely popular among Brazil’s poor, with most of his support coming from the two poorest regions in Brazil: the north and northeast.

Although President Bolsonaro kept a modified version of Bolsa Familia under the name Auxilio Brasil, his efforts have seen significantly less success. In 2019, Bolsonaro reduced the number of program beneficiaries, precisely when impoverished citizens needed aid the most, during the COVID-19 pandemic. President-elect Lula put this issue at the forefront of his campaign and victory speech, promising an end to hunger and an increase in the minimum wage.

Looking Ahead

Brazil’s Defense Ministry also published its own report on November 9, 2022, which “did not point to the existence of any fraud or inconsistency in the electronic voting machines and 2022 electoral process.” The report did, however, bring to the forefront shortcomings in the electoral process and outlined suggestions to strengthen it.

The end of Brazil’s election drama comes as a comforting conclusion for the country, especially given the many issues it still has to contend with. Still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, a prolonged political struggle would stretch the economy to the limit while exacerbating tensions that the election has laid bare. Despite the temporary scare, the rapid response of Brazil’s institutions and people to the protests reassures outside observers of the country’s commitment to democracy. Due to his past successes, President Lula’s reign brings hope of reduced hunger, lower inequality and decreased poverty.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Wildfires in Brazil
In 2019, the number of wildfires in Brazil doubled. Today, Brazil ranks first as the country with the most wildfires. Precipitated by deforestation, these wildfires threaten ecosystems as well as indigenous communities, farms, and living spaces. Thousands of farmers have lost their jobs due to the wildfires. Even worse, the fires have destroyed homes and pushed more people into poverty.

Causes

“There is no doubt that this rise in fire activity is associated with a sharp rise in deforestation,” Paulo Artaxo, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Sao Paulo, said. After chopping down trees, loggers set fires to clear the forest. These fires are not initially dangerous and in fact, are effective in killing excess vegetation. However, they often reignite later and percolate into other forests.

Wildfires in Brazil occur most prevalently in municipalities with heavy deforestation. Making matters worse is the fact that these municipalities are large – some being the size of small European countries. Five decades of Brazilian incentives to colonize the Amazon have inclined businesses to push into indigenous land, destroy forests and increase beef production.

In the first half of 2022, 3,980 square kilometers of the Amazon — an area five times larger than New York City — was cleared. Historically, the excess moisture in Brazil’s forests kept wildfires at bay. But due to climate change and deforestation, the rainforests are becoming drier, creating the perfect environment for fires. The cascading smoke and flames in Brazil not only increase climate change but are a clear indication of its consequences.

Economic and Societal Impact

Brazil has the highest frequency of wildfires in all of South America by far. The economic impact that these fires caused is substantial. These fires affect infrastructure, agriculture and forestry and compromise water sources. Furthermore, wildfires disrupt agricultural practices and push farmers into poverty. The fires also ravage crops and destroy farming homes. This is concerning as there are more than 98,000  agricultural businesses in Brazil. As wildfires increase, hundreds of thousands of farmers and their families are at serious risk of economic despair.

Studies have shown that regions with moderate to high wildfire risk tend to have greater levels of poverty. In Brazil, fire-induced poverty concentrates within indigenous communities. Fires disproportionately affect protected lands that indigenous people inhabited. Indigenous groups, however, rely entirely on the forest to meet their food, medicine and shelter needs. Atenor Vaz, an expert on isolated indigenous groups, stated that “Their culture is entirely based on the forest. If it catches on fire, there is no one to help… Food sovereignty is drastically reduced.”

In June 2022, the number of wildfires hit a 15-year high and is only predicted to increase — along with severe consequences for native communities. With reduced forestland, communities benefit less from natural ecosystem resources, thus damaging agricultural industries and increasing poverty across the board.

The physical health impact of the fires is also staggering. In 2019, it was estimated that nearly 5,000 premature deaths in Brazil were due to smoke exposure. Additionally, the toxic smoke from the wildfires is afflicting millions with chronic lung damage. This further immobilizes the Brazilian workforce and worsens unemployment.

Active Solutions

The good news is that many scientists and politicians are developing solutions to mitigate these surges of wildfires. Scientists are creating methods to detect wildfire eruptions early on. Statistics from temperature measuring, rainfall and time of year help people predict and react to wildfires. These predictions are largely accurate and lessen the severity of wildfires before and after they start.

Alternatively, farmers have also found ways to leverage fire to help their crops. If used properly, fire can do the work of pesticides, fertilizers and laborers all for free. This encourages farmers to keep fires from destroying crops while making the most of a restrained fire to reduce the use of pesticides.

Finally, according to a study published in ScienceDirect.com, “Policies favoring fire risk mitigation reduce degradation, CO2 emissions and poverty.” So far, the Brazilian government has used the military to mitigate wildfires while also banning unnecessary fires. This, however, falls short of a ban on deforestation — the primary cause. Without significantly decreasing deforestation, wildfires in Brazil will continue to grow and multiply.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service and USAID are partnering with Brazil Forest Management and Fire Prevention. They are planning to launch a five-year program to manage forest fires and facilitate the sustainable use of public land in Brazil. More importantly, this plan will promote indigenous rights and protection.

The heightened occurrence of wildfires in Brazil has pushed thousands of farmers, indigenous groups and residents into poverty and homelessness. Targeting the root cause of the issue — deforestation — and muting ongoing fires should be at the forefront of Brazil’s agenda.

– Ashwin Telang
Photo: Rawpixel

Poverty in Brazil
On October 3, 2022, the first round of the Brazilian presidential election ended with no candidate having received a majority of the votes. Two radically opposed candidates will ultimately dispute the race: incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva. Although both have made promises to curb poverty amid Brazil’s economic woes, Bolsonaro’s rhetoric regarding the issue has noticeably increased in an attempt to garner votes ahead of the runoff election in Brazil on October 30, 2022. Through a mix of policy and speeches, Bolsonaro has sought to reinvent himself as the candidate for citizens living in poverty in Brazil, a role that Lula traditionally held.

About Auxilio Brasil

Bolsonaro’s primary poverty relief program, Auxilio Brasil, is actually a modified version of Lula’s famous Bolsa Familia Program. Auxilio Brasil gives the poorest 17 million Brazilian citizens the equivalent of $71 per month, provided parents ensure their children are vaccinated and in primary school. This was nearly double the amount that Bolsa Familia, the original version of the social welfare program that Lula created, gave Brazilians. In doing so, Bolsonaro can not only claim to represent the fight against poverty in Brazil but co-opted one of his adversary’s most significant works of public policy.

With the election in Brazil looming, Bolsonaro’s anti-poverty program has moved to the forefront of his campaign. After the contest between him and Lula went to a second round, the incumbent said that he would be moving Auxilio Brasil payments scheduled for the end of the month to the first two weeks of October. In addition, he temporarily increased the amount of money given by the program from R$400 to R$600 while giving citizens a gas voucher. Both Lula and impeached President Dilma Rousseff have called the payments a blatant manipulation of public funds, but the Supreme Court has upheld Bolsonaro’s decision.

Bolsonaro and Poverty in Brazil

Bolsonaro has also made poverty in Brazil a key point in his campaign speeches as he attempts to portray himself as a defender of Brazil’s poorest citizens. Visiting Duque de Caixas in Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro spoke of the increase in funds under Auxilio Brasil, low gas prices and “no corruption… and high economic growth for the 12th week in a row.” His point, while on the surface praise of his good governance, is also a jab at Lula, who went to jail for his involvement in Brazil’s infamous ‘Lava Jato’ corruption scandal before the annulment of his sentence.

The Fight Between Bolsanaro and Lula

Presenting a strong economy is key to Bolsonaro’s handling of poverty in Brazil, as the economy has suffered greatly during his term. The President’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic left nearly 700,000 people dead, and temporary quarantines hampered the Brazilian economy. In 2020, Bolsonaro saw Brazil’s poverty rate increase from 4.5% to more than 12%, with nearly 9.6 million people sliding into poverty. Lula’s platform has taken advantage of this, promising a total overhaul of Brazil’s welfare system and a debt forgiveness program. Bolsonaro struck back, saying Lula’s program of giving “a barbecue to every Brazilian” was “simply impossible … a lie.”

Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide whether Bolsonaro has made a convincing argument for why he is the best choice to tackle poverty in the election in Brazil on October 30. The country’s poorest region, the northeast, is the part of the country which voted for Bolsonaro the least, indicating campaigning on the topic of poverty is still vital if he wants to overcome Lula. Currently trailing in the polls, only time will tell if his election strategy will earn him a second term in office.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Unsplash

Vaccine Access for Brazil
During the pandemic, many governments have worked independently and together to combat the virus and provide vaccinations for citizens in their states. However, Brazil has proven itself to be an exception, as vaccine access for Brazil was incredibly limited due to the president’s resistance. However, as of June 2022, 80% of the population is now vaccinated, and this rate is higher than the world average.

How President Bolsonaro is Infringing on Vaccination Rights and Access

Brazil operates on a universal health system that guarantees public access to necessary vaccines. In fact, vaccination rights have constitutional protection and the government has a legal duty to ensure them. As in all other countries, the circumstances that the pandemic caused generated an urgent need for vaccines, requiring a rapid, planned response by government authorities. However, President Bolsonaro failed to make COVID-19 mitigation a political priority throughout the country. He turned his back on science to endanger the health and lives of Brazilians and adopted policies that placed their health at great risk. One of his main methods involved spreading false information about COVID-19.

President Bolsonaro also opposed social distancing, refused to wear a mask, and regularly shook hands with his supporters. His ultimate goal was to achieve herd immunity in Brazil by allowing the disease to spread. Additionally, he deliberately refused to follow WHO recommendations and sought to block officials from following COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, vetoing legal mask mandates. President Bolsonaro’s failure to prioritize the health of his citizens shows his disregard for human rights amid a global pandemic. Thankfully, however, other actors were eager to take this task into their own hands.

ANVISA’s Crucial Role in Vaccine Access

Now, more than 80% of the Brazilian population has received COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccinations have undergone successful distribution through the National Immunization Program. Yet, distributing these vaccines was not easy — rather, President Bolsonaro’s neglect of public health guidance made distribution more complicated. The main actor behind vaccination distribution was ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency. ANVISA works with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for controlling and regulating health-related products in Brazil.

The Ministry issued several regulations to enable the distribution of emergency vaccines, but it lagged in its development of a national COVID-19 vaccination plan. Thus, ANVISA took matters into its own hands and negotiated vaccine access for Brazil with willing and available manufacturers. However, the Ministry’s standstill is understandable, considering President Bolsonaro’s eagerness to undermine the pandemic and the fear that officials would receive negative retaliation for combatting the virus. Because of this fear, the ministry lost the trust of many Brazilian citizens. Therefore, ANVISA was able to quickly gain public trust and vaccine access for Brazil because of its administrative independence, financial autonomy and the stability of its leaders and technical personnel. Additionally, it gave scientifically supported and unbiased solutions and technical decisions.

ANVISA’s role has proven to be incredibly crucial. It has issued emergency regulations and analyzed requests for the emergency use of vaccines, demonstrating its thought processes through open, public meetings. ANVISA presented every decision to the Brazilian community, which increased public trust in the approved vaccines.

Struggles to Access COVID-19 Vaccines

Acquiring these vaccines was difficult, as one of the only allowed options was the Sputnik V vaccine, which initially did not receive approval from ANVISA and therefore could not be imported to and used in Brazil. In the meantime, ANVISA worked with local Brazilian governments to negotiate for vaccine access and advance other non-pharmacological efforts to control the pandemic and spread trusted and accurate public health information. Some of these efforts included partial lockdowns and social distancing, for example. These efforts generated more public trust, which paved the way for the eventual vaccination campaign.

ANVISA’s technical performance and consistent course of action eventually assisted local governments in importing safe, effective vaccines and increasing community trust in products, thus improving vaccine access for Brazil. One such process involved giving the Russian COVID-19 vaccine a chance, despite concerns because otherwise, there would not be enough vaccines. Despite safety concerns, ANVISA allowed Sputnik vaccines into Brazil, importing 928,000 doses. Even though this is just a fraction of the total that Brazil requested, it went a long way. However, importing the Sputnik vaccine meant that stringent measures to monitor the vaccine’s safety had to undergo implementation.

Now, Brazil can selectively import vaccines that specific countries have approved for emergency use. It is now restricting Sputnik imports and monitoring them closely. Only healthy adults are eligible for the Sputnik shots and vaccine distributors within Brazil must specify that the vaccine is a Sputnik vaccine.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed, overall, that Brazil’s federal government was not ready to deal with an international public health emergency — a lack of governance and political influence over science prevented the Ministry of Health from vaccinating the country, but thankfully, ANVISA’s consistency in action assisted local governments in eventually vaccinating most of the country. This demonstrates the cruciality of administrative autonomy in organizations and the abilities that such organizations have in implementing policies and actions that help preserve the health of an entire country.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Community Gardens in Rio de Janeiro
Millions of Brazilians go hungry annually and many are often uncertain about what to do. However, now, an ambitious project to create the world’s largest urban garden has provided a solution. These sets of community gardens in Rio de Janeiro are providing food and income for the poor populations in many favelas across Rio de Janeiro and expectations are that they will feed roughly 50,000 families annually, starting in 2024, as well as provide jobs for many of them.

The Hunger Crisis

As of June 2022, the Brazilian Network for Research on Food Security reported that “[more] than half the country – 125.2 million people – suffers food insecurity of some kind,” a figure that was a 7.2% increase from the 2020 report. These numbers have now led to them calling the current hunger crisis a “historic setback” and attributing it to “the ongoing dismantling of social policies, the worsening of the economic crisis, the increase in social inequalities [and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic].”

In fact, citizens in the “Auxilio Brazil” program, which provides citizens with funds to help them, have struggled due to inflation. Researchers also found that more than half of households and 27.4 million people in urban areas are experiencing food insecurity. Now, the Latin American giant, which “once led the global fight against hunger,” is once again fighting hunger and poverty with a new, innovative project. In the words of Julio Cesar Barros, one of the project’s leaders, the project’s main goal is to “stop organic food from just being for the elite” and provide both food and jobs to those who most need it across Rio’s favelas.

The Community Gardens in Rio de Janeiro

The first garden began in 2013 on a portion of land in the Manguinhos favela known then as “crackolandia” because of a drug addiction problem in the area. That was the origin, and today, it is well established and has respect from the entire neighborhood. As of 2022, the garden provides food to roughly “800 families a month with produce that is pesticide free and affordable,” according to France24. It also provides jobs for many citizens and has even allowed some of them to leave a life of crime in exchange for one as gardeners.

The Manguinhos garden is “one of 56” community gardens in Rio de Janeiro that launched in 2006, and it has received international praise through the “Milan Urban Food Policy Pact as one of the best such systems in the world.” It is part of an initiative by the city’s government to offer “employment and affordable food” to its most deprived neighborhoods. It is roughly “the size of four football fields” and produces “2.5 tons of yuca, carrots, onions, cabbage and other vegetables” monthly. Much like the Manguinhos garden, a garden near the Cajueiro favela is being built that is already the size of a football field and expectations are that it will expand to 10 times that size by the end of 2022 and many more are emerging or expanding across Rio.

The Impact

Half of the produce from these community gardens in Rio de Janeiro is going to the residents of the favelas and the gardens are selling the other half at a fair price, with the gardeners splitting the revenue. The gardens project is now becoming “an important lifeline at a time when many are struggling to survive.” It is also allowing citizens to work in an environment that benefits them physically and emotionally.

One gardener from the garden near Cajueiro said that “It has brought me such joy to come here and be part of this – to do what I love, which is to work with the soil, to plant. It’s been a really special opportunity for me.” Another gardener, from the Manguinhos garden, told France24 that the garden has “changed everything for [her],” including the way she lived and ate. Additionally, a second gardener from Manguinhos, who had a complicated past, said that working in the garden was a kind of “therapy” for him, and added that he felt proud of his work because it helped him provide his daughter with “good, healthy food.”

Looking Ahead

Now, the city government is attempting to expand these community gardens in Rio de Janeiro across the entire city to provide more people with food and jobs. It has announced plans to expand a garden in the Parque de Madureira area and make it quadruple the size of the Manguinhos garden, which would make it the world’s largest urban garden. Additionally, due to the high quality of the products, which are pesticide-free and affordable, “health-oriented restaurants in Rio” have begun buying their produce from these community gardens. This is a great indicator of the project’s growth and its potential integration into Rio’s city life. However, for now, the project should continue growing and keep battling hunger and poverty through jobs and healthy food to help many more families in the years to come.

-Marcela Agreda L.
Photo: Flickr

awaiting-info-saiesha-19-8-the-future-of-brazils-fight-against-poverty

With Brazil’s October presidential elections looming, citizens face a choice between two radically different candidates. Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro contends with socialist ex-president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (mononymously known as Lula), sharply dividing the nation between ‘bolsonaristas’ and Lula’s ‘petistas.’ As their respective campaigns gain momentum, both have begun to release proposals for their administration, including how to accelerate progress in Brazil’s fight against poverty. From 2019 to 2021, close to 10 million Brazilians fell into poverty, with the number threatening to increase as pandemic aid dries up while the effects of COVID-19 linger in the nation’s economy.

Lula’s Plan

On June 21, 2022, ex-president Lula announced his agenda should Brazilians elect him into office, focusing primarily on rebuilding the economy and helping the 63 million Brazilians living in poverty. A pillar of Lula’s plan for Brazil’s future is fighting chronic hunger, which affects more than 33 million people in Brazil a year. Lula’s efforts to reduce hunger during his past presidency were extremely effective. The United Nations recognized his introduction of the ‘Fome Zero’ (Zero Hunger) plan in 2003, which helped to reduce undernourishment in Brazil from 17 million people to 11.9 million people by 2006.

Similarly, Lula has stressed the importance of widening the protections and programs aimed at strengthening Brazil’s fight against poverty. The proposals released by his campaign in June emphasize the need to reform ‘Auxilio Brazil,’ a conditional cash transfer program (CCT) created by President Bolsonaro to replace Lula’s famous ‘Bolsa Familia.’ Elements of Lula’s reform include reprioritizing a minimum wage policy and tackling inequality in the labor market by prioritizing marginalized groups.

Bolsonaro’s Plan

By contrast, President Bolsonaro’s reelection bid focuses on limiting government intervention “resulting from inefficient regulations” while combating corruption and encouraging social development.

A successor to Lula’s Bolsa Familia program, President Bolsonaro’s CCT Auxilio Brazil increased the amount of money given per family to a fixed 400 real (US$72) whereas the previous program changed the amount given based on the family’s income.

More generally, President Bolsonaro’s plan hinges upon laissez-faire principles, asking for a hands-off approach to the economy. His agenda calls for the government to reduce public debt by cutting back on spending, all while lowering tax rates to promote investment. The one area where President Bolsonaro calls for a stronger state is in regard to the justice system, requesting funds to combat corruption and organized crime in Brazil.

Looking Ahead

Both candidates represent radically different directions in Brazil’s fight against poverty. Lula’s approach is direct, based upon the idea that strong government intervention during economic uncertainty is the best way to assist those who are vulnerable. President Bolsonaro’s strategy relies upon a strong private sector to generate equitable economic gains, with the government merely ensuring that all parties play by the rules. Heading into the elections in October, Brazilians will have to express their preference through their votes and watch the future administration’s agenda come to life.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

covid-19s-impact-on-brazilBrazil has been observing a downward trend in its poverty rate since the 1980s, however, COVID-19’s impact on Brazil has placed these years of poverty reduction at severe risk. Luckily, funding and donations from the government and outside sources such as the United States have helped to combat the sudden rise of poverty. Here is an examination of COVID-19’s impact on Brazil.

Brazil During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, Brazil had reached an all-time low in regard to its poverty rate. For example, by early 2020, 13.9% of Brazilians were making less than $5.50 per day, a stark contrast to 20.6% in 2019. This was a major improvement in Brazil, however, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed Brazil to unprecedented health, social and economic challenges.

Brazil currently has the third most COVID-19 cases out of any other country at 32.9 million as well as the second highest number of COVID-19-related deaths at 674,000. The pandemic has impacted poverty-stricken areas significantly more than anywhere else, an issue that Brazil has been attempting to resolve.

The Brazilian Government’s Fiscal Package

In 2020, the Brazilian government put together a fiscal package of around $157 billion in an attempt to relieve the pandemic’s adverse impact on Brazil. This large fiscal package aimed to provide support to citizens under the poverty line, as well as all levels of the health care system and firms on the brink of major layoffs.

The main goal of the package was to provide easy access to both covid tests and vaccines for any Brazilian citizen. This allowed for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to be less fatal and more contained, making the package an overall success.

US Efforts to Help Brazil

The United States has also put forth multiple aid efforts to support Brazil. Through multiple initiatives, the U.S. has provided approximately $75 million in relief efforts through donations of food, health equipment, individual protection and hygiene products.

How Companies Aided Brazil

Multiple U.S. companies also started initiatives to help with the impacts of the pandemic. Companies such as Accenture, Amgen, Burger King, Cargill, Chevron, General Motors and many more have gone above and beyond to combat the impact of COVID-19.

Companies such as Accenture, Burger King and Chevron have been providing support the Brazilian health care system. Accenture donated more than $13 million to the health care system in Brazil. Additionally, Burger King launched an initiative in 2020 for a percentage of each burger that it sold in March of that year to go toward the Brazilian health care system. It raised an estimated $1 million. Meanwhile, Chevron donated $1 million to aid with the construction of a hospital in the Gávea district in Rio de Janeiro.

Other companies such as Amgen, Cargill and General Motors helped to support Brazilian communities in various ways. Amgen donated $100,000 to aid vulnerable communities in Brazil. Meanwhile, Cargill donated $2 million to Brazil and additionally started a fund for food and other basic needs that accumulated to $400,000. General Motors (GM) also made a significant impact on COVID-19 in Brazil by donating $11 million to Brazil in aid.

The many companies around the world aiding Brazil take pressure off the Brazilian government and economy, allowing for a quicker recovery of the country. These relief efforts have created positive impacts across Brazil, yet there is still much more that needs to occur.

Sustained recovery is the goal of the Brazilian government. The future of Brazil will continue to depend on private sector-led investments and additional government reforms.

 – Matthew Krysler
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in BrazilBrazil’s aging population has increased substantially in recent decades. The population of Brazilians older than 60 has jumped from 5% of the population in the 1970s to 15% by 2018 and is expected to reach more than 25% by 2050. Overall, Brazil is projected to have the world’s fourth largest elderly population behind India, China and the United States by 2050. With such demographic trends, elderly poverty in Brazil is a pressing long-term challenge to address. This has implications for the country’s public pension and health care systems that provide socio-economic security for elderly Brazilians running the risk of crippling deficits without necessary reforms to sustain the fight against elderly poverty in Brazil.

Great Strides but Long-Term Problems Persist

Brazil has been largely successful in raising living standards for its elderly population in recent decades. Improved health care from the creation of the Unified Health System (SUS in Portuguese) in 1988 guaranteeing near-universal, cost-free health coverage coupled with the creation of public pension systems in the 1980s improved the socio-economic security of citizens to combat elderly poverty in Brazil.

From these reforms, life expectancies improved dramatically from 60 in the 1970s to 76 as of 2018. Brazilians also rely less on numerous children for financial support due to pension programs as the average child per woman dropped from six in the 1970s to 1.8 as of 2018.

The nation has made much progress in combating elderly poverty in Brazil through pension and health care systems, however, these improvements have created collateral problems that, unless addressed, could reverse the progress of recent decades.

Brazil’s aging population relative to the shrinking labor population poses significant fiscal problems for these programs. Without reforms, by 2050, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that pension and health care spending with current demographic trends will equate to 40% of Brazilian GDP. Such an unsustainable fiscal strain underscores the need to reform these systems to ensure Brazilians can continue to build off the progress made in reducing elderly poverty in Brazil.

Labor Participation Can Boost Revenue for Elder Care Programs

Brazil’s pension programs are inefficiently funded compared to other countries. About 46% of the working population contributes payroll taxes to support pension programs in comparison to 86% in “advanced economies.” This is largely because the retirement age for Brazilians is quite low, 48 for women and 53 for men.

Because of this, the labor force is simply too small to support funding for these pension programs if current demographic shifts continue, posing major issues for combating elderly poverty in Brazil. Increasing the labor participation rate is essential to increase revenue to salvage the pension system and gains made by older Brazilians.

Increased female labor participation can play an important role in this. In the 15-64 age group, the female labor participation rate stands at 62% compared to 80% for males as of 2019. Even halving the gender labor participation gap could save Brazil 2.2% of its GDP on pension funding by 2050 through increased opportunities for women in the workplace. Encouraging early retirees to continue working is also important.

Brazilians aged 55-64 had a labor participation rate of 56% in 2014 compared to 81% for those aged 25-54. Decreasing this gap by 50% could save Brazil 1.3% of its GDP in pension funding by 2050. Raising the retirement age to above 60 could be the most prudent means to increase labor participation and make pension systems more sustainable and efficiently funded, enabling it to continue supporting elderly Brazilians and avert fiscal catastrophe that would threaten progress to reduce elderly poverty. Such reforms could reduce fiscal resources directed toward pension programs by 11% of GDP by 2050.

Cost Effective and Practical Health Care Reforms

Health care plays a critical role in combating elderly poverty in Brazil. Like the pension system, however, Brazil must implement reforms to sustainably support Brazil’s elderly population in the future. Health care spending as a percentage of GDP is projected to more than double from 4.6% in 2015 to 9.5% of GDP by 2050 without reform, placing further fiscal strain on Brazil and threatening the health care system that undergirds the progress made for Brazil’s elderly.

Practical on-the-ground reforms, however, may make the system cost-effective and ensure it continues to benefit Brazil’s elderly. Some of these reforms could include focusing on chronic, non-communicable diseases that people become acutely vulnerable to in old age and “abolishing tax deductibility of private insurance contributions” that undermine SUS funding. Furthermore, Brazil could implement education programs emphasizing healthy lifestyles and renegotiate pharmaceutical drug pricing to ensure Brazil’s health care system can remain solvent and focus on safeguarding living standards for elderly Brazilians. Improved health care has helped to reduce elderly poverty in Brazil and can continue doing so with reforms focusing on fiscal sustainability.

Brazil has made much progress in combating elderly poverty in recent decades. To safeguard these gains, the systems driving those positive changes must prioritize sustainability. Although such reforms could be unpopular politically, Brazil must find the courage must to ensure retirement remains a bridge to socio-economic security and enjoyment for Brazil’s elderly population. Brazil managed to establish a sophisticated apparatus for combating elderly poverty that has produced tremendous gains, because of this it has the capability to reform it once the willingness is there among Brazil’s leaders.

John Zak IV
Photo: Flickr

Aid programs in Brazil
As of 2021, approximately 27 million people make up Brazil’s poor living under the poverty line, which is 12.8% of the country’s populace. This, after the poverty rate dropped to 4.5% in August 2020 with the help of a federal fund transfer program, hit individuals and families hard who had struggled with severe poverty prior to this COVID-19 aid program. The recess that monetary security provided was short-lived. Yet, while unsustainable, the program nevertheless did help those in need. Aid programs in Brazil have helped many families stay afloat amid economic uncertainty.

The Bolsa Família Program

With dilemmas revolving around the economy springing up anew, many of the country’s poor fell back on benefits from the government-funded Bolsa Família program. However, some who ended up back in poverty while trying to provide for their families, complained that the program denied them monthly aid due to ineligibility, Reuters reported.

Increased Welfare with the Auxílio Brasil Program

Also in 2021, the administration of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (elected to that office in 2018) expanded welfare payments through the Auxílio Brasil program. The current administration promotes the program unabashedly throughout some of Brazil’s poor districts. Indeed, Auxílio Brasil allotted for the poorest Brazilians a payment of R$400 ($85) per month, a 75% increase on what the previous Lula-era Bolsa Família program paid out on average.

However, there are concerns about whether or not the new government program will live up to its lofty expectations. If not, the administration might declare a state of emergency. “This would enable Bolsonaro to avoid fiscal guidelines with a view to improving the Auxílio Brasil handouts” probably as much as R$600, according to Businesslend.

Government aid programs in Brazil, such as the selective Bolsa Família stimulus allowances attest, show varying levels of efficacy, and the country’s poor views them as an irritation at times. Welfare programs, whether backed federally or internationally, have, nevertheless, paid off for certain communities while their stability is not always a given.

IFAD Program Helps Thousands Out of Poverty

At the end of June 2022, a report came that the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted “around 257,000 rural families to overcome poverty in Brazil from 2016 to 2022.” An invested budget of $453 million allowed IFAD to establish six distinct projects dealing with rural development.

As the fourth largest global food producer, Brazil relies heavily on agricultural goods both for its own population and for exporting internationally. The vast majority of agriculture in the country comes from family-run farms, which produce 70% of the foodstuffs Brazilians eat. Unlike big-time agribusinesses, the family-operated farms of Brazil generate jobs in their local communities. Family farming employs 70% of Brazil’s rural workforce. Conservationists and other analysts frown upon what they perceive to be an overemphasis on industrialized agriculture, citing the benefits of family farming.

Given that family-owned farming is the backbone of the country’s agriculture, IFAD’s aid was all the more impactful since, in order to help Brazil’s poor, it focused on rural farming communities – social hubs known for their regular employment and food production. Rossana Polastri, the relevant regional director at IFAD, said the success of the program “was possible due to the strong commitment of the federal and state authorities to family farming as a way for rural poor populations to lift themselves out of poverty,” IFAD reported on its website.

On the updraft of its recent success, IFAD has also supported the Amazon Sustainable Management Project, a program intended to reduce rural poverty and deforestation in the Amazonian region, according to IFAD’s website. The success enjoyed by several aid programs in Brazil shows that, with proper planning and the right means, these programs can do what they say they can – reduce poverty.

– John Tuttle
Photo: Flickr