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brazil_world_cup_protests
Brazil has earmarked $3.5 billion in public money for the construction or renovation of 12 stadiums in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The twelve stadiums which are spread throughout the country will host a total of 64 international football matches for the duration of the month long tournament.  Brazil is mortgaging the house in the hopes of luring millions of visitors to the region in the upcoming months, bringing increased economic returns to the country.

In the seven years Brazil has had to prepare for the World Cup, the country has been concentrating on constructing stadiums, upgrading the infrastructure, building hotels and beefing up national security. Unfortunately, not all developments have gone according to plan: the construction of at least six stadiums have been delayed or are behind schedule which has jeopardized further needed preparations for the events.

Not only has FIFA (the international governing body for football) voiced its concern for construction delays, protesters and worker strikes have questioned Brazil’s prioritization of public money towards the tournament. Protestors have petitioned for the government to use funds on improving public education, health care and transportation instead of funding the tournament. This deviation of public funds has sparked local criticism and contention for an international event that is meant to build global cooperation.

After the completion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a few of the stadiums that were built for the event have become under-utilized and a source of local contention. For example, the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa now is home to a small South African Premier League team which has had high operational costs and low revenue, leading to local calls for its demolition.

The City of Manaus, deep in the Amazon Jungle, is in danger of building another future under-utilized World Cup Stadium. The city is building a $240 million futuristic stadium which will only be used for four group-stage matches. At a cost of $60 million per match and with only a few minor league football clubs interested in using the site in the future, the future sustainability of this project is in question. A local Manaus judge and president of the state prison system suggested renovating the quarter billion dollar football stadium into a prison. Other local leaders have scoffed at this idea and have maintained the future viability of the stadium for local culture, events, and sporting, but only time will tell.

Even with the challenges Brazil has faced for hosting the 2014 World Cup, there continues to be massive demand for tickets for the tournament. There have been 6.2 million ticket requests for the 64 matches, which is almost 5 million more than were requested four years earlier. Let’s hope that Brazil’s gamble at hosting the 2014 World Cup will boost economic growth of the country, trickling down funds to needed improvements in education, health care and transportation.

– Travis Whinery

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Bleacher Report

poverty in brazil
Poverty in Brazil impacts all aspects of the country. Last month, thousands stormed the streets of Brazil to protest increased transportation fares. As the protests persisted, the causes of the protests expanded to include government corruption, poor social services, and high taxes, while meanwhile, billions were being spent to host the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Amidst this public upheaval, President Rousseff’s approval rating slipped from 73.7% to 49.3% in July. During Rousseff’s election campaign, she promised to eradicate poverty, saying it would be her top priority in office. Many are upset that these changes have not come soon enough.

With some of the highest paid executives in the world and an appreciating currency, the Brazilian economy appears to be well off. In addition, poverty in Brazil has been halved in the last two decades. The government is credited with lifting 28 million out of extreme poverty and bringing 36 million into the middle class. But despite being the sixth largest economy in the world, Brazil’s GDP per capita ranks 100th, behind Iran and Costa Rica. In Brazil, poverty disproportionately affects the young and those in the northeast. 8.5% of the population (16.2 million) lives on less than $45/month. Of the 16.2 million living below the poverty line, 4.8 million survive on no income at all.

 

Poverty In Brazil

 

To put it simply, Brazil is a nation of stark contrasts. Although the nation has some of the wealthiest in the world, many more suffer from extreme poverty. 26% of the population still lives below the poverty line. Brazil spends a lot of money on social programs, but because these programs are pro-rich, Brazil’s poorest only see 13% of all total benefits compared to 24% at the top. Increased social spending would not alleviate poverty in Brazil. Rather, Brazil must restructure its spending to reach the poorest. Maercio Menezes, professor of economics at the University of Sao Paulo, told the BBC, “Brazil is one of the most unequal countries on the planet… The reduction (of poverty) that has been taking place in the past decades is minor. If you are born into a poor family it is very difficult for you to eventually become rich.”

In June of 2011, President Rousseff expanded the country’s aid programs to reach the nation’s poorest. Rousseff launched a multi-billion dollar social assistance program called “Brazil without Misery,” and its aim is to eradicate extreme poverty from Brazil by 2014. The program expands a cash transfer benefit program started in 2003 by the Bolsa Family, which provided families with cash benefits in exchange for keeping their children in school and following a simple health and vaccination program. Since the program’s inception, it has helped tens of millions of Brazilians by providing food and basic social services. But, according to President Rousseff, Brazil cannot be content with just a big social program – it must do more to reach the nation’s poorest.

“Brazil without Misery” is made up of three components. First, it extends the cash transfer program to reach more people. The program increases the number of eligible children per family from three to five, in order to reach an additional 1.3 million children. Second, the government aims to improve access to health services, education, and improved infrastructure (running water, electricity, sewage disposal). Lastly, the plan intends to improve the economic means available to Brazilians through job creation, vocational-training and microcredit. To assist Brazil, the World Bank has offered $8 billion towards the program.

Several weeks ago, Pope Francis made a visit to one of Brazil’s most infamous slums. The Brazilian government was most worried about protesters during the Pope’s visit, but the Pope showed support for the nation’s poor and even criticized the government for not doing enough. “Here, as in the whole of Brazil, there are many young people… You have a particular sensitivity towards injustice, but you are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of the people who put their own interests before the common good.”

In order to eradicate poverty in Brazil, it is clear that a social overhaul is necessary. The stark inequalities within Brazilian society keep the rich wealthy, but prevent the poor from attaining economic security. Social and economic restructuring will not come easily, nor will they come immediately. Moreover, Brazil will need to reassess “Brazil without Misery” once its term is up in 2014 to see if continuation or expansion is required to meet the needs of the nation’s poorest.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources:World Bank,Rural Poverty Portal,Rio Times,ISSA
Photo: Paraiba Paradise