Thursday, September 27, 2018

Brazil's Backward Progress

In less than two weeks, Brazilians will head to the polls to elect new president and representatives, but many have little faith in politicians, with extreme poverty and hunger on the rise.

According to one study undertaken by Action Aid Brazil and Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (Ibase), extreme poverty rose from 5.2 million people in 2014 to 11.9 million in 2017, based on the July 2017 definition of extreme poverty, which includes those living on less than 102.44 real (about $25) a month. 

Sao Paulo's LCA Consultancy, using data from Brazil's Continuous National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), extreme poverty rose from 13.3 million in 2016 to 14.8 million in 2017, using the World Bank's definition of living on $1.90 or less a day.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 12.3 percent or 12.8 million people, according to Brazil's Institute of Geography and Statistics. Experts say unemployment rates will continue to recover slowly, with most the qualified the first to benefit and the poorest last.

"Any initial economic recovery will not reach people in extreme poverty," says Cosmo Donato, an economist at LCA. "They are historically disadvantaged."

Brazil's northeast concentrates the highest number of people living in extreme poverty with 8.1 million in 2017 according to LCA. In greater Sao Paulo, extreme poverty grew by 35 percent in 2017 to 3.8 million people and isolated semi-rural regions like Parelheiros - a three hour bus ride from the city's business centre - are especially bad off. 

"It is likely that Brazil will shortly return to the United Nations hunger map," says Francisco Menezes, an economist and researcher for Action Aid and Ibase. The United Nations hunger map is defined by more than five percent of the country not consuming the recommended number of calories a day. Menzes blames a combination of high unemployment due to the recession and austerity, which began under former president Dilma Rousseff in 2015. Austerity then accelerated under current president Michel Temer when Rousseff was controversially impeached. According to Menzes, Brazil has returned to levels of extreme poverty of 2005. "Brazil has gone back 12 years in three," he says.

Apathy for the upcoming elections is high.
"I won't vote for anyone, all they do is make promises,"  Marcos Alves da Silva from Parelheiros says.
According to the Datafolha polling institute, 12 percent of voters will abstain from this election, 49 percent of whom are low income voters, with a family income of less than two monthly minimum salaries of BR$954. (about $230). Of the five percent of undecided voters, 64 per cent fall into this income bracket.

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