May 22, 2013
Brazil’s Rousseff pledges US$400M in anti-poverty drive
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff yesterday raised the monthly stipend of 2.5 million people living below the poverty line to make good on her promise to eradicate extreme poverty in Brazil.
She said she has almost met her anti-poverty target halfway through her four-year term, though Brazil’s last census points to 700,000 Brazilian families who still live in extreme poverty but are not registered on government social programmes.
Rousseff raised monthly stipends for the remaining 2.5 million people known to be living below the poverty line, raising their income to 70 reais (US$35) a month through the so-called Bolsa Familia, or Family Grant programme. “We are turning the page on our long history of social exclusion that had perverse roots in slavery,” she said after signing the decree authorizing the 800 million reais to fund yesterday’s expansion.
There are still extremely poor Brazilians, she acknowledged, but the government does not know who or where they are because they have not signed onto Brazil’s national register of social programmes. “The state will have to go and find them to include them before they come knocking on our door,” Rousseff said. “But the most difficult part has been done. Soon there will be no Brazilians steeped in extreme poverty.”
While Brazil uses the same definition of extreme poverty as the United Nations — anyone who earns less than US$35 a month — critics say that is hardly enough to raise people above the poverty line in a developing country where the cost of living is as high as in wealthy nations.
More than 48 million Brazilians, or one quarter of the population, are registered for the social programmes that will cost the federal government 24 billion reais this year, including 800 million reais to fund yesterday’s expansion.
Rousseff’s new slogan for improving social conditions in Brazil is: “The end of poverty is just the beginning.”
She said her government will now focus on improving access to public services for poorer Brazilians, extending school hours for their children, and ensuring they have electricity, water, sewers and basic housing.