The Brazilian Scene – XXI

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By BENÍCIO VIERO SCHMIDT*

Comments on recent events

The fiscal crisis has been a ghost threatening the government's relations with the financial market, in a special way; as well as behavior towards the greater interests of the population and workers. The comings and goings of this tumultuous relationship can be seen in the fluctuations of the dollar, interest rates and the Stock Exchange; having as an indicator of insecurity and instability the departure of foreign capital from the country; having resistance to inflation as a hallmark of an anti-popular policy.

In view of the execution of the federal budget for 2022, still to be voted on by the National Congress, the “unexpected” specter of precatories to be paid by the Union to other federative entities, companies and citizens (R$ 89 billion) appears. The inflationary culture has increased these credits over time, assuming enormous relevance in total public expenditure. Minister Paulo Guedes and other economic authorities accuse the impact on federal finances and seek alternative solutions: from the suspension of part of payments (up to a certain limit, presumably R$ 400 thousand reais), to the reversal of credits in privatization operations of state companies.

Difficult tax engineering. Paulo Guedes, despite this, alludes to the possible postponement of payments in several annual installments to avoid the possibility of a default; disturbing factor in the already tenuous relationship with the market and with other federative entities. If the R$89 billion were to become part of the Budget, it would make it impossible to cover other non-mandatory expenses, including public servants' salaries and Bolsa Família itself. If everything is included, the spending ceiling, an ironclad clause of the current austericide, will be broken. The Annual Budget piece must be sent to the National Congress by August 31st. A lurking storm, fueling dissension within the Executive itself, as Bolsonaro wants to double the value of Bolsa Família (Auxílio Brasil, henceforth) as a way to catapult his candidacy for re-election. The cost of the program today is R$ 34,89 billion, serving 15,2 million families.

Since the decision of the STF (2015) prohibiting corporate financing of political campaigns, public money has been abundant for the Electoral Fund, as well as for the Party Fund. However, the inspection and control mechanisms remain the same. Within this framework, the National Congress is now discussing proposals for political-electoral reform. Coming from the Working Group of the Federal Chamber that elaborates the new Electoral Code, the measures must be voted immediately by the Chamber and then go to the Senate. They are proposals for loosening various functioning mechanisms of the Electoral Justice, ranging from auditing to fines for political parties and their leaders. An institutional return that reduces the already meager resources of Justice on the functioning of parties and electoral campaigns. The Complementary Bill (PLC 11/2021) has more than 900 articles and was filed on August 2, and can be voted immediately. Among other proposals, the PLC limits the time for publishing electoral polls and weakens the policy of quotas for women and non-whites in elections.

Still relevant to the electoral system and its functioning, mistakenly taken as the “electoral reform” itself, the rejection of the printed vote (23 x 11), this Thursday; should go to the appreciation of the plenary of the Federal Chamber, as announced by President Lira. Even so, an important partial victory against Bolsonaro and his imprecations about fraud in electronic voting machines.

An important matter on the regularization of land occupied by the Union and INCRA was the subject of a bill (PL da Grilagem) approved by 296 votes to 136 in the Federal Chamber (03/08/21). It greatly facilitates the legalization of lands invaded and deforested by land grabbers and miners, especially in the Amazon. It reduces state inspection over the time frame, even based on the self-declaration of the invaders. An unprecedented return on government controls regarding the occupation of rural lands. The project now goes to the Senate, where it should also be approved.

Meanwhile, the saga of the CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) continues to solve the problems of the Lattes Platform, with a strong impact on the daily lives of Brazilian scientists and scholars. In fact, this is a direct result of the scarcity of resources allocated to the main Brazilian science agency (R$ 3,1 billion in 2013 and R$ 1,2 billion in 2021).

The skirmishes between the TSE, the STF and the Presidency of the Republic – under the pretext of the printed vote – continue to disturb the environment in general, as attested by a recent manifesto by businessmen, large investors, academics and consultants (more than six thousand signatures to date) in favor of democracy, the electronic ballot box and a peaceful climate in relations between the State and the market. However, the president continues his viperous attacks on ministers of the Judiciary, without cooling down and with threats of breaking the pattern of succession. Something that underlines its fall in prestige in constant opinion polls, the latest being that of PowerDate; as well as a deterioration of the assumed official language that recalls the last days and pronouncements of Fernando Collor before his resignation.

*Benicio Viero Schmidt is a retired professor of sociology at UnB and a consultant for Empower Consult. Author, among other books, of The State and urban policy in Brazil (LP&M).

 

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