The fallacy of neoliberal discourse

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Private initiative, governed by profit and market determinations, does not play a central or relevant role in meeting the emergencies of millions of poor and excluded people, nor figures who occupy important portfolios in the government. They all disappeared, as they are nullities that have nothing to contribute at this very serious moment in Brazilian history.

By Katia Gerab Baggio*

The Covid-19 pandemic is relentlessly dismantling — as many analysts have observed — the fallacy of neoliberal discourse and economic policies, of downsizing the State, and ultraliberals, of defending a minimal State and privatizing practically all sectors of the economy, in this context of hyperglobalization of financial markets.

Private initiative, governed by profit and market determinations, does not play a central or relevant role in meeting the emergencies of millions of poor and excluded people. It can take specific actions, but economic coordination and mass policies always belong to the State, both in emergency situations (such as pandemics or disasters, natural or otherwise) and in actions to combat inequalities.

I listened to GloboNews a journalist said that, with the pandemic, there was a lack of a voice in the federal government to coordinate social actions. And that voice was not that of Onyx Lorenzoni, who took office as Minister of Citizenship on February 18, 2020, succeeding Osmar Terra.

Does anyone know the name of the Secretary for Social Development, former portfolio absorbed by the Ministry of Citizenship?

I entered on the 1st. April, on the page of the Secretariat for Social Development and I could not find the name of the secretary. There are the names of those responsible for the subsecretariats, but I did not find the name of the holder of the Secretariat.

The Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger, created by former President Lula in January 2004, had members who carried out a very important work in the fight against hunger, misery, poverty and social inequalities, mainly Patrus Ananias, Minister of the from January 2004 to March 2010 (Lula government), and Tereza Campello, from January 2011 to May 2016 (Dilma government).

I already heard GloboNews, in these weeks of the pandemic, references to the work of Betinho — as sociologist Herbert de Souza was known, creator of the project “Citizen Action against Hunger, Misery and for Life”, fundamental, without a doubt — and to the importance of Bolsa Família , but no mention (I repeat: none) of the names of Lula, Dilma, Patrus or Tereza Campello (I record that Bolsa Família is a program managed by the Social Development portfolio, today the Secretariat).

We know, and we will not forget, that media corporations — mainly the most powerful one, Grupo Globo, whose vehicles now play a very important informative role during the Covid-19 pandemic — played a fundamental role in the process of destabilizing democracy and of demonizing the PT as “the most corrupt party in Brazil”, in addition to supporting all the anti-social reforms of the (dis)governments Temer and Bolsonaro: EC 95 (spending cap), labor (counter)reform and social security (counter)reform , which would “save the Brazilian economy”, remember?

Now, in the face of the world tragedy of Covid-19, all journalists and economists, practically without exception, appeal to the State.

Where are figures like Salim Mattar, holder of the Ministry of Economy's Special Secretariat for Privatization, Divestment and Markets?

Or Abraham Weintraub, the "minister" of Education who should have been at the federal government's press conferences, but who has practically disappeared since the pandemic began to spread across the country and became a gigantic and absolutely urgent problem?

And the Minister of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications, Marcos Pontes, why not participate in the press conferences?

And Damares Alves, holder of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights?

They disappeared, because they are nullities that have nothing to contribute at this very serious moment in Brazilian history.

We historians have this “vice” by trade: not forgetting the past, neither the remote nor the recent.

* Katia Gerab Baggio is a historian and professor of History of the Americas at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG

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