The urgency is hunger!

Image: Ryutaro Tsukata


If there is hunger, there is no democracy!

There are so many ills currently faced by the Brazilian people that it is difficult to prioritize among them. Along with the lack of a vaccine against Covid-19, the high unemployment, the lack of housing, the level of violence against young black people, women and LGBT, and many other misfortunes, among which we cannot forget the accelerated process of dismantling of the State that is being carried out by the country's central government and the growing threat to democracy, the situation of poverty and hunger that plagues millions of people throughout the country stands out.

And as important and urgent as it may be to resolve all of these demands that today are posed in Brazilian society, without which we will not overcome the almost dystopian situation in which we are immersed, the fight against poverty and the response to hunger assume total priority. Without food there is no life, because one cannot live on natural light, faith and hope.

It is not new that poverty and hunger threaten the Brazilian people of the lowest income strata, as they are a structural feature of our extremely unequal society. However, as is known, poverty was significantly reduced with the implementation of the Bolsa Família Program, during the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, and hunger practically disappeared. The impact of this program on poverty was immediate, already manifesting itself in the first years of its effectiveness.

If in 2003, a year before the beginning of Bolsa Família, the Institute of Applied Research (IPEA), based on the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), estimated that the population below the poverty line, reached 12% of the population, in 2008, this percentage had already fallen to 4,8%. In 2012, this indicator had dropped even further, standing at 3,5%. Between 2003 and 2008, poverty had reduced from 26,1% to 14,1%. This data can be accessed in the monitoring reports on the millennium goals, published by IPEA in 2010 and 2014.

As of 2015, the trend towards improvement in these indicators began to reverse. This was the result of the semi-stagnation of the Brazilian economy that followed the accumulated drop in GDP of 6,8% in 2015 and 2016 and the non-active intervention of the federal government, after the impeachmentt of Dilma Rousseff, in order to adequately support the poorest population in the country. In 2019, that is, in the pre-pandemic period, 11% of families were in poverty and extreme poverty had increased significantly, reaching 6,7% of the population according to the IBGE. With the arrival of the pandemic and the start of the Emergency Aid contributions, the percentage of families in poverty dropped to 5,5%, but the reduction in the value of the benefit that followed and its discontinuity raised this indicator again to levels long ago. not seen, of 15%, according to Fundação Getúlio Vargas.

At the same time that this aid was discontinued, the unemployment rate remained extremely high, reaching 14.7% in the first quarter of 2021, which involves 14,8 million Brazilians, without taking into account another 6 million people who gave up looking for a job and therefore are not counted as unemployed. This rate is the highest ever observed since the beginning of the series started in 2012 by the IBGE. To make matters worse, average household income dropped by 10% over the same period and was even more pronounced among lower-income households, which are also the ones that suffer most from the rise in prices observed during the pandemic. A situation that becomes even more dramatic with rising inflation, which especially burdens the price of food, gas and electricity, essential items for the living conditions of the poor population.

Unemployment, a drop in income, high prices and the absence of adequate support for the low-income population are the mainstays of the increase in poverty and hunger in Brazil during this pandemic period. In addition to statistics, the increase in poverty is visible in Brazilian cities, with emphasis on the number of families that are now homeless. Hunger, which is not restricted to the homeless population, is what is behind the queues that form in places where meals are offered and food and food baskets are distributed. There are countless initiatives of all kinds that try to provide some response to the hunger that is spreading in the country today: from social movements, companies, religious or non-religious community groups, city halls and states, among others.

These initiatives, as important as they are, do not resolve the situation of insecurity in which part of the Brazilian population finds itself. It is necessary to support and encourage all mobilizations of social groups with this objective, but as long as the conditions of hunger are present, guarantee the maintenance of an adequate flow of income so that the population that is experiencing this tragedy can overcome it. This implies the return of the Emergency Aid of R$ 600,00, the only possibility, by drastically reducing poverty, even if only during the period of its grant, to provide assurance that food will not be lacking tomorrow. It is therefore necessary to place the return of Emergency Aid at the center of the priorities defended by those who are mobilizing today against the current situation of tragedy in the country.

If there is hunger, there is no democracy!

*Brazilian Association of Economists for Democracy is an organization that brings together economists, related professionals and economics students committed to the defense of Democracy and the sustainable economic development of Brazil.

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