World Bank – contradictory recommendations

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By VINICIUS VIEIRA PEREIRA*

World Bank recognizes successful public investment in Cuba

When some official data is released and trumpeted by the US government, everyone believes it and, generally, gets excited and applauds. But when relevant information is released by official bodies in countries like Cuba, for example, the answer is certain: “I doubt it”, or even, “I can't believe this government, after all, it is socialist”.

It is for these and other reasons that, over time, our people, who do not even consider themselves Latin American, have become accustomed to only applauding the successes presented by Central and South American governments when the information comes from an “official” channel. of world imperialism, system FOX, CNN, with the BBC and its allies in Latin America, such as Globo network. Therefore, let us follow the routine and base ourselves on “serious”, “official” documents, coming from the establishment of world capitalism, the World Bank report, in addition to honoring the Cuban educational system, equips us for this brief review.

It is nothing very recent, after all the report “Excellent teachers: how to improve student learning in Latin America and the Caribbean”[I] is from 2014. But, at a time when the new Brazilian government elected in January 2023 is doing its utmost to free itself from the straitjacket of the spending ceiling and trying to expand a little (very little) its social spending, it becomes - if opportune, and very useful, we rescue this "uncle Sam's official" document (to give more credibility) to show, on the one hand, the essentiality of government participation in the construction of a successful project of broad, unrestricted and quality education for the population. On the other hand, that the economic theory coming from the north has a certain address and bank account.

As the subtitle of the report suggests, one of the highlights of the study promoted by the World Bank was the training and quality of teachers. Questions such as classroom time, didactics, use of materials and technologies, qualification and training of teaching staff, total weekly class time, motivation and career performance, interaction between official government agencies and the preparation of masters, in short, a enormous range of variables led to a result that points, nothing more, nothing less, to what we already knew, that is, that the solution passes through the effective and massive involvement of the State in the area of ​​Education.

Still on the Cuban case, the World Bank study does not surprise anyone who closely follows the success of the small Caribbean island in social indicators, but it certainly takes the unwary and ill-informed absolute consumer of the “official” channels of the Western media by surprise. . To the chagrin of World Bank scholars, the Cuban educational system is the only one that has detached itself from the rest of the subcontinent and is moving forward, disputing its place with the “richest” nations in the world.

“The low average quality of Latin American and Caribbean teachers is the limiting factor on the progress of education in the region (…) classroom (...) No faculty in the region today (perhaps with the exception of Cuba) can be considered of high quality when compared globally”. (World Bank, 2014)

The expression “perhaps”, which is repeated every time Cuba is the exception in the analyzed sample, calls attention. Let’s see: “No school system in Latin America today, with the exception perhaps of Cuba, is very close to the high standards, high academic talent, high or at least adequate remuneration, and great professional autonomy, which characterize the most successful educational systems in the world. (such as those found in Finland; Singapore; Shanghai; China; Korea; Switzerland; Holland and Canada)” (BM, 2014).

Indeed, it bothers the World Bank to have to report on the educational success of a small Latin American island that has been under a complete economic embargo imposed by the same US for over sixty years. It is inconvenient for Washington suits that a small Central American republic manages to excel in such a fundamental aspect for the formation of an autonomous nation, the education of its people. It makes no sense for the World Bank technocrats that a country that still sometimes relies on the practice of barter as an international trade policy aligns itself with the “more developed” countries of the world when it comes to the level of education of its people.

Perhaps (just to use the World Bank's presumed doubt as well), what bothers World Bank researchers most is the assumption that Cuba only achieved these results with a policy where the State invests heavily in public education, more than 13% of the country's GDP, surpassing countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Norway, which appear well behind Fidel's land, according to a report by the same World Bank, 8,7, 7,4 and 6,9%,[ii] respectively.

After all, in the document, there is explicit recognition of the need for a strong link between the Ministry of Education and success in public education: “The researchers identified a “strong link” between the Ministry of Education and the institutions where teachers are trained as a factor in the educational success of countries as different as Singapore and Cuba”. (BM, 2014).

And it is not just in Education that World Bank analysts recognize the success of public investment in Cuba: “Cuba is internationally recognized for its victories in the field of health and education, with a social service that exceeds that of most nations in the process of of development and in certain sectors it compares to the most developed countries in the world”.[iii]

But what frightens us the most, and here we come close to our case, is precisely the fact that the World Bank recognizes the preponderance of public spending for the production of social indices of excellence and, at the same time, recommends the continuation of the policy of the ceiling of spending for Brazil as a “necessary condition to guarantee investor confidence.[iv] At the very least, one doubt arises: at whose service is the World Bank?

It is common knowledge that the so-called spending cap policy, with a link established in the constitutional text by EC 95/2016, and which limits any evolution of spending by the Union for 20 years, authorizing only the amount in force in 2016 corrected for inflation oficial, is a jabuticaba, that is, a Brazilian exclusivity. No other country in the world has risked such a rash or cruel attack on its people's most basic social guarantees. Nobody else in the world, after all, no leader was irresponsible enough to make the bourgeoisie's table with so many goodies like that, leaving, as a counterpart, a suicidal project of nation. Only Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro!

Built by the first and carried out by the second, the spending ceiling squeezed the nation, destroyed universities and federal teaching institutes, abandoned health posts, turned public safety against workers, scrapped the country's road structure, privatized basic sanitation and the distribution of energy, ended with forests and original peoples, allowed the advance of illegal mining and the answer has always been the same since then: “we can't spend it!”. Can't we really?

The World Bank, so assertive in its theoretical maxim that public spending generates equity and protection for the poor,[v] occupies two of the first chapters of its 2017 report, produced at the request of the Brazilian government with the aim of evaluating the efficiency of public spending in the country, to attack, without any shame, social security expenses and expenses with the State payroll as great enemies of efficiency. Always recommending “spending better, not more”, the researchers point to a strategic solution at the end of the study: improving policies to support the private sector, as these, according to the bank, “return to society”.

If anyone thought of a recommendation to reduce interest payments on the public debt, a commitment that consumed 46,3% of federal revenues in 2022,[vi] or at least lowering interest rates on government bonds a little (Brazil has one of the highest interest rates in the world) to channel investments into social areas, can save the day, as has long been said in our country. That is not the role of the World Bank. The role of this institution is, without a doubt, to prepare a beautiful illustration for the cover of your report that is able to make even those who haven't read it smile and say: “this is the country we want”. Convincing by looks and, for those who read it, by well-behaved economic theory.

This unsuspected organization, created in the ashes of the Second World War, with the purpose of assisting in the reconstruction of countries devastated by the world conflict, became, throughout the XNUMXth century, the main instrument of North American imperialism. Giving with one hand and taking with the other, this noble institution produces reports and recommendations that strictly follow the dictates of Washington. Washington consensus and World Bank recommendations are just different ways of saying the same thing.

Social spending cuts, tax cuts, privatizations, free trade, social security reform, floating exchange rate, labor reform, unrestricted defense of intellectual property, in short, you must be thinking that this is a shopping list in the neoliberal cart. But, it is mistaken, it is just the good and adequate economic theory of the World Bank.

Regarding our meager attempt to escape, even just a little bit, from the infamous spending ceiling, that 2,5% increase in federal spending if everything conspires favorably in the coming years (and it doesn't rain heavily), the World Bank has already manifested through a former vice president,[vii] stating that this new fiscal rule proposed by the Lula government under the title of New Fiscal Framework will only be positive if it is “credible” and, mainly, “if it does not change the medium and long-term fiscal perspectives”. Simply put, the new fiscal framework presented will only be good if it does not exist. Or if it exists, be careful not to change anything. After all, on a winning team, you don't move. And the World Bank's heart team we've known for a long time.

*Vinicius Vieira Pereira Professor at the Department of Economics at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES).

Notes


[I] https://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Highlights%20&%20Features/lac/LC5/Portugue se-excellent-teachers-report.pdf

[ii] https://socientifica.com.br/paises-que-mais-investem-em-educacao/?utm_content=expand_article

[iii] https://iela.ufsc.br/banco-mundial-sistema-educativo-cubano-e-o-melhor-da-america-latina/

[iv] https://www.camara.leg.br/noticias/686899-banco-mundial-recomenda-manutencao-do-teto-de-gastos-para-garantir-confianca-de-investidores

[v] https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/884871511196609355/pdf/121480-REVISED-PORTUGUESE-Brazil-Public-Expenditure-Review-Overview-Portuguese-Final-revised.pdf

[vi] https://auditoriacidada.org.br/conteudo/gastos-com-a-divida-consumiram-463-do-orcamento-federal-em-2022/

[vii] https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/economia/novo-arcabouco-fiscal-deve-ser-crivel-diz-ex-vice-presidente-do-banco-mundial/


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