Celso Furtado

Image: Felipe Futada


The relevance of the economist's work on the centenary of his birth

Life and work

Celso Furtado embodied, perhaps better than anyone else, the desire for economic and social development in Latin America. With audacity and creativity, he symbolized for more than half a century the efforts of several generations to think about development autonomously, from the perspective of the “South”, that is, that of developing countries, Latin America and, in particular, from Brazil. Celso Furtado's biography describes the life of a man of action and thought at the service of development, in all dimensions of the word. With thirty books published and more than 60 translations in a dozen languages, he exercised, in Brazil and abroad, a great influence in the theory and practice of development.

Celso Furtado was born on July 26, 1920, in Pombal, in the heart of the semi-arid hinterland of Paraíba and the northeast. This region of drought and extreme poverty generated a type of popular culture and human being that Furtado clearly expresses in his self-definition: “I am like a cactus”. The expression encapsulates the elements that characterize Furtado's life and work: austerity and stoicism, character and courage, condensed and dense synthesis, depth without false brilliance. Added to these original features of his homeland was the influence of his life abroad.

At the beginning of 1945, shortly after graduating in law, he embarked for Italy to fight in the Second World War. In 1947 he settled in Paris, where in 1948 he obtained a doctorate in economics at the Sorbonne with a thesis on the Brazilian colonial economy.

In 1949, he joined the team of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), which had just been created. The Executive Secretary, Raúl Prebisch, appoints him Director of the Development Division.

In this position, he contributed decisively to the formulation of the structuralist approach to the socioeconomic reality of Latin America, which analyzes the specificity of its productive, social and institutional structures and the problems they present for the development process.

The structuralist approach received several contributions from Furtado, among which stand out: the historical perspective, enshrined in his books on the Brazilian and Latin American economic formation; analysis of underemployment trends; in a very associated way, the analysis of the relations between growth and income distribution in the Latin American context; and, finally, the incorporation of sociocultural and environmental factors into the economic analysis.

In 1954, he coordinated a study on the Brazilian economy, which supported planning techniques and which would help in the preparation of President Juscelino Kubitschek's Plan of Goals, a reference in the history of Brazilian industrialization.

Invited by Nicholas Kaldor, he spent 1957 and 1958 in Cambridge, England, where he wrote Brazil's economic formation (Furtado, 1959a), a classic of economic history translated into nine languages. This capital work of the historical-structural approach exercised an invaluable influence in the formation of a national conscience about the Brazilian historical identity and, consequently, about the need to mobilize in favor of deep transformations in the economic, political and social planes.

During these years, he also wrote the essays that would later be collected in his two most important theoretical-historical works, namely: Desenvolvimento e underdevelopment and Theory and politics of economic development (Furtado, 1961 and 1967). In them he expresses fundamental concepts, among them that underdevelopment is an “autonomous historical process”, and that it cannot be considered simply as a stage of economic development that all countries go through. And that, in the context of the Latin American periphery, growth tends to preserve underemployment and technological heterogeneity, income concentration and an increasing degree of social injustice.

The message was prophetic: without deep social and political mobilization, there is a risk of perpetuating underdevelopment.

At the end of the 1950s, when Furtado returned to Brazil after almost ten years at ECLAC, the northeast was suffering one of the most dramatic droughts in its history. President Kubitschek asks him to prepare a plan to deal with the northeastern tragedy (Furtado, 1959b). This plan will give rise to the Superintendency for the Development of the Northeast (Sudene), a federal agency created to promote development in the poorest region of Brazil. The six years that Furtado directed Sudene were considered the period of the greatest institutional effort of all time in favor of the development of the Northeast, seeking to reverse the secular backwardness in which the region lived.

Thanks to this performance, he becomes the first head of the Ministry of Planning and, at the request of President João Goulart, in 1962 draws up the Triennial Development Plan.

The intense political and executive activity at the head of Sudene and the Ministry of Planning did not diminish his intellectual vitality: the books A pre-Revolução Brasileira and Dialectic of Development (Furtado, 1962 and 1964) are from this period.

The remainder of the 1960s is one of exile and intellectual fecundity. The government that emerged from the 1964 military coup nullifies Celso Furtado's political rights. Life in exile begins at Yale University, and soon after Furtado settles in France, where he will be Professor of Economic Development at the University of Paris I-Sorbonne for twenty years. He was also a professor at other universities, including Columbia and Cambridge, where he was the first holder of the Simón Bolívar chair. He has served on the Academic Council of the United Nations University and was a member of the ECOSOC/UN Development Planning Committee.

The sequence of eight published books — all widely circulated — reflects Furtado's impressive intellectual fecundity during this period. One of the analytical elements common to several of these works is the concept that industrialization in Latin America was unable to eliminate structural heterogeneity and dependence. His pioneering analysis of the links between the growth process and income distribution also corresponds to this period, in which Furtado argues that the characteristics of supply and demand in Latin American countries lead to processes that tend to concentrate income and to confirm social heterogeneity.

The set of works from the period inspired a whole tradition of analysis and reflections in Latin America and Brazil on the need to transform the styles or models of economic development, of great intellectual and political importance throughout the region.

In the 1980s, Celso Furtado returned to Brazil. The crisis of the “lost decade” of those years in Latin America led him to a firm opposition to the type of adjustment demanded by international creditors, a posture that he articulated in three books (Furtado, 1981, 1982 and 1983). In them, he insists that the correct way to carry out adjustments is through the development of the productive forces, technical progress, investment and growth.

In one of these books, in 1982, the author poses questions that unfortunately remain in force both in Latin America in general and in Brazil in particular.

Should we accept the increasing internationalization of monetary and financial circuits, with the consequent loss of decision-making autonomy, at a time when the protectionism of central countries is reaffirmed? Should we renounce a development policy? What social consequences should we expect from a prolonged reduction in job creation?

(Furtado, 1982, p. 64)

Throughout that decade, Furtado also dedicated himself to writing his biography, a delightful trilogy in which, starting with the power of fixation and evocation of the titles, his poetic side of memories is always united with the elegant conciseness of the writing and the density of rigorous thought. ; The organized fantasy, The undone fantasy, and The airs of the world (Furtado, 2014). These memories parallel his studies on the cultural dimension of underdevelopment, which originated the books Creativity and dependence and Culture and development in times of crisis (Furtado, 1978 and 1984).

Reinserting himself into the country's political life, which was then returning to democracy, Furtado was Brazil's ambassador to the European Economic Community and, in 1986, Minister of Culture in the Sarney government.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Furtado's contributions abroad were widely recognized. He was a member of the South Commission and a member of UNESCO's World Commission for Culture and Development. In 1996, the Third World Academy of Sciences creates the Celso Furtado International Prize, for the best academic work in the field of political economy in underdeveloped countries.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday, in 2000, the Academia Brasileira de Letras, of which he was a member, organized the exhibition Celso Furtado — Vocação Brasil, which was also exhibited at ECLAC's headquarters in Santiago.

The text transcribed above moved everyone who was present at the UNCTAD ceremony in 2004. Celso Furtado died that same year. A wonderful job of publicizing his work has been done by his widow, the journalist Rosa Freyre d'Aguiar. She employs her refined writing, her erudition and fidelity to the master's ideas in the organization and dissemination of his works. Recently, she organized and published a precious book of Celso Furtado's diaries (2019) and has just organized another one about his correspondence, which is in print, and which also promises to be a beautiful book. This “intellectual partnership” between Rosa Freyre d'Aguiar and Celso Furtado is beautiful.

Contributions to structuralism and its relevance

The intellectual leadership exercised by Furtado's economic thought in the field of progressive and nationalist developmentalism in Brazil is due to the richness and scope of the structuralist theorization that he formulated to understand the Brazilian reality.

He described himself as an intellectual militant at the service of political transformation: “I was nothing more than an intellectual in life, but always aware that the biggest problems in society require a commitment to action (...)” (testimony in Gaudêncio and Formiga , 1995, p. 39).

In fact, with structuralism, he conveyed like no one else an understanding of the nature of Brazilian underdevelopment and the immense challenge contained in the Brazilian reality for a project of action to transform society.

Furtado's contributions to structuralist theory will be described in this section. Before doing so, it is necessary to briefly record the central elements of ECLAC's structuralist argument.

As described above, Furtado arrived at ECLAC in 1949, after having defended a thesis at the Sorbonne on Brazilian colonial history. He worked in those inaugural years of the UN agency with Raúl Prebisch, the great Argentinean economist and founder of Latin American structuralist thought. From this meeting emerged the structural historical method, which Furtado used throughout his life. It is a method that makes the interaction between the “historical-inductive” focus and the structuralist (“deductive”) theoretical framework: the analysis of underdeveloped structures appears as a generic theoretical reference for the examination of historical trends, giving rise to an analysis that takes into account the behavior of social agents and the trajectory of institutions

What is the structuralist theory disseminated and enriched by Furtado, why was it so influential and why is it so current? Why are structuralism and, consequently, all of Furtado's work so current?

The question that must be asked before going into the master's contributions is: What is the structuralist theory disseminated and enriched by Furtado, why was it so influential and why is it so current? Why are structuralism and, consequently, all of Furtado's work so current? The answer is simple and sad: because despite some socioeconomic advances, underdevelopment in Latin America and Brazil has not yet disappeared.

Classical structuralist theory analyzed the “peripheral” Latin American underdevelopment, in contrast to the “central” economies, in three basic aspects of underdevelopment in our region, which remain current.

First, structuralism said in the origins that here in the periphery there is a low diversity of the productive and exporting structure, determining a pressure of demand, simultaneously in several sectors, difficult to manage, by making the process of growth and industrialization very demanding in terms of investment and foreign exchange. Today ECLAC's “neo-structuralism” no longer says that there is low diversity, but decreasing and inadequate diversity (decreasing, due to deindustrialization, and inadequate because we lack the technological edge).

Second, the inaugural structuralism argued that there was strong structural heterogeneity in our countries, that is, the fact that some sectors worked with high productivity but the vast majority of those employed worked with reduced productivity. This unfortunately has not changed to this day. Current neo-structuralism reaffirms that there is a huge contingent of people employed with low levels of productivity, in informal and precarious work relationships. This was as much a central part of our underdevelopment in the 1950s as it remains today. The reflections are the enormous poverty and the bad distribution of income, pointing to an unsatisfied social demand for social protection programs, for income redistributive tax reform, for a continuous increase in the minimum wage, for the strengthening of unions to increase the bargaining power of workers, etc.

Third, the structuralists, in the beginning, also said, in general, that there was institutional backwardness and consequently a waste of part of the economic surplus, due to unproductive investments and superfluous consumption, with businessmen and national states with little vocation for investment and progress. technician. With some adaptations, the theorizing of the 1950s is still up to date with regard to institutional backwardness, or institutional inadequacy for development tasks:

♦ institutionality leaves much to be desired in terms of social protection;

♦ the educational system has many shortcomings; and the S&T system has improved with regard to academic production, but they are very flawed with regard to innovation by productive companies — for example, there are no national companies in the industry that are large, therefore capable of increasing added value , because they lack market power on an international scale and innovation capacity;

♦ despite the fact that our economies are deeply financialized, our financial institutions are precarious in terms of the depth of the financial system to accommodate long-term requirements, including in the housing sphere;

♦ we don't have a good environmental protection system, we mainly lack supervision and punishment for transgressions, etc.

It is interesting to observe that it was based on this contrast between developed countries and Latin American countries that all of ECLAC's best-known theses emerged: analysis of "center-periphery" relations (of unfavorable international insertion), deterioration of terms of trade, structural imbalance on the balance of payments, the structuralist thesis of inflation, the thesis of the resilience of underemployment, etc.

That said, let's move on to Celso Furtado's main contributions to structuralism. There are three most notable ones:

1 – Furtado included a long-term historical dimension to the structuralist approach, in Economic Formation of Brazil (feb) and Economic Formation of Latin America (Furtado, 1959 and 1969);

2 – carried out an analysis of the tendency towards continued underemployment, in Development and underdevelopment (Furtado, 1961); It is

3 – did the analytical integration between productive and distributive structures, in Underdevelopment and Stagnation in the ale Theory and Politics of Economic Development (Furtado, 1966 and 1967).

The most important contribution was the inclusion of the long-term historical dimension, mainly with the FEB book. In it, the author visits Brazilian economic history to grant theoretical autonomy and empirical legitimacy to structuralism. In fact, feb is more than a contribution about history. Represents an analytical contribution of weight. In my book on Brazilian economic thought I call the FEB “the masterpiece of Brazilian structuralism” (Bielschowsky, 1995).

One of the keys employed in feb for understanding the Brazilian economic formation is the comparison between Brazil, understood as a colony of commercial exploitation for export, and the colonies of North America. It is a “Keynesianism” in the negative: Furtado repeatedly contrasts the two modalities, arguing that the North American was gradually diversifying its productive apparatus, concomitantly with a property and a more deconcentrated income than here in the Brazilian colony of exploitation — that is, with greater productive and social homogeneity. Here, the multiplier effect of income and employment leaked abroad, via imports, preventing productive diversification, and keeping a large part of the population in subsistence activities, with income corresponding to low productivity.

In the construction of the argument of the formation of underdevelopment as a historical phenomenon, Furtado shows how, in the “sugar cycle”, an internal market capable of generating a diversified economy that is self-propelled is not created; and, with livestock in the “hinterland”, a vast subsistence economy was created, which was perpetuated over the centuries of northeastern history, along with the secular stagnation of sugarcane agriculture itself.

Underdevelopment takes root in the Northeastern productive structure and later the same will happen in the Center-South. It is the Brazil of low production and export diversity and profound structural heterogeneity. Mirroring this process, profound social inequality is installed, under which conditions industrialization would be taking place.

What begins in the northeast is reinforced with the “mining cycle”: despite a greater flow of monetary income, and even stimulating an entire territorial occupation based on cattle, the involution of the gold cycle will give way to the extension and perpetuation of underdevelopment , that is to say, low productive diversity and structural heterogeneity, with a population working in the field subordinated to large landowners with precarious labor relations and wages.

This does not disappear in the “coffee cycle”: the problem of manpower and the transition to salaried work occupy several chapters of the book (justifying the European immigration solution): the coffee cycle represents the juxtaposition of the modernity of coffee on previous underdevelopment. The labor employed in coffee will be neither the freed slave nor the vast poor peasantry distributed throughout Brazil, which subsisted on tiny properties and in subordination to the large latifundia.

The formation of a monetary mass with salaried work that makes up the internal market, although it would become the basis for the subsequent “displacement of the dynamic center towards industry”, would not be able to undo the subsistence economy. Even more, the coffee cycle took place with a flow of poor European immigrants, which would increase the availability of labor whose labor income was low, not accompanying the increase in productivity of the modern pole, when this increase eventually occurred. In other words, the migratory flow expanded the reserve of labor, allowing the coffee economy to expand for a long time without real wages rising.

This entire analysis was dated: FEB was published at a time when it was necessary to confirm the deliberate conduct of the problematic process of industrialization then under way. It had been taking place on a backward, deeply underdeveloped productive and social structure, and needed coordinated action by society and the State to give speed and efficiency to growth with structural transformation.

The book really had to be a milestone in economic historiography. It is a methodologically powerful book, which shows, over the centuries, the historical processes of formation of the underdeveloped economic and social structure in Brazil. At FEB, the author is still relatively optimistic, or moderately skeptical. Two years later, in Desenvolvimento e underdesenvolvimento (Furtado, 1961), the great novelty is the analysis of the tendency for underemployment to continue, already in a more pessimistic language. It was his second contribution to structuralism. Apparently, he was the first intellectual to point out the tendency towards resilience of underemployment in Latin America.

Very briefly, some of the main analytical elements of the work follow:

1 – underdevelopment is one of the historical lines of projection of central industrial capitalism at a global level: that which is done through modern multinational capitalist companies on archaic structures, forming “hybrid economies” (and profoundly “heterogeneous”) — a theorization of 1961, which can be considered the foundation of the dependency theories that were formulated afterwards;

2 – underdevelopment is a process in “itself”, which tends to perpetuate itself, and not a simple “stage of development” through which all countries pass; It is

3 – the occupational structure with an unlimited supply of labor changes slowly in underdeveloped economies, because technical, capital-intensive progress is inadequate to absorb workers linked to the vast subsistence economy. The system tends to the concentration of income, and to a growing degree of social injustice.

Furtado's (1966) third basic contribution to structuralism is a logical development of the previous two. In the book Underdevelopment and stagnation in Latin America, our author was proposing a new project for Brazil, one of growth with income redistribution. In this effort, he integrated distributive structures (and demand profiles) and productive structures (that is, supply patterns, which are realized through capital accumulation and technical progress).

The main elements of the analytical construction are as follows:

1 – the composition of demand, which reflects the structures of property and concentrated income, predetermines the evolution of the composition of supply, that is, the pattern of industrialization;

2 – the investment, thus determined, reproduces the technological standard of the central countries, intensive in capital and in economies of scale; this keeps the supply of labor unlimited, that is, it does not undo the huge contingent of workers available at low incomes, which in turn prevents the increase in productivity from being translated into an increase in wages; It is

3 – The model is therefore one of structural change aimed at a consumer elite.

The interaction between demand and supply “structures” determines a certain “model” or “style” of growth. This was analytically innovative at the time.

Furtado concluded that the system tends to stagnate due to decreasing returns to scale, a drop in profitability and, therefore, a disincentive to investment. In the absence of an urgent redistribution of income, everyone would lose, workers and entrepreneurs, because the economy would be doomed to slow or no growth.

The conclusion that the economy would tend to stagnate was criticized for theoretical reasons and, mainly, because it proved to be empirically wrong. The publication, in 1967, comes out on the eve of the fastest growth the country has ever experienced, the period called the “perverse miracle” — due to rapid growth combined with strong income concentration.

“Stagnationism” cannot, however, overshadow the brilliance of the analysis, contained in the unprecedented integration between productive structures and distributive structures to understand the economic dynamics. The analytical construction had, moreover, in the evolution of Brazilian ideas, the merit of starting an intellectual history and political project for Brazil that is still alive today.

In fact, the work opens a whole season of debates and reflections on growth and income redistribution, in a trajectory that would flow, many years later, into the development strategy proposed in several important documents of the Workers' Party (1994 and 2002), in other words, that of growth with redistribution of income by the internal market of mass consumption.

It is worth briefly recalling this trajectory. A few years after the publication of the work, in 1969, and already with ample evidence of dynamism in the Brazilian economy, Maria da Conceição Tavares and José Serra wrote Além da stagnação (Tavares and Serra, 1973), arguing that, unfortunately, the country , yes, having a very dynamic economy even concentrating income, and that concentration was being perversely functional to the current capital accumulation model, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Analysis of the Brazilian model, Furtado (1972) , argues that the way to get around the lack of demand resulting from poor income distribution would have been the creation of the consumer credit system and government incentives to increase the income of the middle class. This type of resource would be spuriously replacing the virtuous relationship between investment, productivity and wages (“feedback ring”) that would allow for rapid economic growth with improved income distribution.

From then on, in the collective imagination of the country's progressive forces in the 1970s, the idea was created that the restoration of democracy, in addition to the superior value of freedom, would have the function of allowing the population to put pressure on governments to change the development model , in order to include it as a beneficiary of economic growth.

That is, wages can be raised and income redistributed without having to substantially alter the existing productive structure, just a few adaptations in the production of goods to the income profiles of families from the less favored classes.

Years later, based on surveys of household samples on consumption carried out by several researchers, Antônio Barros de Castro, another great Brazilian intellectual in the structuralist line — such as Conceição Tavares and Carlos Lessa — would take a new leap in quality in this evolution. analytics. According to Castro (1990), empirical evidence showed that, every time the income of the country's poor population increases, what is verified is an expansion in the demand for goods and services produced by the "modern" segments (processed foods, clothing, televisions, refrigerators, transport, electricity, etc.), and the corresponding expansion of supply. That is, wages can be raised and income redistributed without having to substantially alter the existing productive structure, just a few adaptations in the production of goods to the income profiles of families from the less favored classes. The Brazilian productive structure would therefore be, according to Castro, prepared to accept a model of growth with redistribution of income by the internal market of mass consumption.

This vision would appear, for example, in campaign documents of the Workers' Party (1994 and 2002), and in multi-year plans of the Lula and Dilma governments (Ministry of Planning, 2003 and 2007).

Furtado made other important analytical contributions, in addition to the three noted above. Without going into detail, it is only worth mentioning a few:

1- exerted great influence on the elaboration of the structuralist theory of inflation by Noyola Vasquez (1957) and Osvaldo Sunkel (1958);

2 – in the 1970s, under the influence of the Club of Rome, Furtado (1974) argued that the availability of natural resources and the sustainability of the environment placed limits on the incorporation of all countries into the list of developed nations — the planet could not withstand — , so that universal development is nothing more than a myth, from the point of view of environmental sustainability;

3 – as mentioned, at different times our author also makes a whole contribution to the issue of dependence on culture, arguing that Latin America had a culture persistently hampered by dependence on the production and consumption patterns of developed countries (Furtado, 1978 and 1984) .

By way of conclusion: brief speculations about the Brazilian reality of 2020, in the light of Furtado's thinking

In the previous section, we already pointed out the relevance of Furtado's structuralist thought regarding the underdevelopment of Latin America and Brazil. I risk, by way of mere final speculation, imagining how Furtado would be thinking about Brazil today. The considerations can be divided into three parts: the anomalous and terrible year of the pandemic (short term); trends in recent years and likely trends in coming years (medium term); and propositions regarding a project about the future (long term).

Furtado would obviously be sad and apprehensive about Brazil's prospects for 2020 and the coming years. In the long term perspective, as he tended to believe in Brazil's future but distrusted the elites, he would possibly maintain some cautious optimism, noting that everything depends on political evolution.

About the current year, 2020, obviously no one imagined a crisis like this. Certainly, Furtado would be anguished with what is happening in the world in general and, in particular, in Brazil. He would be baffled and shocked by the way the health crisis is managed here, and between saddened and outraged by the fact that the country has been stunned by a charged anti-democratic political climate.

And I would be concerned about the way the government is managing the economic crisis, generating uncertainty and delays in granting support to people, companies and states and municipalities, and with a tremendous omission regarding credit to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. I imagine that you would be fearing that, when the pandemic is finally controlled, as a result of an effective vaccine, the way out of the crisis will contain, among its many problems, the fact that people and companies will be much more indebted than in the past: companies with each other, companies and individuals vis-à-vis the banks (because the partially suspended interest continued to increase the debt) and the tax authorities (which postponed payments)—resulting in bankruptcies and concentration of markets in the hands of the largest companies. And I would have serious doubts about the speed with which the crisis will be overcome, in the world and in Brazil. I would probably say that the main way of overcoming the crisis and recession is through public spending, in addition to helping small and medium-sized companies and individuals in general to pay their debts.

Possibly, I would also argue that before the pandemic, the Brazilian economy was skating, and that the prospects have been unfavorable for some time. Pre-Covid Brazilian GDP, in 2019, was still lower than in 2013, and based on this evidence, I think I would say that the formula adopted since 2015 of cutting spending to reduce the fiscal deficit accentuates the recession, and that a greater recession implies lower collection and, therefore, a larger fiscal deficit, in a vicious circle. And he would oppose the spending cap and the so-called golden rule on the fiscal front, both because of the negative effects on the economy and the perverse cuts in health, education, etc.

In the field of long-term issues, which was the field par excellence of Furtado's thinking, he would certainly be instigating propositions about a new development project, integral, that articulates the macroeconomic, productive, social, environmental, democratic and national sovereignty plans. . In this, his classical thought is comprehensive and methodologically sound and illuminating.

Given the method he used, when thinking about the long term, he would certainly start by contextualizing Brazil in the world, and he would think about the Brazilian economy in the face of the gigantic problem of our unfavorable insertion in the new center-periphery relations — or, as it is said today, in the current phase of productive and financial globalization. He would probably begin his reflection by considering this and the immense challenge for us from the global technological revolution and climate change, and he would be wondering how to take advantage of the new bipolar geopolitics between the United States and China.

It would probably also initially emphasize the fact that neoliberalism, together with the growing financialization that accompanied it in recent decades, has determined mediocre growth, deindustrialization, unemployment, low investment, reduced social protection, worsening property and income distribution, persistence of poverty, and destruction of nature.

And he would attack the socioeconomic project of the Temer and Bolsonaro governments, for aggravating underdevelopment in Brazil. He would be vehemently opposing the proposition of letting spontaneous market forces operate freely in order to solve the serious economic and social problems that persist in the country. And he would be opposing the elimination of a series of labor rights in the reform carried out during the Temer government, and the exposure of the poorest and most vulnerable workers to a retirement at the age of 65, carried out in the recent reform in the current government.

On the economic level, his developmentalist and structuralist perspective would probably be pointing to the importance of carrying out a government project for the strong expansion of economic and social infrastructure — criticizing, for example, the privatization project of basic sanitation, for its social irresponsibility — and, most especially, a radical program of recovery, modernization and diversification of Brazilian industry. I think I would give three reasons for the emphasis on the industrial sector: the need to face the growing problem of unemployment; the fact that it is the sector with the highest productivity and the greatest creator and diffusion of innovations; and, no less relevant, the fact that without industry (without import substitution and promotion of industrial exports) we will lack the dollars to pay the external bills — making us increasingly dependent on short-term capital inflows to close our balance of payments. payments, and being driven to raise domestic interest rates and thus curb growth.

Furtado would possibly be suggesting the elaboration of a new long-term project for Brazil, and in accordance with the idea of ​​a virtuous relationship between the State, companies and workers around four areas of State action:

1 – universal social protection(broad access to public goods and services, financed with progressive taxes, universal coverage, public and solidary social security, right to social assistance), and continuous increase in the minimum wage;

2 – full employment macroeconomics(with harmony between growth policies and anti-inflation policies, that is, full employment with macroeconomic stability, wages accompanying productivity gains, formalized work, strong unions), accompanied by due care with external vulnerability.

3 – industrial, technological and infrastructure programs and policies with medium and long-term investment perspectives, in order to increase productive diversity, increase the productivity and competitiveness of the Brazilian economy, and give the country room to grow without balance of payments problems. And, most especially, a whole stimulus to investments in the expansion fronts inscribed in the logic of operation of the Brazilian economy, as are the cases of investments destined to the internal market of mass consumption, to the economic and social infrastructure, and to the good use of our resources. immense natural resources;

4 – harmony between growth and preservation of nature, strict inspection against the destruction of Brazilian forests and biodiversity in general and against other factors of greenhouse gas emissions, etc., and demand for good governance of our natural resources, with regard to social and environmental impacts and national control over resources.

I would probably be dreaming of a solidly republican, democratic, sovereign Brazil, absolutely solidary with the basic rights of citizenship in all its dimensions. And it would probably be recommending that the incipient action of growth with distributive improvements tried in the 2000s and early 2010s be continued and perfected, overcoming its flaws and permanently involving the nation in the coming decades, in a style of development with transformation socioeconomic benefits of the population as a whole.

*Ricardo Bielschowsky is professor of economics at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Brazilian economic thought (1930-1964) (Counterpoint Publisher).

Originally published on Pink Magazine.



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