Impasses and solutions for the political moment



The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front

The government's important defeat in the votes on presidential vetoes in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on May 28th shows not only that the correlation of forces is adverse for the center-left — which brings together no more than 130 deputies, which is a fact more than known (in the Senate the scenario is not very different) — but that the government's political articulation with its expanded base failed resoundingly. As many proclaim and defend, the urgent task is to clean up the house, if Lula does not want to face new crises in Congress.

But it is not enough, as many propose, to recompose political articulation and adjust the ministry, decisions exclusive to the President of the Republic. The Lula government needs to resume the alliance with the party front it elected. And, to achieve this, it must present an objective and feasible development program for the country, capable of mobilizing different sectors of society around it: business people, workers, academia and the middle classes. The government has the instruments and competence to do this.

The instruments to build this program already exist. What the government lacks is focus and interlocutors with the different segments of society to engage them in the initiatives that make up the program. I consider that the three fundamental axes of this development program are Nova Indústria Brasil, developed by the vice-president and minister of Industry and Commerce, Geraldo Alckmin, and by the president of BNDES, Aloizio Mercadante, which needs to have the priority it demands; the PAC, led by the Minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, which concentrates investments in energy, oil and gas, Minha Casa, Minha Vida and infrastructure works, as a priority; and the Ecological Transformation Plan, launched by Minister Fernando Haddad during the 28th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP), held in December 2023, in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Around a hundred initiatives related to the Plan will be presented until COP 30, which will take place in Belém (PA).

There is no way out for Brazil without a development program that boosts the country's growth. And Brazil has everything to grow. The international situation allows this growth, the country attracts foreign investment, has infrastructure to be built, tourism to expand and a thriving creative industry that demands support to move forward, not to mention the tripod of the development program.

At the same time, we must complete the tax reform and move forward in relation to Income Tax and the taxation of profits and dividends. These are fundamental measures for the deconcentration of income, vital to guarantee domestic demand. And we have to pursue falling interest rates. Debt service payments are deadly for us; last year it was R$800 billion. If interest rates were lower and were not fueling the rentiers' scam, the country would have more resources for investment. When the country grows more than inflation, public debt will stabilize and fall.

The program's tripod

In response to a process of deindustrialization in Brazil and the low development and export of products with technological complexity, the Nova Indústria Brasil (NIB) program establishes specific goals for six missions, covering the infrastructure, housing and mobility sectors; agroindustry; health industrial complex; digital transformation; bioeconomy and energy transition; and defense technology. Each mission has priority areas for investments to achieve the goals set by 2033.

For the period 2024-2026, Nova Indústria Brasil will have R$300 billion, in addition to stimulus measures for strategic sectors such as priority for national products in public purchases and others related to reducing bureaucracy to reduce the so-called “Brazil cost”.

With Nova Indústria Brasil, the government's objective is to strengthen Brazilian industry and stimulate innovation, so that it becomes more competitive and generates more qualified jobs. In recent years, following the neoliberal agenda, Brazil, like other Latin American countries, has made a turn towards the so-called productive specialization, or the increase in the export capacity of primary goods.

Data from the 2022 ECLAC Report, relating to manufactured goods production in South America, show that, at the beginning of the 27st century, Brazil and Mexico accounted for ¾ of the total manufactured goods exported by the region. The Report draws particular attention to the case of Brazil, the second largest regional exporter of manufacturing: its share in total shipments of goods fell by 75%, from 2000% in the 2002-48 triennium to 2019% in 2021-XNUMX. Four other South American countries (Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay) also experienced double-digit declines in the same period.

For Nova Indústria Brasil to advance, it is essential that there is effective coordination between government agents and Brazilian industry and part of agribusiness. Situations like the one that is occurring with an important expansion project in the wind-solar energy sector under development in the country where all equipment is imported cannot be repeated. Brazil needs to return to the tradition of combining its large projects with local development, as occurred with platforms and probes in the oil industry, the naval industry and civil construction. The country's large construction companies had know-how to compete for bids abroad until they were destroyed by Lava Jato.

The PAC chose as priorities, in terms of volume of resources, the cities, where Minha Casa, Minha Vida is located, with R$601 billion in the period 2023-2026 (almost half of the total investment, which is R$1,3 trillion , plus R$0,4 trillion after 2026), the energy transition and security sector (R$596,2 billion) and the transport sector (R$369,4 billion).

When presenting the Ecological Transformation Plan, Minister Fernando Haddad said that the first studies by the private sector indicate that it could generate 7,5 to 10 million jobs in all sectors — with a focus on the bioeconomy, agriculture and infrastructure segments — , and income generation opportunities.

However, to achieve this scenario, the same studies estimate that Brazil needs additional investments of around US$130 to US$160 billion per year over the next decade. The contributions need to occur mainly in infrastructure to promote adaptations, produce energy, improve industrialization and mobility.

It is a challenge that can be overcome, given Brazil's capacity to mobilize investment and create sustainable infrastructures through public investments. We have examples of success such as the hydroelectric network, the unified electrical system, ethanol production and the work of Petrobras and other leading national companies in the research and development of biofuels.

Articulation required

The Lula government already has all the elements to launch the country's development program. What is needed is a political command directly subordinate to the president and with authority conferred by him to carry out the mission of implementing the measures contained in the three axes that make up the program, a command that carries out dialogue with the business community, the workers, civil society and other social segments and that it regularly reports on its mission.

Without unified command and focus — as is the case today — announced and ongoing programs, no matter how well structured they may have been, end up losing their impact and importance. And its results fall short of expectations, precisely due to a lack of integration between the different areas of government and a lack of prioritization of initiatives.

The government's recent defeats in Congress are the result of the correlation of forces, due to the imposing amendments to the budget, without any commitment from the parties to the success of public policies, and to public campaign financing. As it does not have a parliamentary majority, it is subject to the moods of a Parliament that is conservative in terms of customs, liberal in economic matters and has no qualms about exchanging votes for political interests.

The crisis can be alleviated with better political articulation, which also involves a change in the PT's stance of unifying the actions of its deputies and senators in defending the government's interests. But it will only be overcome with a development program that puts on the field, alongside Lula, all the parties and social segments that supported his candidacy in the second round. The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front — from the left to the liberal right — to ensure Brazil's growth, with deconcentration of income and social justice.

* Jose Dirceu He was chief minister of the Civil House in the first Lula government (2003-2005), national president of the Workers' Party and federal deputy for São Paulo. Author, among other books, of Memories — vol. 1 (editorial generation). []

Originally published on the website congress in focus.

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