Marcio Pochmann at IBGE

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By ALEXANDRE DE FREITAS BARBOSA*

The lack of charm of our bourgeois media and the new president of IBGE

It began on July 24, 2023. One, two, three, four stories from the mainstream print and television media followed one another in an orchestrated act with the intention of preventing the appointment of economist Marcio Pochmann to the presidency of the IBGE.

It doesn't matter who gives the command. The behavior is like a herd: “Economic Flat Earther”, “Unicamp heterodox”, “will make up the inflation data”, “is not a specialist in demography and statistics”, “linked to Petê”, “militant and partisan economist”.

Now, an oligopoly is always an oligopoly. And when it produces (dis)information, it does what it wants with it. A source is sought (well, the source!) and the one whose speech is spoken by the journalist.

Our bourgeois media, today unified by rentier interests, acts insidiously. spokesperson for establishment economic, it takes sides and chooses its political enemies – those who must have their trajectories and ideas defiled. She relies on economists with phrases made for the customer's taste (“Brazil needs reforms, cut spending if you want to lower interest rates”). These noble priests of sacrosanct rentism receive leafy pages of interviews in newspapers or pleasant feasts on television programs.

How to explain the dislike of the rentier media to the economist Marcio Pochmann?

Few Brazilian intellectuals dedicated themselves, like him, to measuring, mapping and understanding the metamorphoses of inequality in contemporary Brazil. Marcio knows the IBGE databases like no one else, having published numerous books by various Brazilian publishers, looking at economic and social indicators with a magnifying glass, in order to explain the functioning of our dependent capitalism.

The titular professor at the Institute of Economics at UNICAMP, during his fruitful academic life, sought to understand the relationships between capitalism, employment and social policies. In his doctorate, he investigated the construction of the Welfare State in developed countries. From then on, he always sought to combine an empirical perspective with the broader movement in history, aiming at the possibilities for transforming Brazilian society. Therefore, he remained faithful to the tradition of Unicamp, the school that inherited Celso Furtado's thinking in Brazil.

I met Marcio Pochmann in 1995, when he was working as an economist at the Department of Labor of the state government of São Paulo, then under the leadership of the late Walter Barelli. Pochmann, already a professor at Unicamp, advised the PSDB government on the organization of databases (many of them produced by the IBGE) with the aim of improving state employment policies.

During the 1990s, Marcio Pochmann stood out as a public intellectual, launching his analytical arsenal anchored in a veritable torrent of data, mostly from the IBGE, to demonstrate the negative impacts of the FHC government on the world of work. At that time, the bourgeois media could not live without his studies. Those were the good times when she pretended to be critical and plural!

In 2001, Marcio Pochmann took over the Secretariat for Development, Work and Solidarity (SDTS) during Marta Suplicy's term as mayor of São Paulo. The then young economist created a secretariat literally from nothing, which in a few months launched the social programs of the city hall, one of the hallmarks of that government. Before starting the execution of the programs, his team carried out a mapping of the 96 districts of the city of São Paulo. For this purpose, he created the Social Exclusion Index (IES), as he judged the Human Development Index (HDI) to be insufficient. To do so, it largely used data from the IBGE.

Thus began the book series. Atlas of Social Exclusion, published by Editora Cortez, which started with the city of São Paulo and expanded to Brazil, updated in 2014 and 2015, based on data from the 2010 IBGE Census. The indicators were presented in a didactic way and through maps , allowing a visualization of social exclusion in its various dimensions. The material reached universities and was even used in high school, as the level of disaggregation encompassed the federative units. Public managers from all over Brazil became avid consumers of these books, as I witnessed many times.

This is another of Marcio Pochmann's merits. The practice of research is associated with a political pedagogy activity. In his view, the understanding of the economy and society should not be limited to the papers and specialized magazines. He needs to circulate, as he circulated throughout Brazil, in the days of SDTS, and later at IPEA, to participate in meetings and seminars with professors, students, social activists and public administrators. To interact with different segments of society, thinking about new proposals for Brazil and always based on IBGE data.

In the days of São Paulo City Hall, the Minimum Income Program was created, conceived at the SDTS and led by the late Ana Fonseca, who later moved to Brasília and contributed to the structuring of the Bolsa Família Program, already in the Lula government. Therefore, one of the seeds of this program was planted during Marcio Pochmann's tenure at the labor office of the city of São Paulo.

His entry into IPEA brought new winds to the institution. Marcio Pochmann established connections between the federal government's research institute with several Brazilian universities and associations of researchers from various areas of the social sciences. He promoted debates with economists of different ideological orientations and held a broad and plural contest, granting access to IPEA to researchers from different areas of knowledge. The institution ceased to be just a space for economists with the creation of areas dedicated to the study of international relations, the environmental issue and the role of the State and democracy. In addition to being in tune with the government's public policy agenda, the agency became active in the debate on development strategies and – it is important to mention – created its own master's course for employees of the federal government.

In the 2010s, Marcio Pochmann headed the PT's Perseu Abramo Foundation. All political parties have their own foundation to produce studies and research in order to qualify them in the public and democratic debate, it is not just “Petê”. Marcio Pochmann transformed the foundation into a body of reflection on Brazilian society, expanding its interactions with the university world and making its studies accessible to the party's rank and file and Brazilian citizens (many of them can be downloaded from the institution's website). His concern with training staff, almost an obsession, was also present here through the creation of a master's course at the Perseu Abramo Foundation.

For almost thirty years I have followed the trajectory of Marcio Pochmann. I had the opportunity to work on his team, write articles and books with him and follow the transformation undertaken in each of the many institutions through which he passed. Always with a sense of mission, respecting and valuing the knowledge of the technical staff, with whom he maintained a relationship of camaraderie and partnership, because above all he is a scholar of Brazil. Forgive the exaggeration, I have the feeling that IBGE data circulate through your veins.

I remember with satisfaction the several times he called me into his office, proposing to write an article, after spending a sleepless night poring over the Excel screen. It came with IBGE data, suggesting new interpretations of Brazilian society. Marcio Pochmann is the most curious and daring researcher, and therefore the least dogmatic I have ever met.

Another quality of Marcio Pochman is his political ability and ability to forge consensus. There's no bad time with him. Hard not to become friends with him. Disarm your contenders with a good joke. Minister Simone Tebet, if you don't know him, you will be surprised by his cordiality and capacity for work.

I hope I have answered the question above about the reason for our rentier media's dislike of economist Marcio Pochmann. It is driven by values ​​very different from those that guided the life of this economist, born into a simple family in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul, who learned at home to cultivate decency, solidarity and justice.

To rentier media journalists: now it's official, on July 26th, President Lula dropped the hammer and Marcio Pochmann became the new president of the IBGE. Know that he is not given to retaliation and loves to give interviews. You can make an appointment and get ready: based on IBGE research, it will be able to ensure the conditions for researchers in the country to reveal the many faces of inequality in Brazilian society; in addition to training the government with indicators to carry out urgent planning with development and social transformation. Just give him a few months to get the house in order.

“Make Brazil the statistics it should have, and statistics will make Brazil the way it should be” – this was the motto of the creator of the IBGE, the Bahian Mário Augusto Teixeira de Freitas, during the preparation of the 1940 Census.[I] The positivist couplet of cult of science remains valid, but needs to be updated for a context of democracy and social participation.

Therefore, national reconstruction requires a vigorous IBGE, endowed with autonomy, committed to the development of its technical staff and maintaining constant dialogue with the country's universities. For that, Marcio Pochmann is the man!

The way things are going, we may “run into” a new development project later on. And part of the bourgeois media, after touching its conscience and making its self-criticism, can and should thicken this broth.

*Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa is professor of economics at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo (IEB-USP). Author, among other books, of Developmentalist Brazil and the trajectory of Rômulo Almeida (Mall).

Note


[I] GOMES, Angela de Castro. “Population and Society”, In: Looking Inward, 1930-1964, volume 4 of História do Brasil Nação, 1808-2010, Schwarz, Lilia Moritz, ed. Rio de Janeiro: Objective, 2013, p. 44-46.


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