Fiscal, monetary and social goals

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.

The disregard for social issues is typical of privileged Brazilians, narrow-minded and fierce in defending their immediate interests.

Brazil has had inflation targets since 1999. We have just launched targets for the primary result of public accounts. Why wouldn't we also have social goals? Why only monetary and fiscal targets? Here's the question you don't want to shut up.

If it depended on the financial market and the economists of the corporate media, the social objectives, rhetorically accepted as “important”, “relevant”, “essential”, would be established in a very generic, flexible and vague way. In contrast to monetary and fiscal ones, specified with care, detail and rigor, especially fiscal ones. In the absence of these specifications, there will be no confidence in economic policy, orthodox economists assure, with wide media resonance. Social objectives, however, seen in practice as less relevant, can remain in the sphere of the merely vague.

I need to make a caveat before proceeding. Far be it from me to consider sacred fiscal and monetary targets irrelevant. For God's sake! (I'm even crossing myself here.) I'd just like to suggest that social goals might be important too.

The disregard for social issues is typical of privileged Brazilians, narrow-minded and fierce in defending their immediate interests. Let the people turn around, let them be content with the leftovers from the feast. While the poor suffer, the small minority continues to live peacefully in the paradise of rentiers that Brazil has become – the only country, I repeat, that offers the wealthy the possibility of investing their large savings in liquid bonds, without risk and with high real returns. . Paradise for rentiers and, also, tax haven for all the super-rich, who have a super-light tax burden, and still complain, indignant, when you try to make them pay a little tax. A disgusting one, in short.

Small disturbance though. Since January 2023, Brazil has had a declaredly reformist government, committed, by all indications, to income distribution and the fight against hunger and extreme poverty. A serpent in the paradise of rentiers and the super-rich. Snarling from time to time, Faria Lima watches with disquiet the movements for change outlined by Brasilia. It operates in the media, on the one hand, and behind the scenes of the Executive and Congress, on the other, to obstruct attempts to do a little social justice. Authorized voices protest against the “noises” of the President of the Republic, which is supposedly hindering the conduct of economic policy. He was elected by direct vote, no doubt, but he must be reduced to the status of a harmless and decorative King of England.

A parenthesis

I stop suddenly, and reread what I wrote. I feel the need to open a quick little parenthesis. It's just that a text like this, aimed at a non-specialized audience, cannot be limited to generalities; you have to get down to the level of concrete and name the horse. It is the best way to portray the Brazilian ruling classes, which are almost always caricatured and burlesque, as Machado de Assis used to say.

Let's see. A good example is financier Ilan Goldfajn, who is currently president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). There's the buffoon, comfortably ensconced in Washington. He knows nothing about development, it is true, but he has the poise and solemnity that the position requires. His role actually has little to do with development finance. What is up to him is essentially to carry out the orders of the US Treasury, which commands and demands at the IDB. By the Treasury he was elected, and from the Treasury he will receive guidance and detailed instructions.

But the point I want to reach is the following: the buffoon in question, like everyone else, pays his emphatic tributes to income distribution and the fight against poverty. Recently, he was at a conference as keynote speaker. When it was his turn, he sucked in his generous belly and climbed to the podium to deliver his lecture. He said a few introductory words, spouted off various trivialities, went over the most common slogans, until, at a certain point, he puffed out his chest, raised his voice and proclaimed: “We will do everything for social progress and income distribution in Latin America!” Applause. Satisfied, the international authority returned to his place, heaving with the effort he had made, like a mediocre tenor after a difficult aria.

But this stamped figure is one in a thousand. We have a veritable legion of economists and financiers of this type, faithful servants of the status quo and the buffoon crowd. As implementers or spokespersons for the interests of the beneficiaries of the prevailing injustice, they incessantly contribute so that the distribution of income and the fight against poverty remain only at the level of rhetoric and keynote speeches.

Lula's determination

It's the usual, male or female reader. Underdevelopment cannot be improvised, said Nelson Rodrigues, it is the work of centuries. This time, however, we have Lula. It is clear that he did not give up. He wants it because he wants to put the poor on the budget and, moreover, the rich on income tax. This insistence is natural. Brazil, as we know, is one of the countries with the most concentrated income and wealth in the world. A large part of the population lives in poverty, goes hungry, does not have adequate access to basic services such as education, health and sanitation. Meanwhile, billionaires pocket pornographic interest and escape taxation.

This is our structural national misery. Social responsibility above all, therefore! If Lula does not fight to the death to overcome this situation of poverty and injustice, he will have sponsored one of the biggest embezzlements in history.

But I say it with complete peace of mind, reader: it is clear that President Lula is determined to honor his campaign commitments. Not only the promises of 2022, but the story of a lifetime. Lula must be, if not the only one, one of the few political leaders who lived poverty and helplessness in the flesh. “All of us are cynics”, said Delfim Netto, “only Lula knows about the life of the people”. Politicians and intellectuals rant or theorize about poverty and injustice. Lula, on the other hand, lived this reality, he has the memory of the suffering of the people inscribed in his trajectory since deep childhood.

And he is in a hurry, because he knows, as an experienced politician, that time runs against the government and in favor of the forces of inertia and status quo.

Social goals - bazookas in the only war worth fighting

I return to the question that does not want to remain silent. Social goals would, in my view, be useful to focus government action. In a country like Brazil, they are as or more important than monetary and fiscal targets, considered sacrosanct by the financial market and its sidekick, the corporate media.

There is no lack of data from the social area in Brazil. It is feasible, I believe, to use known and reliable statistics to build specific quantitative goals, to be achieved within predetermined deadlines.

Minister Wellington Dias, of Social Development, recently announced that around 20 million Brazilians will be lifted out of poverty by the end of this year, reflecting the resumption of Bolsa Família and the new benefits provided for in the program. Today, the government estimate is that 62 million Brazilians live below the poverty line.

The pursuit of social responsibility has already begun. Since January, the government has taken specific measures to distribute income: the return of the minimum wage appreciation policy, the increase in the exemption limit for withholding income tax, the aforementioned resumption of Bolsa Família, among others.

Would this effort not benefit from defining and announcing quantitative social goals? Goals that the government would set itself to meet throughout its mandate, year by year, from 2023 to 2026? This is an area where leftist parties and the Lula government have experienced cadres. There would be no greater difficulty in mobilizing these specialists to carefully select a set of indicators that would guide the government's annual social goals. For example, the number of people or families with income below the poverty and misery lines, the number of households suffering from food insufficiency, schooling and literacy rates, indicators of access to health and basic sanitation, income distribution indicators, among others. others.

These goals would not be for a ministry, but for the government as a whole. At the very least, they would receive the same prominence and attention as macroeconomic targets. The announcement of social goals, after careful, public and open discussion, should be made by the President of the Republic himself, with the pomp and circumstance that the matter deserves.

What is the advantage of following procedures like these? It's a matter of common sense. The announcement, at the highest level, of a set of goals previously discussed and prepared with the help of the best specialists will help all relevant sectors of government, in collaboration with entities of society, to engage in this war against hunger, poverty and injustice.

As president Lula has repeated, this is the only war in which we are interested in participating. It is necessary to fight it with claw, tireless determination, blood in the eyes. Social goals will help beat it.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letter, on June 02, 2023.


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