an abandoned country

Image: ColeraAlegria


By refusing to assume responsibilities in planning and coordination to face health and economic problems, the current Federal Government exposes a raw and direct truth: that it did not and does not have any kind of project for national development.

The Brazilian Federal Government has not yet presented any proposal for general planning and coordination to confront the health problem caused by COVID-19. At the same time, Governors and Mayors try to coordinate these actions in their States and Municipalities, but the strongest link in this federative structure, precisely the Federal Government, has been and is absolutely silent until now. Its performance was limited to a few actions carried out by the Ministry of Health. Actions that the Chief Executive himself decided to boycott, as his planning-coordination proposal boils down to approving regulations for the use of medication whose effectiveness, so far, has not been proven in any country in the world.

This scenario puts on the agenda an important theme for the country: national planning and its articulations with state-metropolitan planning and municipal planning. Since the 1930th century and the beginning of the 1943th, especially since 1946, during the first Getúlio Vargas government, planning has been assumed as a central instrument to build responses to the most diverse national problems. Since then, this planning has not only been improved, but above all, it has undergone a relevant process of institutionalization in the Brazilian public administration of all federal entities. Over the decades, the most diverse and broad plans and programs were proposed, such as the Works and Equipment Plan (1946-1950), the SALTE Plan (1963-1964), the Goals Program (JK), the TRIENAL Plan ( 1967), the PAEG (1972), the TEN-YEAR Plan (1979), the PNDs (1937-1964), the National Axes of Integration and Development (FHC Government), the National Policies for Regional Development and Land Planning (Lula Government) , in addition to various institutions, from the National Economy Council (1965), to the Federal Housing and Urbanism Service (1967/XNUMX), the Ministry of the Interior (XNUMX) to the Ministries of National Integration and Cities, the latter two extinguished by the current government and reorganized into a single ministerial structure.

All these proposal-plans and institutions have a common feature, which is the fact that they were created within the scope of the federal executive. However, in Brazil, the municipal federal entity also played an important role in building knowledge about the urban-regional reality of the country. And in relation to these urban-regional issues, especially those related to urbanism, it was in the Municipality that the important process of institutionalization in public administration first took place, particularly from the 1930s onwards, with the creation of the so-called Commissions of City Plans , later transformed, many times, into Departments of Urbanism. In the federal government, it was only in the 1960s that this professional field directly related to urban-regional problems was incorporated as part of the functional and administrative structure.

At the same time, and as part of the discussions that took place on planning in Brazil, the municipalist ideology in its defense of political-economic autonomy, also contributed to this institutionalization, especially from the creation of the Brazilian Association of Municipalities (1950) and, above all, the Brazilian Institute of Municipal Administration (1952), when, more than the unrestricted defense of these two autonomies, there was much more talk of inter-municipal cooperation. This concept is even in the name adopted by the inter-American institution created in 1938 to discuss issues related to municipal interests: Organización Interamericana de Cooperación Intermunicipal, created in Havana, to which Brazilian municipalists were linked.

With the 1988 Constitution, so important in relation to several aspects, such as the creation of the SUS and the chapters on urban policy, much of the effort of articulation between the federal entities in the field of planning was lost due to a very restrictive view of municipal autonomy. At that moment, what can be called neo-municipalism was defined, which again has nothing. This post-1988 neomunicipalism is contemporary with the (re)construction of the precepts of neoliberal thought, for which everything boils down to competition, privatization, financialization and profit maximization, leaving little or no room for cooperative processes in any field of knowledge, especially in state planning. Planning is, in this context, business action to eliminate competitors and strategic urban planning, the prerogative for the salvation of Municipalities from the creation of urban images that would be commercialized in the global market. It was in this context that the municipalities assumed the fiscal war as their “planning instrument”, literally killing the programmatic principle of intermunicipal cooperation, which for many municipalists in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, could even structure planning actions regional to reorganize the production chains and reduce the strong regional imbalances that still exist in Brazil today.

By abandoning this principle of cooperation, this neo-municipalism abandoned any possibility of coordinated action, either between the municipalities of the same “geoeconomic region”, or between the States and the Federal Government. At most, what was put in place were specific actions articulating, above all, the two ends of the federation (Federal-Municipal), largely limited to the transfer of resources from the Federal entity to the Municipal entity, mainly for municipalities with economic difficulties and productive, which are the majority in Brazil. The result of this situation is the precariousness of the supply of urban services, especially in some areas, such as housing and health. And it is at this point that the current problem of COVID-19 is relevant and indicates a dramatic picture for the poorest populations and those who live in peripheral areas of large cities or in municipalities spread across the interior of Brazil.

Poverty, precarious work, housing without sanitation infrastructure (water and sewage), lack of public health policies, among many other fundamental urban services, are now factors that further dramatize the poor urban-regional situation in Brazil. To the extent that the current federal government simply does not assume its role in national planning, and is guided solely by an ultraliberal agenda structured by financial policy (based on fiscal rigidity, privatization and the reduction of social rights), very different from a proposal planning and economic policy (based on development and income distribution), COVID-19 finds perfect conditions to spread uncontrollably, as we can see daily in the press.

By refusing to assume responsibilities in planning and coordination to face health and economic problems, in this case, with a direct policy of income transfer and support to microenterprise productive chains, the current Federal Government explains a crude and direct truth, that is, that it did not and does not have any kind of project for national development. With regard to health policy, scientific denialism can only result in tragedy. A government that is limited to its ideological-cultural crusade against non-existent enemies and consumed by the idea that the solution to Brazil's problems lies in arming the population. COVID-19 could not find a more favorable environment to reproduce, collapsing the SUS (which these same ultraliberals wanted and want to privatize) and annihilating the work and income of the poor and marginalized population. The result: a country abandoned by its Federal Government, which is consumed internally, creating daily tensions and conflicts with the other powers of the Republic.

*Rodrigo Faria He is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at UnB.

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