"We need to do some serious spring cleaning in government"
In the last few months, we have had a series of political scandals. We get the feeling that our politicians only care about the Brazilian people during elections. Even worse, it’s always the same ones who keep popping up in the headlines: the current president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, had resigned in 2007 after a corruption scandal, but was re-elected in 2013. The president of the Congressional Commission on the Constitution, Justice, and Citizenship, José Genoino, was previously involved in one of the biggest political scandals of the last decade in Brazil. There are dozens of examples like these.Conflicts of interest are also very common: the best example is that of Blairo Maggi, an agro-industrial entrepreneur who won Greenpeace’s Golden Chainsaw “award” in 2006 for his role in destroying the Amazon forest, and who serves as the president of the environmental committee in the Brazilian Senate. If you add into the mix a set of ridiculous pending laws, like PEC 37, which would limit investigations of government officials, you can understand why Brazilians are getting really tired of always seeing the same corrupt politicians. We need to do some serious spring cleaning.
“We don’t understand what the government is doing with public funds”
Brazil’s public transit system is in a pitiful state. In the 1960s, the government started large projects to modernise the road network. Unfortunately, they didn’t build enough new rail lines or aquatic transportation systems, which is the reason why a number of regions have been slow to develop. There are six subway systems in Brazil [in Rio, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Terersina, Porto Alegre, and Sao Paulo] but they are always jam-packed. Brazil is paying for its lack of infrastructural investment, which is directly reflected in the price of products.In this context, we feel that the construction projects for the World Cup stadiums are absurd. Stadiums were built in Brasilia, Cuiaba, and Manaus, cities that lack professional football teams able to pay for maintenance of these structures in the future. We really don’t understand why such enormous sums are allocated to the World Cup and not to modernise our public transit, health, or education systems [the World Cup is said to be costing the Brazilian state 11 billion euros, which is 163% more than the initial forecast].
“Real estate prices have quadrupled”
The day after the World Cup and Olympic Games were awarded to Brazil, the price of real estate went through the roof. People used to pay 1,200 reals (412€) per month for a 40 m2 apartment in Ipanema, a wealthy neighbourhood of Rio. Now, it costs 5,000 reals (1,719€). These days, even a shack is out of reach for most people. We’re matching European prices now.Real estate agencies that rent out these apartments now only look for Europeans living in Brazil or who are planning to come here for business for the World Cup and the Olympic Games. Because of these games, Brazil has been seeing a gentrification process: many of my friends can no longer afford to live in formerly middle class neighbourhoods and must find places to live further out in the suburbs.
“Inflation has caused the cost of living to skyrocket”
The costs of utilities and food have increased since the end of last year. The best example may be that of the tomato, which increased by 300%. In fact, we have many Italian restaurants that removed all tomato-based dishes from their menus.[Editor’s Note: relative to last year, overall inflation in Brazil was a little over 5%]. Although our nominal growth rates are still positive, they’ve come crashing down [from 7.5% in 2010 to 0.9% in 2012, and with 2.7% forecast for 2013]. We are concerned that Brazil is lagging behind other large emerging economies like India and China.We feel like we are paying more than we should be. And the bus system is, in a sense, a symbol of this feeling, with buses falling apart but increasingly expensive to ride. Each time I get into one, I get the feeling I’m a cow being brought to slaughter![To demonstrate the very real impact of the tariff hike (from 3 reals, or 1€, to 3.20 reals, or 1.10€), our Observer Erika calculated that with an average monthly salary of 678 reals (232€), and an average of 20 bus trips per month, her transportation costs are 128 reals (43€) per month, which comes out to nearly 20% of her salary!]
“Our public health and educational systems are catastrophically bad”
In Brazil, those who have private insurance will have their medical needs met, though they often have to subscribe to two or three policies to be entirely covered! Those who don’t have a lot of money, though, have to go to public hospitals. These hospitals are poorly equipped, but even worse, there are waiting lists to get through before even being able to get an appointment! [In January 2013, the Sao Paulo public health network had 661,000 outstanding requests for health care appointments]. We have enough doctors, but the conditions they have to work in are so bad that the government imports foreign ones, who mainly come from Cuba and agree to work under these dire conditions [on May 6, Dilma Rousseff announced that the Brazilian government would hire 6,000 Cuban doctors for the suburbs of major cities]. They don't undergo any exam to see if they're competent before they start working here!Public education is also sub-standard: many children don’t go to school because there just isn’t enough space for them in state schools [in 2012, 20% of children between the ages of four and five could not enrol in kindergarten due to space constraints]. Just like with doctors, there just aren’t enough teachers because salaries are too low [a Brazilian schoolteacher makes an average of about 1,000 reals (345€) per month].