Bolsonaro cut economic aid to the poor in Brazil

Bolsonaro cut economic aid to the poor in Brazil

With the start of the new year, the Brazilian government has drastically cut the subsidies to poor families it had started distributing during the pandemic, risking to leave 68 million people in poverty

(photo: EVARISTO SA / AFP via Getty Images) After the latest contributions paid on December 29, the government of President Jair Bolsonaro has cut emergency economic aid for the poorest families in Brazil. In 2021, nearly 68 million citizens will risk poverty, being deprived of the minimum state support that was guaranteed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Extreme poverty was on the rise in Brazil even before the coronavirus: the populist government of Bolsonaro which had begun to make access to the Bolsa Família increasingly difficult, a social welfare program launched by the progressive presidency of Ignacio Lula Da Silva in the early 2000s. Last March, almost one million families Brazilians were still on the waiting list to receive these state subsidies.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, however, the government had gradually begun to expand the program. After the initial proposal by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes to spend 5 billion Brazilian reais (about 1 billion dollars), or just 0.2% of the budget, to fight the coronavirus, the Brazilian Congress has started to gain momentum. towards a sort of citizenship income for the less well off.

Thus, by March, the government had begun to distribute new monthly subsidies of 600 reais (1200 for single mothers) to 68 million Brazilians, a third of the country's population. Last September, however, the government halved this benefit, called auxílio emergencial (emergency aid), extending it until the end of 2020.

Brazil's fiscal response to the pandemic, of more than 8% of its GDP, was one of the highest among the G20 countries, as reported by The Economist, which amounts to double the emerging market average . Bolsonaro's approval ratings have risen, allowing him to forge new political alliances. To allow the government to circumvent the spending ceiling set by the Constitution, however, the Brazilian Congress had to declare a state of calamity. The end of this condition on December 31 last year therefore also brought about the end of auxilia: with the public debt now close to 100% of GDP, the Bolsonaro executive seems determined to reduce social spending back to pre-pandemic levels.

It is not the first time that the president exploits the desperation of the “ignorant wretches” of the Bolsa Família (as he himself defined) to obtain consensus. During his election campaign, for example, Bolsonaro promised a "thirteenth" for those who received subsidies, only to completely disregard the commitment once elected.

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