Lula's Brazil

Here is how you lead. A wonderful long essay from Perry Anderson at the London Review of Books:

Lula's Brazil
Contrary to a well-known English dictum, stoical if self-exonerating, all political lives do not end in failure. In postwar Europe, it is enough to think of Adenauer or De Gasperi, or perhaps even more impressively, Franco. But it is true that, in democratic conditions, to be more popular at the close than at the outset of a prolonged period in office is rare. Rarer still - indeed, virtually unheard of - is for such popularity to reflect, not appeasement or moderation, but a radicalisation in government. Today, there is only one ruler in the world who can claim this achievement, the former worker who in January stepped down as president of Brazil, enjoying the approval of 80 per cent of its citizens. By any criterion, Luiz Inicio da Silva is the most successful politician of his time.

More (Cardoso was Lula's predecessor):

Under Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the public debt - nearly half of it denominated in dollars - had doubled, the current account deficit was twice the Latin American average, nominal interest rates were over 20 per cent, and the currency had lost half its value in the run-up to the election. Argentina had just declared the largest sovereign default in history, and Brazil looked - in the eyes of the financial markets - to be on the brink of the same precipice. To restore investor confidence, Lula installed an unblinkingly orthodox economic team at the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance, which hiked interest rates yet further and cut public investment, to achieve a primary fiscal surplus higher even than the figure the IMF had demanded. For citizens, prices and unemployment rose as growth fell by 50 per cent. But what was bitter medicine for militants was nectar to bond-holders: the spectre of default was banished. Growth resumed in 2004 as exports recovered.

Bitter medicine but it turned things around in a few years. More:

From the start, Lula had been committed to helping the poor. Accommodation of the rich and powerful would be necessary, but misery had to be tackled more seriously than in the past. His first attempt, a Zero Hunger scheme to assure minimum sustenance to every Brazilian, was a mismanaged fiasco. In his second year, however, consolidating various pre-existent partial schemes and expanding their coverage, he launched the programme that is now indelibly associated with him, the Bolsa Familia, a monthly cash transfer to mothers in the lowest income strata, against proof that they are sending their children to school and getting their health checked. The payments are very small - currently $12 per child, or an average $35 a month. But they are made directly by the federal government, cutting out local malversation, and now reach more than 12 million households, a quarter of the population. The effective cost of the programme is a trifle. But its political impact has been huge. This is not only because it has helped, however modestly, to reduce poverty and stimulate demand in the worst afflicted regions of the country. No less important has been the symbolic message it delivers: that the state cares for the lot of every Brazilian, no matter how wretched or downtrodden, as citizens with social rights in their country. Popular identification of Lula with this change became his most unshakeable political asset.

Yes, it's welfare but it's administered by the government, not locally and you aren't going to be able to afford a cell phone and a color TV without actually working and saving. Add to this the requirement that children go to school and that the entire family be checked for health issues fosters self-reliance and the desire for an education. Lots more at the essay -- simple plans but true leadership and his Nation and his People benefited from it. We need someone like this here...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on April 7, 2011 6:00 PM.

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