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Cristovam Buarque: Worst deficit getting worse

Senator Cristovam Buarque, Ph.D. former professor and Rector of the Universidade de Brasilia. Former governor of Brasilia - Federal District - from 1995 to 1998. Former Minister of Education between 2003 and 2004. Was elected senator by the Federal District in 2002 to this date. He is a member of the Brazil Monitor Editorial Council

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By Cristovam Buarque

The National Congress is preparing to jump from the responsible approval of the ceiling in public expenditures for the irresponsible approval of the diversion of R$ 3.6 billion, with the objective of financing the electoral campaigns next year.

The National Congress is preparing to jump from the responsible approval of a ceiling in public expenditures to the irresponsible approval of the misapplication  of R$ 3.6 billion, in order to finance next year’s electoral campaigns. One day, concerned people watch the President of the Republic say that Brazil suffers the bankruptcy of public services because of lack of money; Next day, perplexed, they hear that there is money to finance a millionaire campaign: R$ 2 million for each elected – federal and state representatives, governors, president; the equivalent of R$ 30.00 paid by each voter.

By watching these two facts: lack of money for services and money left over for the elections, the people disbelieve even more their rulers, especially after suffering a public deficit of $ 159 billion in 2017. The opposition is also disbelieved when they treat the people as if they did not know that this deficit was provoked mainly by the irresponsibility of this government’s time in office.

It becomes cynicism to claim that this cost for elections is small, when we know that the money would be enough to face the difficulties of our science and technology, for example. It is also cynical to say that democracy requires these expenditures, regardless of the fact that our election campaigns are among the most expensive in the world; Or by saying that the finances will come from the funds allocated to parliamentarians, when this money is paid by the taxpayer and the funds are supposed to be directed to meet the needs of the population. Thanks to the expenditure ceiling, the people realize that the money is short and that it will be taken from them to finance the campaigns, characterizing a corruption in the priorities.

It is a shame to say that this spending is necessary to strengthen democracy: there is no democracy without politicians with credibility and there is no credibility in a Parliament whose members one day approve a necessary spending ceiling and in the next day continue to fund one of the most expensive elections without giving proper examples of austerity. Congress should determine measures that will reduce the cost of campaigns and that those campaigns be funded by the parties and by their affiliated candidates and supporters.

In addition to high campaign expenditures, the government needs to give examples: cutting politician’s wages above the already high salary cap that is 35 times higher than the minimum wage of the worker. It is necessary to determine that none of its leaders accumulate wages, such as two, three or more pensions. End subsidies for personal drivers, cooks,  servants and other personal allowances the elected officials enjoy today above their already high salaries. These are gestures that have relatively little fiscal impact, but an immense moral impact.

Brazil will not overcome its crisis if its leaders do not lead by example. But the politicians are against proper reforms, presenting a proposal for political reform that, in addition to worsening the damned current system, it diverts scarce public resources to fund election campaigns.

Worse than the fiscal deficit is the moral deficit. And this electoral reform is amplifying that shortage and compromising our democracy, rather than strengthening it.