Brazil’s poorest citizens have received an increase in welfare benefits. President Dilma Rousseff announced her government would establish a national minimum wage and grant a 10 percent increase for a popular program known as bolsa familia.
President Rousseff made a televised speech during the country’s May Day celebrations. She announced the establishment of a national minimum wage and a 10 percent increase to the bolsa familia program. President Rousseff went on to defend her Worker’s Party’s consecutive 11 years in office. Her goal is to continue making the necessary changes to improve the lives of Brazilians and repay a great debt owed to the country’s poorest workers.
The bolsa familia is the flagship program of Brazil’s Worker’s Party. Since 2003, the government welfare system has helped an estimated 40 million people out of poverty. Families with school aged children receive vaccinations and up to $63 a month per child. A 10 percent increase would be four percent more than the annual rate of inflation.
Analysts have called bosla familia the government’s most important program. It is highly popular among the nation’s poor.
Presidential candidate Aécio Neves of Brazil’s center-right PSDB party, said it was lamentable that President Rousseff would make such an announcement during an election year. He called her speech nothing more than a political tactic meant to garner votes for the upcoming October election. When Brazil’s election season begins in August, announcements such as welfare increases and establishing a minimum wage cannot be aired over government controlled airwaves.
President Rousseff and Bises Neves will run against Socialist Party member Eduardo Campos, a former member of the governing coalition. Campos and Neves share similar political views. With Brazil having the largest population in South America, many Brazilians have complained about the lackluster growth of the economy.
Inflation remains rampant. The performance of the state run oil company Petrobra has not given a significant return of its investment. The number Brazil’s urban slums known as favela have increased as have their populations.
Doubts have arisen about President Rousseff’s government being able to adequately host the upcoming FIFA World Cup that starts in June and the 2016 Olympics. The government announcement that Brazil’s poorest citizens have received a welfare increase to the bolsa familia program and the establishment of a minimum wage gives the air of a political bribe granted to Brazil’s working poor.
President Rousseff remained the clear favorite despite an April poll showing her support had diminished to 37 percent, a drop of 6.7 percent among likely voters. That places her well below the required 50 percent needed to avoid a November runoff.
Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, a political analyst at the Eurasia Group, said it was unclear if the establishment of a minimum wage and increases to the bosla familia program will have any significant fiscal impact. Would these policies be implemented a year ago? He doubted they would. Neves believes the government wants to refrane and repackage everything they have done. With the Brazilian campaign soon to begin, President Rousseff will have some electoral accomplishments to present on the campaign trail.
Bread and circus have always proven popular handouts to the people. President Rousseff hopes Brazil’s poorest citizens will go to the voting booths remembering her Worker’s Party established a national minimum wage and increased the bolsa familia program by 10 percent.
By Brian T. Yates