Lula +10: results and evolution of “Lulism”

2013-04-10 13.48.15

On 10th of April 2013, a little more than 10 years after Luis Inacio Lula da Silva took office in Brazil, the Norwegian-Latin America Research Network of the University of Oslo (NORLarNet), in collaboration with the Brazilian-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce (BNCC), organized a meeting on the subject “Lula +10”. Prof. André Singer, former spokesperson of the Lula government and current lecturer at the University of São Paulo, was invited to present the policies, results and evolution of “Lulism”. The participation of other experts, as well as the interactive structure of the seminar, gave interesting insights from different perspectives.

Amongst the main structural policies of Lula’s government, prof. André Singer mentioned the Bolsa Familia (a direct cash transfer programme), the expansion of credit for the low-income strata, a 75% raise of the minimum wage and a reduction of unemployment through job generation and regularization, as well as low-income housing programmes. All this contributed to significant decrease of poverty, mainly of the extreme poverty. Brazil specialist Torkjell Leira added that measures concerning rain forest and environment protection have led to a reduction by 80% of deforestation in Brazil, resulting in a significant decrease of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However, Prof. Singer mentioned that, despite the programmes and progress that can be observed, Brazil is still one of the most unequal countries in the world (as measured on the Gini-Index), that crossing the threshold of extreme poverty does not necessarily result in the full improvement of a person’s situation, with lack of sewage, persistence of organized crime and continued proliferation of jobs in the domestic work sector being proofs of this. Torkjell Leira also stressed that this increase in purchasing power also has a downside: it leads to an intensification of consumption that will be environmentally harmful and may not be sustainable.

These two sides of the story of Brazil’s progress show the importance of balance and compromise in the Lula government. In order to maintain political peace and consensus, the Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista – PT) made a choice in favour of “gradual reformism”, rather than what Prof. Singer calls “strong reformism”. This pragmatic approach explains, for example, the slow rate of reduction of the Gini-Index. The consequences were similar for other problem areas, be they social, economic or environmental, according to Prof. Singer.

The non-confrontation that characterized Lula’s government is directly linked to a “developmentalist attempt”. “The convergence of interests of the private industry sector on one side, and of the organized labor force on the other, led to the stability that allowed this political system to take the form of a sort of consensus”, said Prof. Singer. It was this equilibrium that allowed the government to gradually make the most significant changes in policy. Non-confrontation principles are, in the Lulism movement, a “sine qua non” condition for development.

More recently, a coalition of financial capital interests has been seen to distance themselves from this agreement of non-confrontation. “A campaign is currently being led in order to show that we are in an interventionist government, which is currently trying to control the market”. International press such as The Economist and The Financial Times are through their articles on Brazilian economy and politics indirectly strengthening this movement towards discrediting Dilma’s government and her capacity to run the country. The undeniable fact is however that there has been a reduction in public investment, an offensive aiming to reduce labor rights and a disappointing economic growth for 2012.

The view of the current political situation seems to be quite unanimous: President Dilma Rousseff should be re-elected with relative ease in the upcoming elections of 2014. She currently polls 48% support of the voters, which is the same she managed in 2010, showing a high voter-retention level. If the setting of growth with low inflation levels, high level of employment and income expansion, continue to combine with world growth and the United States’ economic recovery, this re-election should take place without the need for a second round, according to Prof. Singer.