Recently, President Jair Bolsonaro issued Provisional Measure No. 1.061, which institutes the Programa Auxílio Brasil, replacing the Bolsa Família program, currently under consideration by the National Congress.
Provisional measures have the force of law and are therefore immediately applicable. Members are valid for 60 days and Congress has 45 days for review and approval.
It is essential that Brazilian society is attentive to this discussion and aware of the changes that will be brought about by its eventual approval, either in its entirety or with changes.
End of the Bolsa Familia
Bolsa Família is Brazil’s most important income distribution program, with remarkable results, as it has lifted millions of families out of poverty and extreme poverty.
Brazil is going through its most important political, economic and social crisis. Unemployment, debt, food insecurity, economic stagnation and widening inequalities add to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is in this scenario that the current government proposes, without any discussion or consultation with civil society, the end of the Bolsa Família, imposing through a deputy a program that is more akin to an obstacle course. .
The changes are numerous and will have a profound impact.
The absence of definition of the values draws attention to the reading of the PM. We do not know which income bracket defines poverty and extreme poverty, we do not know the value of any of the aids offered and it is difficult to know what will happen to the families who are already part of the Bolsa Família.
The first major change concerns the way in which extreme poverty is calculated.
In Bolsa Família, extreme poverty was defined as a per capita income of up to R $ 89 per month. Families in these conditions were entitled to a basic allowance amounting to R $ 89, plus variable allowances paid according to the number of persons belonging to the family unit meeting the criteria.
At Auxílio Brasil, the calculation is different.
The member instituted several types of assistance, with different conditions, which are added when families meet the criteria. The main ones are: the early childhood allowance, the family composition allowance and the allowance to overcome extreme poverty.
The latter deserves our attention. According to the deputy, the aid will be granted to families whose per capita income, calculated after adding the allowances for early childhood and family composition, is equal to or lower than the extreme poverty line – which is not defined.
This is a significant reversal, which could deprive many families on the threshold of extreme poverty and poverty from the right to a significant portion of the benefit, thereby reducing the amount they will receive.
It is not by chance that a transitional compensatory allowance is planned, which will be “gradually” reduced, to be paid to families benefiting from Bolsa Família who could see their allowances reduced by the new rules.
Brazil Aid also consists of five other conditionalities, the difficulties imposed on beneficiaries of which go beyond compulsory schooling and compulsory monitoring of children’s health by the SUS (Unified Health System).
Among them we have the Sports School Aid, intended for adolescents aged 12 to 17 who stand out in the official competitions of Brazilian school games, and the Junior Scientific Initiation Scholarship, for those who stand out in scientific competitions. national policies related to basic education.
Both are aids that make adolescents responsible for their family income, rather than focusing on their guarantee of a fundamental right: education.
The other aid, called Child Citizen Aid, embodies an old proposal from the Brazilian neoliberal right: the crèche voucher.
It will be given in preference to single-parent families, whose guardians can prove income and there is no vacant place in a public or private nursery under agreement. The assistance will be intended for the partial or total cost of the monthly fees of the daycare centers associated with the program.
Admittedly, the granting of aid does not legally exempt the State from offering places in crèches, but it certainly allows the problem to be postponed and prevents, at least in the medium term, the construction of new childcare units. childhood and the hiring of teachers and education professionals, costs that the defining logic of the current configuration of the public budget does not allow.
In the long run, this creates a political culture that liberates the state and perversely transfers responsibility to the family. Early childhood education turned into a gift.
Two other aids, Rural Productive Inclusion and Urban Productive Inclusion, are presented as an incentive for production and inclusion in the formal labor market.
The first is intended for family farmers who must, in return, donate part of their production, “corresponding to part of the annual amount received”, to families in a situation of social vulnerability.
As for other aid, the amount of this contribution is not clear, just as the criterion of social vulnerability is not clear: would the families benefiting from Auxílio Brasil not be in a situation of social vulnerability?
Urban productive inclusion will be granted to beneficiaries who prove a formal working relationship. The member does not define what a formal working relationship would be. We assume that this is work with a formal contract and we question whether the paid activities of self-employed professionals and contractors will also be covered.
Lack of clarity and decline in income redistribution policy
It is not clear how the beneficiaries will be integrated into the labor market. The benefit treats unemployment as a matter of will, as if all it takes is will and effort to enter the formal labor market.
The program also aims to encourage microcredit. Its beneficiaries will be able to grant loans deductible from salaries with a discount of up to 30% of the value of their service, granted by the Union in favor of financial institutions that offer microloans.
We only know that the implementation and definition of rules and deadlines will be the responsibility of the Department of Citizenship. This is a reckless and two-sided initiative: while it promotes credit to low-income families, it also opens up an opportunity for financial institutions to make a profit with a part of the population hitherto excluded from the market.
How many families will be able to integrate and meet all the conditions to maintain an income close to that guaranteed by Bolsa Família?
At Auxílio Brasil, you have to be much more than a citizen, you have to deserve it, prove that you are ready to “emancipate” yourself and overcome all the obstacles imposed by an income program that accepts and reproduces the structural inequality that defines the life opportunities of Brazilians.
It is based on the principle of neoliberal competition, on individual merit, and holds adolescents responsible for maintaining family income. Nothing could be further from the principles of citizen income that gave birth to Bolsa Família.
A descent, a setback which, if not stopped, may have no return.