michel temer Michel Temer, acting president of Brazil. Photo: Wikipedia.

On Sunday, Brazilians will protest against cuts in health, education and social policy budgets, which will affect the lives of the poorest

It is now clear for anyone to see what were the objectives behind Dilma Rouseff’s impeachment. Michel Temer’s interim government is trying to force through the senate a constitutional amendment that would freeze any government spending for 20 years. Government spending would not be allowed to increase above inflation. As Brazil’s GDP, like any other country is expected to grow, that would actually mean a relative decrease in the participation of the state. This is at a time when Brazil needs more investment in education, health and infrastructure, not less. The amendment has already been approved by the lower house under the denomination for administration reasons of PEC 241.

“In no part of the world has a 20-year austerity policy become a constitutional clause.” This is nonsense, it is the surrender of the Brazilian state to the financial market,” said the national coordinator of the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) Guilherme Boulos.

The united front Povo Sem Medo (Fearless People in Portuguese which is the equivalent to the People’s Assembly Against Austerity) have called for a national demonstration this Sunday 27 in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian Union of Secondary School Students (UBES), who have occupied over 1000 schools across the country in protest against cuts in education funding, are organising convoys to Brasilia to protest while accompanying the vote of the amendment this Tuesday (29). Over 2 thousand students have already signed up to take part and occupy Brasilia.

The amendment is being presented by the government as a necessary measure to balance the government books. It is the same story we hear in Britain, the government has spent too much and now we need to cut back. However, this doesn’t stand up to the facts. According to Boulos, “the proportion of public debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in Brazil is 77%. In the European Union, it is 90%; In the United States, 115%.”

The fiscal adjustment seeks to reverse the gap in public accounts, estimated at R$ 170 billion. However, data from the National Treasury Attorney General’s Office (PGFN) indicate that the collection of the tax debts of approximately 13 thousand individuals and corporations would raise almost R$ 900 billion to the federal government. The total outstanding debt from individual and companies who haven’t paid their taxes is R$ 1.8 trillion, close to one third of the GDP in 2015: R$ 5.9 trillion.

The organisers of the Povo Sem Medo argue that the cuts in health, education and social policy budgets will affect the lives of the poorest, while leaving the privileges of the wealthy untouched. They argue that a tax reform would be needed – reducing the burden of taxes on staples such as food, medicines and other essentials and taxing large fortunes. They are also calling for an audit on the public debt.

They have also decided to back the proposal made by Senator of the Workers’ Party for the state of Parana, Gleisi Hoffmann, to submit the amendment, if approved by the senate, to a referendum for the people to confirm or reject the constitutional amendment. Congress would then have to respect the outcome of the referendum.  

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.