- Date published:
9:19 am, June 21st, 2013 - 42 comments
Categories: activism, capitalism, democratic participation, Economy, education, Gerry Brownlee, health, housing, john key, local government, peak oil, poverty, privatisation, same old national, slippery, spin, sustainability - Tags: brazil
Over the last week, Brazil and Turkey have seen the spontaneous uprisings of masses of people against their governments’ divisive and destabilising economic policies. At the forefront of the protests in Brazil is the complaint that too much has been spent on expensive stadiums for international sports events, while not enough has been spent of public services such as those of education and health.
As we embark on The Long Descent of the post-peak-oil world, it was only a matter of time until the tide began to turn against the increasingly extravagant pissing-contests that international sports and other events have become. Many on the left in NZ and other countries are watching Brazil’s current protests in order to see if it is part of an emerging international rebellion against the lords of the “neoliberal” age.
The reports indicate that the middle-classes are at the centre of the Brazil uprising, motivated by rising inflation with costs outstripping, what had seemed like, rising middle-class salaries. An Associated Press report in yesterday’s NZ Herald says:
A poll of protesters attending this week’s rallies in Sao Paulo shows they are solidly middle class. Three-quarters have a university degree, half are younger than 25 and more than 80 per cent say they don’t belong to any political party, according to the survey by the respected Datafolha group.
This article claims that there is a disconnect between the protests and reality with the current Workers Party government working more for the poorest sections of Brazil society, and having raised their incomes. The article paints a picture of middle-classes that just make new demands as their insatiable desires are never satisfied by on-going improvements.
An article in France2 4 paints a different picture; one of a dysfunctional economy:
The absence of a quick fix can partly be explained by the nature of the protesters’ demands. The anger over the rise in the cost of bus tickets and the spending on preparations before the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil is set to host, has indeed shed light on the dysfunction of the country’s current economic model.
Underlying the apparent improvements in incomes for the poor and middle-classes, lies a high level of inequality and a dysfunctional economic model aiming to achieve growth in a post-growth world:
The rise in public transportation costs is part of a larger increase in the cost of living in Brazil. Prices of basic goods like tomatoes rose by as much as 90% in a year, for example. Rent has also been on the rise over the past several years, increasing by an average of 120% since 2008. “This inflation is essentially due to the increase in salaries,” Rifflart pointed out.
Consequently, the poorest Brazilians – those whose salaries have not risen – are getting poorer.
“Brazil remains one of the countries with the highest level of inequality when it comes to salary and access to social services,” noted Jérémie Gignoux, an economist at the Paris School of Economics.
If the Brazilian government succeeded in significantly lowering the poverty rate in the country, which went from 34% of the population in 2004 to 22% in 2009, authorities today are having a difficult time stopping the spiralling inflation.
The government is indeed stuck between two, somewhat conflicting priorities: the need to fight inflation and the need to stimulate the economy so that it is healthy again. Brazil’s economy, the seventh largest, grew “by only 0.9% in 2012, essentially because of low export levels,” Rifflart said – compared to an average annual growth rate of 3.6% over the past decade.
The focus on extravagant international sports events, highlights this dysfunctional economic model. Simon Jenkins in Thursday’s Guardian provides the background to the over-expensive staging of many international events, and the growing discontent among people in the UK and elsewhere.
The World Cup is an ongoing scandal run by Fifa’s unsackable boss, Sepp Blatter, on the back of ticket and television sales and soccer hysteria. […]
The Olympics are likewise sold by the IOC to star-struck national leaders as offering glory for political gain. Their purpose-built stadiums, luxurious facilities, lunatic security and lavish hospitality are senseless, yet are backed by construction and security lobbies and a chorus of chauvinist public relations. If the cost is bankruptcy, as in Montreal and Athens, too bad. The golden caravan can move on to trap some new victim.
The World Cup and the Olympics are television events that could be held at much less expense and ballyhoo in one place. As it is, host nations are deluged with promises of “legacy return” that everyone knows are rubbish. Costs escalate to an extent that would see most managers in handcuffs, but gain bonuses and knighthoods for Olympic organisers.
Sport is not alone in this addiction to the jamboree. The London Olympics last year morphed into politics, as diplomacy, culture and trade were conflated in an outpouring of nonsensical rhetoric about £13bn in contracts. A summit used to be a meeting ad hoc to resolve a crisis in world affairs. It is now a Field of Cloth of Gold, a continuous round of hospitality, rest and recuperation, flattering the vanity of world leaders.
This week’s G8 shindig in Northern Ireland was pointless – a night and two days on a bleak Irish lough at a cost to taxpayer of £60m and a deployment of 1,000 policemen per delegate.
In New Zealand, we have seen Gerry Brownlee and John Key foregrounding the building of a new sports stadium, resulting in conflict between them and the city council over funding. Key and Brownlee favour selling public assets to pay for it. Meanwhile, the urgent need to deal with inadequate housing, and the much needed rebuilding of homes, gets lower priority.
John Key’s government is one of weetbix and circuses: a way of diverting from inequalities an poverty, and a dysfunctional economic model. And many in the MSM play along with inhumane circuses and distractions, as Queen of Thorns shows in her review of the Vote‘s poverty & parenting debate.