Reprinted from RT
President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker's Party (PT) was re-elected this Sunday in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB).
Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the recent World Cup hammering by Germany, the "land of football." And don't forget "vibrant democracy." Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by cliches.
"Vibrant democracy" certainly lived up to its billing in this hard-fought presidential election. Yet another cliche would rule this was the victory of "state-centric" policies against "structural reforms." Or the victory of "high social spending" against a "pro-business" approach -- which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.
Exit cliches. Enter a cherished national motto: "Brazil is not for beginners."
Indeed. Brazil's complexities boggle the mind. It starts with arguably the key, multi-layered message a divided country sent to winner Dilma Rousseff. We are part of a growing middle class. We are proud to be part of an increasingly less unequal nation. But we want social services to keep improving. We want more investment in education. We want inflation under control (at the moment, it's not). We support a very serious anti-corruption drive (here's where Dilma's Brazil meets Xi Jinping's China). And we want to keep improving on the economic success of the past decade.
Rousseff seems to get the message. The question is how she will be able to deliver -- in a continental-sized nation suffering from appalling education standards, with Brazilian manufacturing largely uncompetitive in global markets, and with corruption run amok.Those ignorant, arrogant elites
Brazil is now mired in dismal GDP growth of 0.3 percent. Just blaming the global crisis doesn't cut it; South American neighbors Peru at 3.6 percent, and Colombia with 4.8 percent are definitely going places in 2014.
And yet the numbers are not that shabby. Job creation is up. Unemployment is down to only 5.4 percent. Investment in social infrastructure is picking up. From 2002 to 2014, the minimum wage more than tripled. GDP per capita is up, reaching roughly $9,000 while the 2012 Gini coefficient of social inequality is down.
Industrial production is back to the same level before the 2008 financial crisis. Brazil paid all its debts to the IMF. The proportion of debt in relation to GDP is falling -- reaching only 33.8 percent in 2013. Workers have more purchasing power -- and even with rising inflation, that mirrors better income distribution.
Social programs have benefited 14 million families -- roughly 50 million Brazilians. These policies may arguably be derided as too little, too late Keynesianism. But at least that's a start -- in a nation exploited by immensely ignorant, arrogant and rapacious elites for centuries.
Rousseff's first stint as President may also be blamed for too many concessions to big extremely profitable banks in Brazil, powerful agribusiness interests and Big Capital. What happened, in a nutshell, is that the center-left Workers' Party swung to the center -- and was compelled to make unsavory oligarchic alliances. The result is that a significant section of its social base -- the metropolitan working class, now heavily indebted to sustain its brand new consumer dream - ended up flirting with the right as a political alternative.
Add to it the PT's not exactly brilliant management skills. True, the fight against poverty is a lofty ideal. But in such an unequal nation, that will take at least until 2030 for really serious results. Meanwhile, serious planning is in order -- such as building a high-speed railway between the two megalopolises, Rio and Sao Paulo (the Chinese would do it in a few months). And seriously tackling Brazil's oligopolies; banks, corporate media, construction/real estate conglomerates, the auto industry lobby.And the loser is...neo-liberalism
Unlike the US and Europe, neo-liberalism in Brazil has been repeatedly knocked out at the ballot box since 2002, when Lula was first elected President. As for the "social democrat" opposition, there's nothing social, and barely democratic, about it. The PSDB's pet project is turbo-neoliberalism, pure and simple.
Team Neves had everything going for them. Their key constituency was in fact 60 million mostly angry Brazilian taxpayers -- over 80 percent living and working in the wealthier southeastern seaboard. Life is tough if you are a Brazilian salaried professional or the owner of a small and medium enterprise (SME). The tax burden is on a par with the industrialized world -- but you get virtually nothing in return.
No wonder these irate taxpayers are desperate for decently paved roads, urban security, better public hospitals, a public school system they can send their children to, and less red tape and bureaucracy -- which add to the nefarious, universally known "Brazilian cost" (as in no value for money). These are not Workers' Party voters -- although some of them were. What they want is galaxies beyond the everyday tribulations of the new, large lower middle class created by the social programs first implemented by Lula.