(Opinion) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s third term as President of the Republic completes a week this Sunday (Jan. 8) with a series of setbacks that have alerted the investor market, taxpayers, and ordinary citizens.
In the first few strokes, Lula revoked Jair Bolsonaro‘s decrees, bringing insecurity to important areas of the country, such as sanitation, which directly affected the lives of the poorest population.
The PT also canceled privatizations, undid structures that had good results in education, restricted access to weapons – even with the decrease in the number of homicides in Brazil in recent years – and bet on measures that increase public spending and burden companies and the population.
Check out 13 disastrous measures taken by the Lula da Silva government this first week:
1. CHANGE IN THE SANITATION FRAMEWORK
Lula government measure: The National Water and Sanitation Agency (ANA) became linked to two different ministries (Environment and Cities) and lost its role of editing reference standards for water, sewage and waste services, going against the framework sanitation legislation enacted in July 2020.
Before taking office, the chief minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, said that the legislation would have stopped works in the area and, therefore, would undergo revision.
According to him, all changes would be made in dialogue with the private sector and state public companies, responsible for more than 85% of Brazilian sanitation, which did not happen.
Why it’s bad: The new situation has generated legal uncertainty, with the fear of setbacks, since the legal framework for sanitation is based on the role of ANA as a regulator of the sector.
The Brazilian energy market fears that inefficient state-owned companies will continue to operate for a long time without a device to ensure that companies and municipalities operate efficiently and meet universalization targets in the next decade.
The legal framework for sanitation stimulated competition in the market for sewage collection and treatment and the supply of drinking water by prohibiting, for example, hiring state-owned companies without bidding by the municipalities.
The device also established sanitation targets, with at least 99% of the population having a water supply by 2033 and 90% of households having access to sewage collection and treatment by the end of the period.
2. PT PARTY MINISTRY OF TRUTH
Lula da Silva government measure: On the first day of the government, two decrees created bodies in the Union that remind us of the Ministry of Truth from the book “1984”, by George Orwell.
The National Prosecutor’s Office of the Union for the Defense of Democracy, created within the General Advocacy of the Union (AGU), makes judicial representatives available to any member of public power in cases involving “disinformation”.
The Department for the Promotion of Freedom of Expression, inaugurated at the Secretariat for Social Communication (Secom) of the Presidency of the Republic, intends to “propose and articulate public policies to promote freedom of expression, access to information and to confront disinformation and the discourse of hate on the Internet, in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and Public Security”.
In a note to Gazeta do Povo, the AGU stated that “under no circumstances” will the Office of the Attorney General “restrict opinions, criticisms or act contrary to the public freedoms enshrined in the Federal Constitution”. of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) on the subject.” Secom did not respond to requests for clarification made by the report.
Why it’s bad: Both devices should also facilitate censorship processes in the country by the Executive.
A jurist interviewed by Gazeta do Povo about the new Public Prosecutor’s Office assesses that “on the pretext of defending democracy, what you will have is a body directly dedicated to the search for conformation of discourses. They will decide what is or is not defensible in a democracy”.
Regarding the Department, the adoption of subjective terms such as “disinformation” and “hate speech” in government decrees is a worrying sign of censorship, in the expert’s assessment. “When I use ‘hate speech’, I avoid saying which laws were violated, which legal limit was exceeded”, he explains.
3. USE OF NEUTRAL LANGUAGE
Lula da Silva government measure: The abolition of endings indicative of female and male gender in words, which would express sexism and discrimination, is one of the left agendas encouraged by the PT and already adopted by ministers of the new government.
At least six of them used so-called neutral language, championed by LGBT activists and criticized by experts, during the inauguration ceremony.
“All, all and all” were greetings adopted by the finance ministers, Fernando Haddad; the General Secretariat of Government, Márcio Macêdo; of Culture, Margareth Menezes; of Women, Cida Gonçalves; of Institutional Relations, Alexandre Padilha, and from Human Rights and Citizenship, Silvio Almeida.
Why it’s bad: In addition to compromising the Portuguese language, adopting a neutral gender is a way of imposing the leftist identity and ideological agenda on the entire population.
4. END OF THE LITERACY SECRETARIAT
Lula government measure: Extinction of the Literacy Secretariat (Sealf), created in Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
“There’s no point in maintaining a structure that doesn’t bring effective results because it’s outside the systemic vision that we want for education, as Sealf was. Brazilian literacy has regressed absurdly in recent years”, justified the Minister of Education, Camilo Santana, via Twitter.
Why it’s bad: The National Literacy Policy (PNA) promoted by the extinct Sealf achieved good results, recognized by the OECD.
In 2017, after almost a decade and a half of the PT in the Presidency, 33% of students in the 5th year of elementary school had poor writing and reading levels in Brazil.
5. MORE MINISTRIES
Lula da Silva government measure: Lula da Silva created new ministries, going from 23 in the Bolsonaro government to a total of 37, which represents an increase of 60%. Among the folders created or reactivated are Ports, Native Peoples, and Racial Equality.
The government claims that there will be no increase in costs. “The delegation that the president gave me was expanded to 37 ministries without increasing the number of positions and without increasing the costs with that. Despite some doubting this, we managed to do it.
We have the good news that it has already been concluded, and it has already been done, without creating positions, except, because the law requires it, in the positions of ministers”, declared Rui Costa, in December.
Why it’s bad: Although there is concern about the increase in expenses (since each ministry needs physical space, inputs, and employees and a minister’s salary, legally, is higher than that of a head of the secretariat), the creation of new ministries also impacts management efficiency.
According to experts, the government tends to become more bureaucratic with the increase in folders.
6. UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE OECD
The measure of the Lula da Silva government: By means of a decree, extinguished the Special Secretariat for External Relations in the Civil House, which coordinated work at the Planalto Palace for Brazil’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
As a result, there is uncertainty about the continuity of the process, which began in January 2022, when the OECD accepted Brazil’s candidacy. In Argentina, for example, Alberto Fernández never withdrew the request made by the previous government, but he did not take steps for the country to join the Organization.
Last year, Celso Amorim, now Lula da Silva’s special advisor, had already said that “there are no great benefits in joining the OECD. We have to look at this very carefully.” And a few days before the inauguration, Fernando Haddad stated that Lula da Silva would revisit Brazil’s accession process in January.
Gazeta do Povo sought the Civil House to find out how the process is progressing, but did not receive a response until the closing of this report.
Why it’s bad: Among the advantages of joining the group, comprised of 38 countries that share good international practices, is attracting resources to Brazil.
“Many investment funds, pension funds, sovereign funds have statutes that oblige them to invest only in investment grade countries or OECD. It is money in energy, sanitation, transport that we cannot attract”, analyzes journalist Daniel Rittner.
7. DENIALISM IN SOCIAL SECURITY
Lula da Silva government measure: Upon taking office, the new Minister Carlos Lupi said he did not believe in the Social Security deficit and attacked the reform approved in 2019.
For him, there is no reason to tighten retirement and pension rules since there would be no deficit between contributions made and benefits paid. “Social security is not deficient. I will prove it with numbers, data and information,” he said Tuesday.
To Gazeta do Povo, Lupi’s advisory stated that they are “revising the numbers and, for the time being, the minister will not speak on the subject”.
Why it’s bad: According to data released by the government itself, in 2021, Social Security recorded a deficit of R$262 (US$50) billion. The number rises to R$361 billion annually if civil servants and the military are added.
The 2023 Budget proposal foresees a social security deficit in the same range of around R$370 billion.
Denying Social Security numbers is dangerous for the country since the portfolio is primarily responsible for the negative budget balance (Fernando Haddad’s management at the Treasury has spoken of seeking a deficit lower than the R$230 billion forecast in the 2023 Budget).
“Predictability and security are important for the financial market. The idea is that predictability and a goal that is achievable provide the path we will pursue. We do not intend to run the deficit that is foreseen. It has to be less than that,” said the executive secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Gabriel Galípolo, on Tuesday (Jan. 3).
8. CANCELED PRIVATIZATIONS
Measure by the Lula da Silva government: Through an order published on Monday (Jan. 2), Lula determined that the new ministers take measures to interrupt the privatization processes of eight state-owned companies.
The list includes Petrobras, the Post Office, and Empresa Brasil de Comunicação.
Why it is bad: Shortly after the ruling, the top five state-owned companies listed on B3 (Brazil’s stock exchange) together lost nearly R$32 billion in market value. Petrobras shares fell more than 6%.
The stampede of investors reflects the insecurity created by the federal government’s measure.
9. FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY
Measure taken by the Lula da Silva government: During his inauguration, Lula da Silva described the spending cap as “stupidity”, promising to overthrow the country’s fiscal anchor.
Why it’s bad: Together with the scenario of uncertainties created by the repeal of laws and privatizations, fiscal fears have left investors alert in relation to Brazil.
The main indicator of the Brazilian Stock Exchange, Ibovespa fell close to 4% in the first three trading sessions of the year.
The dollar appreciated 3% against the real, going to R$5.45.
The Interbank Deposit Contract (CDI), which works as a thermometer for interest rates, rose from 13.41% at the turn of the year to 13.75% last Wednesday (Jan. 4).
In addition, the government runs the risk of running out of resources to support campaign promises, such as raising the minimum wage.
10. ENCUMBRANCE OF LARGE COMPANIES
Lula da Silva government measure: Among the first measures signed by Lula da Silva is the revocation of a decree by Bolsonaro that reduced by 50% the collection of PIS and Cofins for companies that opt for the non-cumulative regime.
Lula da Silva also revoked a December decree that extended incentives granted by the Program to Support the Technological Development of the Semiconductor Industry (PADIs).
Why it’s bad: By burdening large companies, Lula da Silva shows that those who will foot the bill for increased public spending are taxpayers. Another consequence is the higher cost of living, burdening Brazilian citizens.
“Lula da Silva, without a doubt, could use other alternatives to have resources to invest in social programs, even in the long term.”
“The administrative reform, for example, which would end high-ranking public sectors privileges such as premium leave and 60-day vacations, could save around R$330 billion (considering the Union, states and municipalities) in ten years”, the columnist for Gazeta do Povo Paulo Uebel analyses.
11. RESTRICTION OF ACCESS TO WEAPONS
Lula da Silva government measure: By means of a decree, Lula restricted access to weapons and ammunition, suspending the registration of new weapons for restricted use by hunters, shooters, and collectors (CACs).
The objective would be the need to increase the safety of the population.
Why it’s bad: According to data from the 2022 Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, there has been a reduction in the number of homicides in the last decade, while the total number of guns registered by civilians in Brazil has grown in the period.
Furthermore, in a referendum in 2005, 63% of the population favored the arms trade in the country.
12. THREAT OF ABORTION
Lula da Silva government measure: The Minister of Women, Aparecida Gonçalves, declared that “abortion is a public health issue” for the new government, stating that “whatever is possible to advance, we will advance”.
Why it’s bad: Although the government foresees difficulties with the advancement of the abortion agenda in Congress, Lula da Silva will nominate two new ministers of the STF in 2023, demonstrating a Court even more activist than the current one.
Although the two Justices on the verge of retirement were nominated by PT presidents (Rosa Weber was nominated by Dilma Rousseff, in 2011, and Ricardo Lewandowski, by Lula, in 2006), Lewandowski, voted against abortion in case of anencephaly, in 2012.
According to specialists interviewed by Gazeta do Povo, the tendency is for new appointments to the STF to take a less conservative position on issues dear to the population, such as abortion, gender ideology and decriminalization of drugs.
13. CONFUSION WITH BILINGUAL EDUCATION
Lula government measure: The government decreed the end of the Bilingual Education Policy Board for the Deaf (Dipebs), created in 2019, within the Ministry of Education (MEC).
The agenda was headed by Michelle Bolsonaro.
Why it’s bad: Opposition parliamentarians and entities defending deaf people criticized the measure, recalling that, during the campaign, Lula da Silva had signed a term of commitment agreeing with the maintenance of the Board of Directors in the MEC.
After the negative repercussions, the government backtracked on Thursday (5th).
It said Dipebs would form part of the Secretariat for Continuing Education, Youth and Adult Literacy, Diversity and Inclusion (Secadi), reactivated by Lula da Silva.
Gazeta do Povo contacted the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Civil House, the Treasury, and the MEC but did not receive a response until the closing of this text.
*Journalist and Master in Communication from the State University of Londrina. She worked as a reporter for Jornal de Londrina (JL), was a correspondent for Gazeta do Povo in Northern Paraná, and a reporter for Vida e Cidadania in Curitiba.
After six and a half years working in the corporate communication area, including people and contract management, she returned to the newsroom of Gazeta do Povo in February 2022, in the Mundo section. She is currently the editor of Ideas.
With information from Gazeta do Povo