President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), who is currently trying to pass a controversial social benefits package worth an estimated R$41 billion in Congress, was the only federal deputy to vote against the creation of the Fund to Combat and Eradicate Poverty in December 2019. 2000, when he was serving in the Chamber.
On that occasion, Congress approved R$ 2.3 billion (equivalent to almost R$ 9 billion in values adjusted by the IPCA) for the new fund, of which R$ 1 billion for sanitation actions and R$ 1.3 billion for programs of income transfer, in particular Bolsa Escola, a precursor to Bolsa Família that transferred resources to poor families who kept children in school.
In a speech to the plenary during the vote, Bolsonaro said he was proud of his vote. According to him, the proposal was clientelistic and raised taxes. The main source of funds for the fund came from the increase from 0.30% to 0.38% in the rate of the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions (CPMF), a tax that ceased to exist in 2008.
“I am proud to have voted against the Fund to Combat and Eradicate Poverty. I am very proud, because it is a fund that increases taxes, increases the CPMF, increases the IPI [Imposto sobre Produtos Industrializados]. We know that, unfortunately, this money will not have a certain destination, the criterion of clientelism will be used, just as the criterion of demagoguery was used, by the author of the proposal, to be able to approve it”, said the then deputy.
Next, Bolsonaro defended as a policy to combat hunger the birth control of the poor population, that is, that this social group should have fewer children.
“Fighting hunger and poverty requires a strict birth control policy. Otherwise, everything we are doing will not achieve our objective. So, I would even approve this proposal if it had come together with a birth control policy.” , because we are, in fact, encouraging the poor to have more and more children, especially now that they are aware that a large part or all of this money will have to be used in the Bolsa Escola program”, he criticized.
“In other words, I want to be a breeder. The more children I have, the more minimum wage I will earn”, he added.
Contacted by BBC News Brasil for comment, Palácio do Planalto did not respond until the publication of this report.
Subsequently, Bolsa Escola gave way to Bolsa Família, an income transfer program created in 2004 during the first government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT). In the following years, Bolsonaro maintained criticism of this type of social benefit and even defended its end.
“We must discuss the issue of Bolsa Família here. We must put an end, a transition to Bolsa Família, because, more and more, poor, ignorant people, when receiving Bolsa Família, become PT’s halter voters”, he said in 2011, in another speech in the House floor.
As president, Bolsonaro decided to replace Bolsa Família (whose average benefit in 2021 was less than R$200) with a larger social program, Auxílio Brasil, which pays benefits of R$400.
Now, less than three months before the election, his government provisionally increases (until December) the amount of aid, after approval in the Chamber of Deputies this Wednesday (13/7), from R$400 to R$600. It also creates an aid for the purchase of fuel by self-employed truck drivers of R$ 1 thousand and expands the benefit for the purchase of cooking gas, among other measures. After the proposed amendment to the Constitution (PEC) is approved by the Senate and the House, it will proceed to promulgation.
Due to his history of opposition to cash transfer programs, critics of Bolsonaro accuse him of having created Auxílio Brasil to try to reverse the decline in his popularity and say that the new social package would be a desperate measure for him to try to get re-elected.
The president and members of his government and support base deny that this is a proposal aimed at the election and say it is an urgent measure to alleviate the effects of negative impacts on the economy on the lives of the population.
Today, Bolsonaro appears in second place in the polls of voting intentions, at a considerable distance from the leader of these surveys, former president Lula.
Another controversial point of the package proposed by the government is the fact that it includes the amendment of the Federal Constitution to institute a state of emergency in the country, due to the soaring of fuel prices. In the view of experts heard by BBC News Brasil, this measure serves to circumvent the electoral law, which prohibits the creation of new social benefits before the election.
The government, on the other hand, claims that the situation is an emergency, due to the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on international fuel prices.
“If nothing were done to alleviate Brazilians from the impacts of the ‘stay at home that the economy will see later’ and the war, the left and the press would complain of omission. As we are doing, they complain about the electoral (character) The worse it is for the people, the better for promoting themselves,” Bolsonaro said in early July.
Despite the criticism that the package has suffered, the proposal received broad support in Congress, including votes from the PT, the largest opposition party.
“@ptbrasil and the opposition are in solidarity with the Brazilian population, and could never be omitted in this serious moment when hunger affects 33 million people and more than 100 million in food insecurity. The vote in favor of PEC Kamikaze means an act of humanity and solidarity”, justified the deputy José Guimarães (PT-CE).
The party that ruled the country from 2003 to 2016, the PT has also been criticized for changing its position when it was in charge of the Palácio do Planalto and in the opposition. One such case was the party’s position on Pension Reform.
The then president Dilma Rousseff (PT) even defended the need for reform in January 2016, a few months before being impeached, but her party was against the revision of the Social Security rules proposed by the Michel Temer government (2016-2018) and approved in the Bolsonaro government.
Guedes defends spending
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, in turn, responded to criticism about the impact of the package on public accounts. According to him, as government revenue has been a positive surprise, there is surplus revenue to pay for the new social benefits.
“This year’s fiscal results will not be impacted. We are passing on excess collections, we are passing on the extraordinary results of dividends from state-owned companies. We are sharing with the population”, said Guedes on Tuesday (12/7), by participating in a hearing at the Senate Economic Affairs Committee.
The Bolsonaro government has reduced some taxes, such as the IPI, which is levied on industrialized products, and has also managed to get states to reduce ICMS charges on fuel.
On the other hand, data from the National Treasury show that there was an increase in the tax burden last year: the country’s total revenue reached the equivalent of 33.9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a record level.
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