Remedy against the crisis caused by the pandemic isn’t austerity, says Dilma Rousseff

For the former president, it’s necessary to have a State that invests and chooses going into debt over raising taxes

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
Dilma Rousseff at the 1st MST Lanless Women's Gathering in Brasilia, on March 7th 2020 - Sergio LIMA / AFP

The pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus is showing that the economic policies adopted by Jair Bolsonaro’s government, aligned to neo-liberalism, must be “burried”. The analysis comes from economist and former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, on live stream aired on Tuesday (14th) by the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (MST). 

In her view, the State needs to be strong and present, contrary to neo-liberal ideals, in order to make sure the population “once more the ones who suffer most”. “We need a State that invests, that takes on the responsibility of assuring Brazil can convert its industries, because, how is a country capable of producing airplanes and oil rigs and not respirators and testing kits?” How is it possible that we are the world’s largest producer of ethanol alcohol and cannot produce hand sanitizers?”, she questions.

Today in Brazil, there is a scarcity of testing kits, respirators and intensive care units (ICU). Data published by the National Registry of Healthcare Facilities, shows SUS, the national public health system, offers only 44% of ICUs that exist in the country. This amount is utilized by 75% of the population. The remainder, around 25% of individuals, have access to ICUs in the private system, which currently comprise 56% of the total available. The study took into account, pediatric and adult units, excluding prenatal ones. 

When the issue is testing, the scenario doesn’t change much. Brazil administers only abut 296 tests per million inhabitants, meanwhile in Iran, placed second in the ranking for the fewest tests, 2,755 tests per million people are conducted. 

Beyond the troubles in the healthcare system, Dilma Rousseff also talked about the economic and social crisis that emerged due to the pandemic. In this context, “we must stop fiscal austerity measures”, she affirmed. During periods of such woe, the population expects government “to contain the shock, to protect them from adversity and socioeconomic impacts of this magnitude”, she explains. 

Because of this, the former president suggests that the government sell public debt papers, as many developed nations like Germany and the United States are doing. “Income from taxation is compromised. When this crisis is over, we will have to tax patrimony, inheritances, huge fortunes and all capital gains. We can’t do that now because everything has come to a stanstill. Therefore, the State only has two options to raise funds: one is taxes and the other is going into debt”, states Rousseff. 

Dilma also reminds us that states and municipalities do not have the prerogative to sell public debt titles, limiting themselves to raising taxes, which is impractical in the face of the pandemic. “Mayors and governors don’t sell debt, and they need resources from the federal government. In turn, the federal government has the obligation to provide these mayors and governors with what they need. It’s only with hands on measures that we’ll be able to save the people”, she defends. 

Edited by: Vivian Fernandes