Politically embarrassed and cornered in the face of poor performance in the voting intentions polls, which point to a chance of victory for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) still in the first round, President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and his allies try to score this Thursday. (30), in the Senate, a combo of benefits that seek to alleviate the relationship between the government and the popular bases through an increase in the values of the Auxílio Brasil program and the gas allowance.
The Auxílio Caminheiro program is also on its way, a novelty that comes in the wake of the crisis generated by the rise in diesel and fuel in general, one of the engines of Bolsonaro’s unpopularity.
Called behind the scenes at the National Congress as a “package of kindnesses”, the measure is formatted in a report produced by the ruling senator Fernando Bezerra Coelho (MDB-PE), who gathered in the document excerpts from the Proposals for Constitutional Amendment 1/2022 and 16/2022 . The two are being processed together and the text is now dubbed “PEC dos Combustíveis”.
The idea of the text is that Auxílio Brasil will jump from R$ 400 to R$ 600, the gas allowance will be changed from R$ 50 to R$ 120 and that the truck drivers’ voucher will be R$ 1,000 per month for the category. As it only came to light in the October elections, the package drew attention in the political environment and earned the label of “electoral candidate”.
The director of institutional relations at the Brazilian Basic Income Network, Paola Loureiro Carvalho, points out that specialists, popular movements and civil entities from the more progressive segment have been demanding more robust aid for the population “for quite some time”.
“I am very sad to know that this is only an agenda for the government as an electoral strategy because the R$ 600, for us, has been a topic since the pandemic, so much so that we fight for it. We fought for BRL 600, for the quota for single mothers, we fought for the permanence of BRL 600 when the government lowered it to BRL 300 and we fought so that, in 2021, the benefit would continue to be this one, and there was no inflection on the part of the government to rethink these values”, he recalls.
Specialists had been complaining not only about the low values of Auxílio Brasil, but also about a series of problems, such as the brake given by the Bolsonaro administration to the entry of new families into the program.
With the constant worsening of the socioeconomic crisis and the high rates of unemployment and misery, the demand for the benefit is great. The government leader in the Senate, Fernando Bezerra Coelho, has talked about “zeroing the waiting list”, but an association between the PEC numbers and the reality of the current socioeconomic scenario raise doubts about this possibility.
Official data from the Ministry of Cities released by the Folha de S. Paulo last Tuesday (28) point to a queue of 764,500 families considered qualified to participate in the program that were waiting for a vacancy in May this year.
The statistic, however, contrasts with figures collected by the National Confederation of Municipalities (CNM), whose survey shows that there were 2.7 million families waiting for a vacancy in the month of April. This amount is well above the total number of families that can be served by the policy if the Legislature gives the green light to the PEC of Fuels, which provides assistance to over 1.6 million families.
The government’s proposal is to start paying the installments of the package on August 1, with five fixed installments that would end in December this year. The short life of the benefit is in line with what has been historically proposed by specialists who demand the creation of a basic income, a benefit permanent that can assist the most vulnerable people in the country.
“But this has nothing to do with what the Bolsonaro government is proposing in this PEC, which is electoral, is the instrumentalization of the people’s need, of poverty, for electoral goals”, ponders the coordinator of the Platform of Social Movements for the Reform of the Political System, José Antonio Moroni.
The funds that will finance the package will be outside the Spending Ceiling, the fiscal adjustment that has been in force since the Temer government (MDB) and has been harshly criticized since before its approval by the National Congress. In his three-and-a-half years in office so far, Bolsonaro has been pressured at various times by the opposition and organized civil society in the progressive camp to review the policy, but the government has kept the ceiling in force.
“The ceiling annihilated the policy of social assistance, health, education, took away the rights of the Brazilian population and, now, in the 45th minute of the second half, Bolsonaro feels authorized to have a blank check from Congress to finally see that we live in an emergency situation, and then start to benefit people with a greater value”, criticizes Paola.
“It is even undemocratic, this movement that he has been making and a disrespect to the fight for a decent income transfer policy that we have been doing for many years and that we did a lot in the pandemic on top of the values for which we fought”, closes.
To be validated, PEC 1/2022 needs to be approved by the two legislative houses of Congress in two different voting rounds. Thus, if it receives approval from the Senate, it will be evaluated by the deputies.
Editing: Felipe Mendes