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Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

Massive new government growth programme announced

March 30th, 2010

Lula's public approval ratings stand at 76%. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Brazil’s government has unveiled a second rapid growth acceleration programme worth $890 billion, aimed at boosting the country’s economy and infrastructure.

The original so-called ‘PAC’ programme to the tune of $280 billion announced in early 2007 targeted 5% growth a year.

Apart from last year when Brazil suffered fallout from the global economic downturn, targets were met,  though the government and opposition dispute how much of the original programme has actually been completed.

The new programme runs between 2011-2014 and beyond. Projects are grouped into in six categories.

Oil and gas exploration projects will get $ 490 billion, two-thirds of the money after 2014, with $76 billion destined for electricity generation and $70 billion going into projects to drill Brazil’s vast untapped oil resources buried deep below the seabed.

Housing initiatives will get $ 154 billion. Last March, the government announced a $15 billion social housing programme, aimed at building one million homes, though it left the timetable open-ended. The new plan envisages the building of another two million homes. Brazil’s housing shortage stretches to seven million.

High stakes game

With Presidential elections in October, there is little doubt that ‘the son of PAC’ as it has been dubbed will be the flagship policy of the ruling Workers Party (PT) and its official candidate, Dilma Rouseff, who is aiming to become Brazil’s first woman president.

She takes on Sầo Paulo state governor José Serra, whose colleagues immediately attacked the new proposals.

The leader of the main opposition party (PSDB) João Almeida said the government should be re-evaluating the original programme, which he said is weak in management terms, with a low rate of projects being carried out.

“The launch of PAC 2 was an act of campaigning complete with crying and emotion,” he said.

But the government hit back saying the opposition is divorced from the Brazilian people and the interests of the country.

“The opposition only speaks about the election, denunciation, criticism, because they have no other plan,” said Cândido Vaccarezza, the ruling party’s leader in Brazil’s lower congress chamber.

The government says 40% of the original programme has been finished, insisting two-thirds of work on housing and sanitation has been completed, though this falls to 28% in the energy and logistics sectors. Opposition parties banding together say only 11% of work has been done, with the number falling to 4% in the northeast of the country, where it is most needed.

But so far any such talk has had little effect.

Recent reports that the president and his preferred candidate had toured the country together inaugurating unfinished infrastructure projects and that he made comments appearing to back Cuba’s oppressive stance towards dissidents have not dented his standing with the Brazilian public.

As the election approaches Dilma will be hoping to be swept along on a tide of approval from the new programme, as much as for outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who continues to notch up astonishingly high poll ratings for a second-term president with only nine months left in office.

Dilma may have her work cut out though. A Datafolha poll published at the weekend showed Lula’s stardust has yet to rub off on her, with the vote between the main presidential candidates tied among those who would normally vote for the president.

Since declaring his candidacy recently, Serra has opened up a nine point lead over Dilma, having received an expected ‘bounce’ from the announcement.

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The walls that divide Rio de Janeiro

April 11th, 2009

Moves underway to build walls around the slums of Rio de Janeiro has split opinion among citizens and also highlighted some interesting contrasts, according to a recent opinion poll.

The erection of 3-metre high walls at a cost of R$ 40 million ($18 million) has caused controversy, with 47% of people questioned by pollster Datafolha in favour of such moves and 44% against.

Photo: Walker Dawson, flickr

Photo: Walker Dawson, flickr

In a survey with a 4% margin for error, there appears little to choose between those on opposite sides of the debate.

The Rio de Janeiro state government says it has begun the action to protect remaining areas the city’s forest, although two- thirds of those asked believe won’t the objective won’t be achieved.

Rich-man, poor man?

For some it is seen as a cruel and crude sort of apartheid, separating wealthier from poorer areas, though interestingly 60% of those questioned say they don’t believe the walls will divide the haves from the have nots.

Among those whose monthly family income stretches to two minimum salaries R$930 ($415), 51% are in favour and as many as 39% are against the plan.

At the other end of the scale, 50% of those whose households bring in more than 10 minimum salaries of R$4650 ($2,077) disapprove of the walls against 45% who want them to become a permanent fixture.

Concrete barriers will surround 88,000 slum dwellers in 26,000 houses and shacks crammed into 1.7 square kilometres, if figures published at the turn of the Millennium are anything to go by.

Since then, of course things have not stood still.

Rocinha, which in 2000 was said to have 17,000 inhabitants, now reportedly has close to 26,000 people living there – a more than 50% increase.

Photo: dreamindly, flickr

Photo: dreamindly, flickr

From those who abhor the idea, the 14.6 kilometre long walls that will encircle thirteen favelas — twelve of them in the city’s South Zone, the other in the West Zone — have drawn comparisons with the Berlin Wall and the plight of the Palestinian people.

It has been suggested that the walls are being put up to hide the favelas.

The plans have won approval from 57% of people with a basic education, while 53% from a higher educational background are opposed.

It’s not the first time the idea has been put forward.

Though the plans were dropped following strong criticism five years ago, as part of efforts to protect the environment, while preventing drug traffickers and other alleged criminals fleeing from police raids walls it was announced that walls would be erected around four favelas.

Among those surveyed, 45% now think the walls would stop bandits escaping, while 51% believe they would fail to do so.

Negligent past

Until recent decades, favelas with their precarious living conditions, were seen as part of the solution not the problem by some who were happy to see them expand.

To unscrupulous politicians, slums were and still are viewed as somewhere to dump the poor, uneducated classes and as an easy place to pick up votes by promising, but never having to deliver desperately needed healthcare, sanitary and education facilities.

Keeping the slum-dwellers in poverty is also said to have allowed drug traffickers and other assorted criminal types to keep a stranglehold on their communities, as they carry out all manner of illegal activities.

Meantime, current affairs magazine Veja suggested that the time may have come for the city and state governments to now start applying proper building regulations to all of Rio’s thousand favelas, instead of just a comparative handful.

Indeed, the magazine cited state governor Sérgio Cabral as saying: “This is a wall of inclusion.”
Time will tell.

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Brazil confronts chronic housing shortage

March 30th, 2009

A $15 billion social housing programme announced by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last week could hardly have been timelier, given the worldwide economic crisis now biting in Brazil, but the plan faces huge challenges and its future may hinge on the political will of Congress and the next government.

Photo: kathiao, flickr

Photo: kathiao, flickr

The programme aims to build one million homes for families with combined incomes of up to ten times the minimum monthly wage R$465 ($203).

The plan has won praise for its focus on providing hefty subsidies to the poorest households, whose income only stretches as far as three times the monthly minimum and for the fact it gives title to the property to the woman of the household – something that is seen as protecting the family.

“This has become more important in this moment of crisis because it generates jobs and the capacity to provide homes for low income people,” says Dr Lílian Fessler Vaz from the Architecture and Urban Development Department at Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

Much of the money is being stumped up by Brazil’s Treasury with contributions from the FGTS social welfare fund paid by employers and the national development bank (BNDES).

Massive job

Brazil’s National Industry Confederation (CNI) welcomes the move as a step in the right direction but warns the programme will require massive coordination

“Judging by the experience of other projects it’s a very difficult task to fulfil,” CNI Executive Director Jose Augusto Coelho Fernandes says.

The scale of the undertaking was underlined in government figures reported in February, showing that only 11% of projects announced under the government’s growth acceleration programme (PAC) launched two years ago have been completed.

The programme’s aim is to enable Brazil to grow at least 5% a year.

Brazil’s economy grew 5.1% last year, but the government been under pressure to take action, after the economy shrank 3.6% in the last quarter of 2008 versus the previous three months.

Economists and industry organisations are forecasting anywhere from zero growth to a 1.5% contraction in Brazil this year.

The government calculates the programme will add to 2% to Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sum of all goods and services a country produces.

Meanwhile, fears have been expressed that progress on the homes building programme could be hampered by environmental issues, the ability to synchronize projects with existing urban development plans, as well as complex issues such as subsidies, insurance, guarantees and land ownership.

Questions have also been raised whether construction companies actually can build homes put at R$40,000 ($17,500) for the lowest income groups.

Though not referring directly to the housing programme and writing in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Sunday, Roger Agnelli, President of Brazil’s, Vale the world’s biggest producer of iron ore used to make steel said the government has to cut down on bureaucracy to get the economy moving again.

Scrutiny

Brazil’s opposition parties question the timing and motives behind the announcement, insisting Lula is using the programme to try to ensure his preferred candidate and Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff wins the presidential poll at the end of next year.

Photo: Agencia Brasil

Photo: Agencia Brasil

No deadline has been put on completion of the million houses and Lula (pictured right) concedes it will go beyond the second and final term of his presidency, which has another 21 months to run.

Given the size of the task, by announcing the move now the president must be banking on three things: That his candidate wins the election, the next government either has the political will to continue the programme or will be too afraid to drop it for fear of losing popularity.

Lula will also have to count on cooperation from 26 diverse state governments, municipalities, private companies in the construction sector and perhaps most crucially often self-serving politicians in the country’s capital Brasilia.

One media report suggested in a bid to overcome resistance in Congress, 63% of building work will take place in states where Lula has forged political alliances.

Though the programme has been praised by some in the construction sector as a bold first step,  Brazil still has a long way to go to plug its housing shortage of more than 7 million homes.

Almost 91% of that figure are said to be in the lowest income group.

Economy, News, Politics , ,