By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On October 5th more than 140 million Brazilians will go to the polls to choose the country’s next president. Voters will be looking at the candidates’ positions on important issues, such as health and education to make their choices.
The three top candidates, incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the PT (Workers Party), Marina Silva of the PSB (Socialist Party) and Aecio Neves of the PSDB (Social Democracy Party) have spoken about what they would do if elected.
Seen as a chronic problem, Brazil’s deficient public healthcare system has been given top priority by this year’s presidential candidates. Government statistics show that eighty percent of the country’s population has no health plan and relies on the government’s publicly funded health care system, SUS. According to the IBGE (Brazilian Statistics Bureau) government expenditures with health in 2009 was only 3.8 percent of the GDP, percentage strongly criticized by analysts.
President Rousseff has promised, if re-elected to extend its Mais Medicos (More Doctors Program), expand the Pronto Atendimento – UPAs (Emergency Care Units) to include low and medium condition severity services and increase the number of specialized units around the nation. The incumbent president has also said that she would increase the types of prescription drugs distributed to the population free or at a reduced price.
Second placed candidate Marina Silva promised to implement a bill that would earmark ten percent of the current gross revenue of the federal government to financing healthcare. The candidate also promised to construct one hundred hospitals and fifty maternity wards.
The PSDB candidate, Aecio Neves, has stated he would construct a unified national registry, channeling investment to create and distribute what he calls the Citizen’s Health Card. The card would guarantee advanced health services including scheduling centers, consultations and monitoring via telephone, and long-distance treatment and diagnosis for those living in remote areas.
Another major concern expressed by voters is what the future administration will do about Brazil’s education system. The federal government today says it allocates 6.4 percent of the country’s GDP to the sector. Nonetheless, nearly three million school-aged children do not attend school in Brazil and data from the Observatorio do PNE (PNE Observatory) shows that only a little over half of all Brazilians over nineteen years old (51.8 percent) finished high school.
President Rousseff has stated that her administration has already approved earmarking 75 percent of petroleum royalties and fifty percent of all sub-salt layer oil royalties towards education. She says that these revenues will allow for the implementation of the PNE (National Education Plan), sanctioned by her in July. The incumbent candidate also has promised to increase the number of day-care centers and have at least 20% of the public school students studying a full day by 2018.
The PSB candidate says if she wins the Presidency her administration will establish targets to drastically reduce functional illiteracy in four years. Silva says she plans to transform the Mais Educação Program (More Education Program) into a policy of the State and will push for full-time schooling for children from elementary to high school.
Aecio Neves promises to create incentives to improve teachers’ overall qualifications, increase salaries, implement full-time schooling and gradually eliminate night school for those youngsters who do not have jobs. If elected Neves has pledged to direct 7 percent of the country’s GDP to education by 2019.
Issues such as education and health have typically been key issues for candidates seeking the highest post in the country, but this year’s presidential race has been anything but typical. Plagued by accidents and scandals, the candidates have said little about what they will do if elected, making political analysts uneasy to predict Sunday’s outcome.