By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – One year after President Lula’s promise to use profits from the pre-salt oil deposits in Brazil’s Tupi oilfield to eradicate poverty, he has spoken of the importance of electoral support in keeping revenue in the hands of the people.
The president’s proposal for the regulatory framework of the field’s vast potential profits has been passed to Congress, along with a controversial request for an answer within three months.
His move has rankled with opposition parties, and Lula appeared on television on Sunday night urging Brazilians to follow Congress’ response closely, urging, “A democracy is only strengthened by the participation of society. So mobilize, talk to your friends, write to your Congressman, your Senator, so that they support what is best for Brazil.”
Maintaining control of the vast resources held under the Atlantic through the state’s behemoth Petrobras has long been a source of controversy, hampering the company’s bottom line by pushing through public policy at the expense of profits. Under the proposed regulation guidelines, the company will control the division, distribution and sale of the field’s units, given first refusal of their exploitation but also far from excluding foreign companies, Petrobras will oversee their sale to the likes of BG and Chevron.
“Petrobras is today the new face of Brazil,” Lula continued. “It is the eighth largest company in the world. There is no company in Europe of the same size, (but) first, the oil and gas belong to the Brazilian people. Secondly, Brazil cannot be a mere exporter of crude oil. We add value to it, exporting products such as gasoline, diesel and petrochemicals, which are worth much more.”
It was a typical Lula speech, composed in plain language on a subject that could very well help to further the country’s rapid economic growth over recent years.
“Today Brazil has all the political, economic and technology to meet this challenge. From 2003 to 2008, our economy grew on average 4.1% per year. In the past two years, more than 5%.
The country has created over seven million jobs. Unemployment fell sharply, from 11.7% in 2003 to 8% today. Interest rates are the lowest in decades. 30 million Brazilians [have passed] the poverty line. And of these, 20 million have joined the new middle class, strengthening the internal market and giving strong impetus to our economy.”
As well as providing thousands of jobs in drilling, processing and distribution, the industry will generate huge profits, set to be held in a national ‘social fund’. This will then be distributed to areas in most need of the money such as healthcare and education and to help in the fight against poverty.