By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Five years on from the launch of the government’s Program for Accelerated Growth (PAC) in 2007, a new study shows that sanitation projects financed by the plan are behind schedule. Just eight of the 114 projects monitored by the study had been completed by the end of 2011, despite the PAC program having provided fifty percent of the total investments quoted for the works.
Moreover, sixty percent of the projects were considered be either behind schedule, on hold, or had yet to be started, according to the report which was released at the beginning of April by the Trata Brasil Institute.
Entitled “De Olho no PAC” (or “Keeping an Eye On the PAC”), the study monitored the progress of 114 key PAC-financed sewage projects between 2009 and 2011 in cities of more than 500,000 inhabitants.
The projects had been allocated R$4.4 billion (eleven percent) of the PAC’s total sanitation budget of R$40 billion. The statistics suggest links between the speed of progress of the works and both the immediate source of the funding and geographical location.
In 2011, ninety-five percent of the total 22 works financed by the BNDES (the Brazilian National Development Bank) were on target for their scheduled completion dates, and eighteen percent had already been finished.
However, the 57 works financed by the public bank, Caixa Ecônomica Federal (CEF); and the 35 supported by the Senate’s general budget, the OGU, (representing direct investment by the federal government without returns to the public coffers), showed less positive results.
For CEF funded projects, just four percent had been finished by 2011, and sixty-eight percent were behind schedule. Worse still, none of the OGU funded projects had been completed, and sixty-nine percent of them would not meet their scheduled deadlines.
The BNDES only supported projects in the South East and the Southern regions and the report states that, “The average speed of execution of the works in the South East is substantially greater than elsewhere […] the Central West and Northern regions, even though they have very few projects in total, are proceeding slowly.”
In the Northern region a hundred percent of the works had been halted, followed by seventy percent in the Central West region.
Letters to the state and municipal governments, and the sanitation companies involved, produced excuses ranging from problems with permits, environmental licensing and top-up funding, to poor quality project plans and unachievable time-frames from the outset.
Édison Carlos, Trata Brasil’s Executive President, said that the results of the research show that some improvements have been made, but he expressed deep frustration about the under-utilization of the financial resources made available by the PAC for sanitation.
Data from the IBGE (the Brazilian national statistics bureau) reveals that in 2011, just 29 percent of municipalities possessed any kind of sewage treatment system. Around 2,500 Brazilian towns had no sewage collection system, and 30.5 percent of municipalities were discharging untreated sewage directly into waterways.
“PAC resources should be used as a springboard to catapult Brazil out of the 19th Century regarding basic sanitation. Old fashioned illnesses and the brutal environmental impacts on our water sources reduce the quality of life of the population,” Carlos said.