By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – President Rousseff spoke on Monday, January 2nd in her Cafe com a Presidenta program reflecting that 2011 was a good year for Brazil, and that the country is entering an era of prosperity. She pointed out that in the year in which almost every country in the world have lost their jobs, Brazil created more than two million jobs, and improved social inequalities.
Rousseff said: “With planning and agreed upon policies, we are able to protect our economy, our productive sectors, and especially the employment of Brazilians. We are turning a crisis into a moment of opportunity and entering a new era, an era of prosperity.”
Last month Bloomberg reported Brazil’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest on record in November to 5.2 percent. A report from March 2011 showed Brazil’s unemployment rate has been cut almost in half since 2003. Out of the six largest metropolitan cities, Rio de Janeiro had the second lowest unemployment rate with 5.1 percent.
In addition, starting January 2nd, the monthly minimum wage in Brazil increased from R$545 to R$622. The increase of R$77 works out to R$20.73 per day or R$2.83 per hour. With the required “thirteenth month” pay, the annual salary is approximately R$8,086 (US$4,415).
The increase of more than fourteen percent, linked to benefit payments for some 48 million Brazilians, will cost the Social Security system almost R$24 billion a year. However, as some R$47 billion will be injected into the economy, and around R$22.9 billion will return to the government in the form of tax revenue.
This all sounds like positive progress, especially given the findings released by the IBGE 2010 census last month, which detailed when compared with 2000 Census figures Rio’s favela population grew 27.65 percent in ten years, in comparison with the rest of the city growth of just 3.4 percent.
In looking ahead, the president predicted that in March 2012 the administration will see several policies progress. She said the year should begin with less taxes for more than five million individual micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses, which have easier credit and lower interest rates.
Another point emphasized during the program is that by 2014, Caixa Economica Federal and Banco do Brazil must make investments of over R$125 billion in Minha Casa, Minha Vida.
The program offers low-income families – with salaries up to approximately R$1,800 (US$875) – three times the minimum wage, to only have to pay a maximum percentage of ten percent on their mortgage, for a fixed period of ten years.
So far it was reported, 341,000 houses were contracted, 400,000 delivered and 500,000 are in development. The program has however had its critics and controversy, ranging from slow progress to social injustice of forced relocation.
Yet President Rousseff is calling attention to social issues in 2012, and in late January, the President is expected to attend the World Social Forum on January 23rd to 29th, in Porto Alegre. Also there will be the Rio +20 Conference in June in Rio de Janeiro.
The government press service also reports the second half of 2012 will see an October National Conference of Civil Defense and in November the National Conference for Rural and Sustainable Development. Throughout 2011 there were thematic conferences on women, elderly, disabled, young and gay, lesbian, transsexual and transgendered people.