Opinion, by Samantha Barthelemy
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since 2007 the federal government planned 392 projects on urban and social infrastructure for municipalities of Rio de Janeiro state within the PAC, or Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Program for Growth Acceleration).
Of those, 298 were scheduled to start between 2007 and 2008. While state and local governments received nearly one third of the R$6.9 billion allocated, today only 15 works have been completed.
Some projects were halted, others are simply unfinished, a few are moving slowly and most have not even started. According to a recent federal government report only 3.8 percent of works on infrastructure – basic sanitation, pavement, drainage, habitation and flood prevention – were effectively concluded in the state.
And it goes on. Evidence of public funding waste abound.
Works for a housing complex in the neighborhood of Barro Vermelho, in Belford Roxo, were abandoned seven months ago. Initiated in 2008 the project cost the government over R$11.5 million. Today there is no public lighting and residents affirm the area is being used for the sale and consumption of drugs.
When contacted, the Ministry of Cities stated, “The situation in Barro Vermelho is normal.” The same was said in reference to projects in Nova Iguaçu, where a resident literally took matters into his own hands and dug a whole on the street to clear the sewerage system and prevent an inundation.
But it’s okay. Rio is in good hands, right?
Last Thursday our esteemed Romário, former soccer star and now Rio’s federal legislator, was caught playing futevôlei (the Carioca combination of beach soccer and volleyball) at around 5:00 PM. After being “accused” by Jornal Extra of failing to fulfill his federal duties Romário attempted to “clear matters” through his Twitter account.
“I didn’t miss work as was publicized in a Carioca newspaper. To those who don’t know, there was no plenary session and presence was not mandatory.” I guess we misunderstood.
In his defense, Romário showed up in Congress, received a check for attending and caught a plane from Brasília back to Rio in time to join his friends at Barra beach. True, the session was not deliberative and attendance was not mandatory. But while Romário enjoyed Rio’s sunset his government colleagues discussed 170 law projects in the parliament’s first legislative session.
While on the one hand it gives me hope to see the media repeatedly exposing these (in)actions, on the other hand I cannot help but despair a little. I recently wrote that we are all responsible for holding our leaders accountable – however little respect we may have for them.
So I invite your opinion as to what residents of this beautiful yet troubled state can do to ensure that we can actually move forward.
A Belgian-Brazilian native of Rio de Janeiro and former United Nations journalist, Samantha Barthelemy is a dual degree Masters of International Affairs student with Columbia University and the Paris Institute of Political Studies, specializing in International Security Policy, Brazilian Studies and Communications. http://samanthabarthelemy.blogspot.com