The Brazilian government’s main programs
The model of the social welfare state inscribed in the Federal Constitution of 1988 specified the various social rights that have been gained by the Brazilian people. Since then, the State has guaranteed a series of benefits through various government programs with the aim of reducing poverty and inequality.
The actions of the State guarantee that low income Brazilian families have access to healthcare, education, housing, employment and other rights.
One of the milestones of the so-called Citizen’s Constitution, is the Brazilian Sistema Único de Saúde – Unified Healthcare System (SUS) which allows all Brazilians to have free medical attention from infancy as well as for emergencies, transplants, and other procedures.
The national healthcare system also guarantees free access to vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as a series of medicines that are distributed free of charge in pharmacies throughout the country through the Farmácia Popular – Popular Pharmacy program.
To ensure that the entire population, including those in heavily populated or remote areas, are covered by SUS, other programs reinforce healthcare services such as the Mais Médicos – More Doctors program and the Saúde da Família – Family Health program.
More than 18,000 doctors are part of the More Doctors program which operates in more than 4,000 cities and 34 indigenous districts; bringing healthcare to around 65 million Brazilians. The Family Health program focuses on disease prevention and rehabilitation. Each Family Health team is responsible for a maximum of 4,000 people. This team is multi-professional and is composed of general practitioners, family health specialists, nursing technicians, and dental health professionals, among others. Created in 1993, the program serves 103 million people.
The Bolsa Família – (Family Grant) is a direct income transfer to families in extreme poverty. The federal government invests 0.5% of GDP per year, or US$7.4 billion, to assist 14 million families – almost 50 million people.
The program is available for families with per person weekly income of up to US$26.24 or between US$26.25 and US$52.49 weekly if the family has children or adolescents from the age of zero to 17. In July of 2016, more than 13 million families received the benefit with the average benefit being US$56.24.
The program requires commitments on the part of its beneficiaries which are called conditions: those responsible must register children and adolescents from the ages of six to 17 in school and these children must meet school attendance requirements.
In addition to this, beneficiaries must also commit to having their children vaccinated, and pregnant mothers are obliged to attend pre-natal consultations. Public authorities are required to guarantee program availability and quality to the families. This coordinated action has brought results such as a reduction in chronic malnutrition, which has fallen by half in recent years.
Through the Universidade para Todos – University for All program (ProUni), students can receive partial (50%) or full (100%) scholarships at private universities. The Fundo de Financiamento Estudantil – Student Financing Fund (Fies) provides low interest loans (6.5% per year) to pay tuition at private universities. Following the conclusion of the course, the student has a grace period of 18 months before they must begin repaying the loan.
To have access to ProUni and Fies, the student must prove their monthly family income and have participated in the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio – National Secondary Education Exam (Enem), which evaluates what was taught during the last years of secondary school. More than 500 Brazilian universities use the results from the Enem as selection criteria for entering university.
The housing units from the program Minha Casa Minha Vida – My House My Life, are designated for low income populations that are unable to access decent housing through conventional financing.
The program rules facilitate financing conditions and reduces the value of instalment payments for the poorest.
One of the projects that looks to guarantee constant water supply for inhabitants of arid zones is the São Francisco River Integration project, which crosses five Brazilian states.
The integration works should be concluded by 2016, with the expectation of serving 12 million people in the 390 cities in the states of Pernambuco, Ceará, Paraíba, and Rio Grande do Norte.
Parallel to this, the program Água para Todos – Water for All, serves needy families and rural community residents in other cities with precarious access to water.
The program installs cisterns, collective water supply systems, and irrigation kits. It also offers technical advice for the population served by the program regarding water usage.
Another federal infrastructure program that focuses on small rural cities is the Luz para Todos – Light for All program, which guarantees access to the electrical network. In addition to families, rural schools, populations located in areas of extreme poverty, quilombas, indigenous areas, settlements, riverside areas, and small agricultural producers are prioritized.
*Values converted from Brazilian reais to US dollars at exchange rate of 29/07/2016