A Brazilian catastrophe

Only a handful of political leaders decided to confront scientific advice, and one of these was President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, for whom COVID-19 was “just another little flu”. The result has been catastrophic, not just in terms of the pandemic (over 100,000 diagnosed deaths by mid-August 2020, second only to those in the USA) but also in terms of the economy that his denial policies tried to protect.

In June, the World Bank forecast an 8 percent decline in Brazil’s GDP in 2020 (from a previous forecast of 2% growth), while the global economy is estimated to decline by 4.9 percent and emerging market and developing economies, including Brazil, by 3 percent, in their first contraction in at least 60 years.

This means that in spite of Brazil being a top exporter of food and agricultural products, it risks being included this year in the Hunger Map produced by the FAO, due to the combined effect of an increase in unemployment and a decrease in social security payments.

According to the Institute for Social and Economic Studies (INESC) progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Brazil by Ana Cernov and Iara Pietricovsky, “Brazil is one of the few developing countries that has a public health system, with universal and free access - the Unified Health System (SUS), established by the Constitution in 1988. Just when this system most needs all available resources to deal with an unprecedented health crisis, the health budget in Brazil, which historically is insufficient, had allocated the same resources in 2019 as in 2018 and at the same levels as in 2014.” But between 2014 and 2019, the Brazilian population increased by 7 million people. As a result, the report concludes, “the lack of funding for health has limited the capacity for a quick and efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly harming the most vulnerable populations, which depend exclusively on SUS.”

By Ana Cernov and Iara Pietricovsky, Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc).

Read this national chapter here.

Source: Report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2020.