Brazil’s middle class are demanding that public services be given a higher priority than football.
The country is gearing up to host a global event for the sport next year; a sport that is one step short of worship for millions of Brazilians; but while hospital and school budgets go hungry, many are furious that 11 billion euro are being spent preparing for the Confederation Cup.
What lit the fuse for this explosion of public anger was a tiny rise in the price to ride the buses in Sao Paolo. Graffitied liberally on walls around the city, we see protests against the 3.20 real fare – the equivalent of 1.12 euro. This is the equivalent of 14 minutes’ worth of work, based on the average salary (which is low) in the metropolis of 11 million people. In Madrid, by comparison, it is the equivalent of less than seven minutes of work.
Calculated on that basis, Sao Paulo has the world’s most expensive city bus ticket. But Mayor Fernando Haddad insisted the price rise was not excessive: “Effort was made throughout the year so that the readjustment was quite a bit below inflation. It will mean 600 million reals in subsidies [more than 200 million in euro].”
As backdrop to the protests, Brazil’s economy has slowed down – even though unemployment is at a relatively enviable 5.5 percent.
Last year, growth was just below one percent, and was 0.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, with inflation running at 6.5 percent per year.
Mnay Brazilians are finding it increasingly hard to cover basic costs by the end of the month. Food prices have increased notably.
A woman shopping in a Rio de Janeiro open market said: “Last week, you’d have something costing 1.50 reals. Today it’s two reals. It just goes up and up. It’s getting hard.”
Even if Brazil has the world’s seventh-largest economy – by some estimates – it also has enormous social inequality, in spite of years of accelerating development. So, while billions are spent putting on the Ritz for the 2014 football tournament – and the 2016 Olympic Games – people in much of the country are being left without basic infrastructure.