To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor

Numa fase em que a crise despoletou um conjunto de reacções criticas relativamente ao aumento das desigualdades, este artigo traduz os resultados de uma medida que tem vindo a alterar essa realidade em diversos paises e que merece ser acompanhada e analisada.

Many countries display great wealth side by side with great poverty.  But until recently, Brazil was the most unequal country in the world.

Today, however, Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than that of almost any other country.  Between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grown seven times as much as the income of rich Brazilians.  Poverty has fallen during that time from 22 percent of the population to 7 percent.

Contrast this with the United States, where from 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent of earners. (see this great series in Slate by Timothy Noah on American inequality)  Productivity among low and middle-income American workers increased, but their incomes did not.  If current trends continue, the United States may soon be more unequal than Brazil.

Several factors contribute to Brazil’s astounding feat.  But a major part of Brazil’s achievement is due to a single social program that is now transforming how countries all over the world help their poor.

The program, called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) in Brazil, goes by different names in different places. In Mexico, where it first began on a national scale and has been equally successful at reducing poverty, it is Oportunidades. The generic term for the program is conditional cash transfers.  The idea is to give regular payments to poor families, in the form of cash or electronic transfers into their bank accounts, if they meet certain requirements.

Artigo completo: To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor – NYTimes.com.

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