In Brazil, in just 10 years, around 40 million people have been lifted out of poverty.
Recently, the University of Manchester embarked on a three-year research programme (http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/article/?id=10607) that will chart Brazil’s development experience with a view to identifying which elements might work for particular African countries. Even though the research just began in 2013, it’s clear there are a few vital building blocks that have underpinned Brazil’s progress:
(1) Direct support to reduce poverty
Government investment in health, education and direct poverty reduction has played a major role – with the much-feted Bolsa Familia social assistance programme grabbing many of the headlines.
The scheme has proved to be hugely effective, providing financial support to over 50 million Brazilians. It has been responsible for 28% of the poverty reduction from 2002 to 2012. Bolsa Familia is also remarkably cost effective, amounting to just 0.5% of GDP.
But it’s not the only social assistance programme in Brazil. The government’s non-contributory pension schemes receive much less attention, even though they have twice the budget of Bolsa Familia and help to lift millions more out of poverty.
(2) Investment in agriculture
While the global rise in commodity prices has helped, the long-term growth in agricultural productivity has been catalysed by government policy. In particular, an investment in research through the activities of the Embrapa institute has had positive results. Both large agribusinesses and smaller family farms have benefited significantly. In Brazil, family enterprises account for 84% of Brazilian farms and 24% of farm land. But unlike the subsistence agriculture practised by the majority of African smallholders, family farms in Brazil are well integrated into lucrative export markets. Further, government-sponsored research and adoption of technology such as irrigation has been crucial to this success.
(3) Political consensus
Since the transition to democracy in the late 1980s, there has been a broad consensus across the political spectrum emphasising incremental and inclusive reform. This has led to relatively stable macroeconomic and fiscal policies. The recognition of the country’s “social debt” towards the poorest has also ensured an ongoing political commitment to tackle poverty and inequality.
In other words, each new government improves and continues the policies of the previous government, and there is a concerted effort to tackle poverty.