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Jobs, wages and the Bolsa Família program broke the cycle of poverty and misery of families who can now make purchases, eat well, live better and make plans for the future. Investments in prevention policies and programs such as Family Health are ensuring better and longer lives for millions of people who had never even went to a doctor’s appointment. The efforts to ensure that all children are in school and the extension of adult literacy programs have created new prospects for the future of poor Brazilians.
All this boosted the country’s Human Development (HDI), calculated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In 2012, the Brazilian HDI was 0.730 (the closer to 1, the better). Thus, the country was one of the nations that had advanced the most in two decades.
It is common for conservative groups to criticize what they categorize as the "spending spree" of the federal government. What they do not say is that, in fact, what really bothers them is investment in social policies, because that is where federal funds are increasingly migrating. What they see as spending actually is investing in people to reduce the country’s inequality gap and open doors of opportunities for everyone’s advancement.
Currently, the aggregate social investment is approaching 23% of GDP, almost 10 percentage points higher than the figure for 1985 (13.3%), according to an analysis by researcher Marcio Pochman, president of the Perseu Abramo Foundation. That is to say, for every four Brazilian reais spent in the country, one is directly linked to the social economy. "If the multiplier effect is also counted in (elasticity of 1.8), one can estimate that nearly half of all production of national wealth is directly and indirectly related to the dynamics of the social economy." This is true economic revolution is shaking up Brazil.
• Social Policies and Standards of Change in Brazil during the Lula Government
Under the Lula government, per capita social investment grew 6.7% per year, against the 4% annual rate recorded between 1995 and 2002. Contrary to what conservatives hoped, the international crisis of 2008-2009 did not compromise the ability of the Brazilian state to invest in social policies. Per capita social investment continued on a continuously upward trajectory.
At the turn of the millennium in 2000, the 191 countries that make up the United Nations General Assembly established eight goals to be achieved by all by 2015. These goals were called Millennium Development Goals, and each country has a specific target to achieve the overall goal.
Since 2003, Brazil was able to achieve and even surpass by far many of these targets. To reach them, investments were needed in policies considered ways to include access to health and education services, not just boost income. That is exactly what Lula and Dilma government pursued. Therefore, the country has eliminated hunger, reduced extreme poverty, child mortality rates dropped and policies implemented to empower women and combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, becoming worldwide benchmarks and that have been adopted by dozens of other Latin American, African and Asian countries on the recommendation of the UN itself.
Brazil is making great strides to complete its Millennium Development Goal on education in 2015, which is to ensure universal basic education. The goal involves not only universal access to basic education. It also is to assure that our teens complete their basic education at the appropriate age.
The results justify the optimism. In 2011, 98.3% of children and teens between 7 and 14 years of age were in school. Among children aged four or five years, 78.2% attended school; a decade earlier, only 55% entered school at this age. Moreover, the best news: the age-grade distortion, something that discourages students and causes them to drop out, is decreasing.
Not only that, Brazil has already met the target of eliminating gender disparities in education: today, the number of girls enrolled is already higher than that of boys.
Few countries had as a good a performance in health as Brazil. More than early meeting of the objectives advance in this area, the country is now a benchmark for policies and practices that, according to the UN, should be copied or replicated by other developing nations. The best example is the infant mortality rate: the target of 15.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, set for 2015 was achieved four years earlier.