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The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018
by Development Finance International, Oxfam
Oct. 2018
In 2015,the leaders of 193 governments promised to reduce inequality under Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without reducing inequality, meeting SDG 1 to eliminate poverty will be impossible.
In 2017, Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam produced the first index to measure the commitment of governments to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The index is based on a new database of indicators, now covering 157countries, which measures government action on social spending, tax and labour rights – three areas found to be critical to reducing the gap.
This second edition of the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index finds that countries such as South Korea, Namibia and Uruguay are taking strong steps to reduce inequality. Sadly, countries such as India and Nigeria do very badly overall, as does the USA among rich countries, showing a lack of commitment to closing the inequality gap.
The report recommends that all countries should develop national inequality action plans to achieve SDG 10 on reducing inequality. These plans should include delivery of universal, public and free health and education and universal social protection floors.
They should be funded by increasing progressive taxation and clamping down on exemptions and tax dodging. Countries must also respect union rights and make women’s rights at work comprehensive, and they should raise minimum wages to living wages.
The Inequality Crisis, The Fight against Poverty and the Role of Governments
Many countries across the world, rich and poor, have experienced rapid growth in the gap between the richest people in society and everyone else over the past 30 years. Failure to tackle this growing crisis is undermining social and economic progress and the fight against poverty.
Oxfam’s research has shown that, since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population have received just 1% of the total increase in global wealth, while the top 1% have received 50% of the increase.
Inequality is bad for us all. It reduces economic growth, and worsens health and other outcomes. The consequences for the world’s poorest people are particularly severe. The evidence is clear: there will be no end to extreme poverty unless governments tackle inequality and reverse recent trends. Unless they do so, analysts predict that by 2030 over half a billion people will remain living in extreme poverty.
The rise of extreme economic inequality also undermines the fight against gender inequality and threatens women’s rights. Women’s economic empowerment has the potential to transform many women’s lives for the better and support economic growth. However, unless the causes of extreme economic inequality are urgently addressed, most of the benefits of women-driven growth will accrue to those already at the top end of the economy. Economic inequality also compounds other inequalities such as those based on race, caste or ethnicity.
Development Finance International and Oxfam believe that the inequality crisis is not inevitable and that governments are not powerless against it. Inequality is a policy choice, and our findings this year show this clearly. Around the world, some governments are taking policy steps to fight inequality.
President Moon of South Korea has increased tax on the richest earners, boosted spending for the poor and dramatically increased the minimum wage. Ethiopia has the sixth highest level of education spending in the world. Chile has increased its rate of corporation tax. Indonesia has increased its minimum wage and its spending on health. Such positive actions shame those governments that are failing their people.
Nigeria remains at the bottom of the CRI Index, failing the poorest people, despite its president claiming to care about inequality. Hungary has halved its corporation tax rate, and violations of labour rights have increased. In Brazil social spending has been frozen for the next 20 years. And Donald Trump has slashed corporation tax in the USA, in one of the biggest giveaways to the 1% in history.
Matthew Martin, Development Finance International’s director, said: “What’s most striking is how clearly the index shows us that combatting inequality isn’t about being the wealthiest country or the one with the biggest economy. It’s about having the political will to pass and to put into practice the policies that will narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.”
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Brazil elections: prospect of Bolsonaro victory stokes fears of return to dictatorship
by DW, International Politics & Society, agencies
8 Oct. 2018
Extreme Far-right candidate wins Brazil vote to advance to final run-off vote.
Far-right Congressman and former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro has won nearly half the votes in Brazil''s first-round presidential election.
In what is likely to be a deeply polarising runoff, Bolsonaro, an outspoken apologist for Brazil''s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, will now face leftist Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of Sao Paulo, in a second round of voting on October 28.
In a country which had a record 63,880 violent deaths in 2017. Bolsonaro has pledged to roll back gun controls and make it easier for police to kill. With just three weeks until the runoff, Bolsonaro holds a substantial lead.
He won 46.3 per cent of valid ballots, far ahead of Haddad''s 29 per cent, but short of the outright majority needed to avoid a second round, electoral authorities said.
In his first public remarks, Bolsonaro pledged to slash public services, reduce the cabinet to 15 ministries, cut payroll taxes and privatise or shut many state companies if he elected.
Haddad called on Brazilians to unite behind him, warning that the 1988 Constitution that underpinned Brazil''s young democracy was under threat. "There is a lot at risk in this election," Haddad told his supporters. "We want to unite all the democrats in Brazil."
Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Brazil-based Getulio Vargas Foundation says: "Clearly, people are fed up with established parties. We have had a really significant number of big wigs removed and to that extent it''s a protest vote and a vote for change," he added. "Bolsonaro despite what he''s saying ... has mobilised a latent and existing discontent."
Many voters are deeply distrustful of established politicians, as a result of their involvement in corruption scandals in recent years. Others are disenchanted with Brazil’s stagnant economy, in which nearly 13 million people are out of work, and a deteriorating security situation.
A number of analysts said the election had been consumed by emotions, meaning discussion involving facts, figures and firm proposals on how to solve Brazil''s social, political and economic problems were being drowned out.
"Many voters have very little interest in the details of policy making that each candidate proposes," one analyst said. "Basically what we have seen is voters positioning themselves based on a emotional rejection towards their opponent."
Bolsonaro is an outspoken admirer of Brazil''s military dictatorship, which was in power from 1964 to 1985, along with former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet, of whom Bolsonaro once said, "He should have killed more".
Jose Roberto de Toledo, editor and columnist at the Piaui magazine, called Bolsonaro a "defender of dictatorship and torture".. "We are entering totally unknown territory, one without precedent in the history of post-dictatorship Brazil. The risk that he represents to democracy is hard to quantify, but the risk he poses is infinitely higher than with any other candidate," Toledo said.
"If Bolsonaro wins, it is very likely that he will have to adopt populist measures to satisfy his electoral base. This could mean that he will go after minorities; it could mean that he will go after the PT or the gay population. We don''t know yet, but some people will fall victim to this."
Although Bolsonaro easily won the first round, surveys suggest the outcome of the October 28 is more uncertain. Haddad is expected to come up almost neck-and-neck with Bolsonaro as he picks up support from other beaten candidates, such as third-placed Ciro Gomes, a centre-left former governor of the state of Ceara.
"We want to unite the democrats of Brazil, a broad and deeply democratic project, but that untiringly pursues social justice," he told crowds in Sao Paulo on Sunday, the city where he was mayor from 2012 -2016.
6 Oct. 2018
Brazil elections: prospect of Bolsonaro victory stokes fears of return to dictatorship. (Guardian News)
Latin America’s largest democracy will hold what some consider the most critical election in its history on Sunday, with a far-right populist notorious for his hostility to black people, gays, refugees, ethnic minorities and the environment leading the race to become Brazil’s next president.
Jair Bolsonaro, was leading in the polls with about 35% of intended votes on Friday as 147 million Brazilians prepared to elect their new leader, as well as 27 state governors, and nearly 1,600 lawmakers.
“This is the most important election in the history of Brazil,” said James N Green, the director of Brown University’s Brazil Initiative. “There is just no other time at which voters’ decisions will determine the fate of the country and its direction [to such an extent] … We are at a moment in which a conservative, rightwing pro-fascist-type person is possibly going to be the president,” added Green, the author of several books on Brazil’s 1964-85 dictatorship.
“I don’t even want to imagine what that is going to be like if he wins … It would be the beginning of the end of democracy.”
Hoping to foil Bolsonaro is the former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad, who is lying second in the polls. Haddad, 55, replaced former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the Workers’ party (PT) candidate last month after Lula was forced to drop out of the race.
With Brazil struggling to escape recession with 13 million unemployed, Haddad has promised a return to the economic growth under Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2011.
“We want to be happy again,” Haddad told the Guardian last week. “We have learned Brazil can develop in a way that includes people rather than excluding them. My dream is that Brazil starts to include people again.”
Haddad had seemed to be gaining ground on Bolsonaro but the latest polls suggest his campaign may have slowed, while Bolsonaro continues to lead.
Some observers are even pondering the possibility, previously considered fanciful, that Bolsonaro could claim a first-round victory on Sunday by winning an outright majority. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff between the top two will be held on 28 October.
The prospect of Bolsonaro – who has praised dictatorship and called gay people abnormal, women “tramps” and refugees “the scum of the earth” – has horrified progressive Brazilians.
Commentators say a Bolsonaro victory would undo decades of political and social advances since democracy was restored in 1985 and risk a return to military rule.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have joined anti-Bolsonaro “not him”. Further protests are scheduled for Saturday.
In the final presidential debate, which the frontrunner had claimed he was not well enough to attend, canditate Guilherme Boulos warned Bolsonaro’s “gang of hate” risked plunging Brazil back into authoritarianism. “It has been 30 years since this country emerged from a dictatorship. Many people died. Many were tortured. To this day there are mothers who still haven’t been able to bury their children and we’ve never been so close to what happened back then. “The time has come for us to pause, find our voices and say: ‘dictatorship never again!’”.
Oct. 2018
Sociologist Esther Solano on the first round of the Brazilian Presidential Elections this Sunday. (International Politics & Society)
Jair Bolsonaro represents the far right – and is currently topping the polls ahead of Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT). He is essentially deputising for Lula, currently incarcerated, and would currently come in at second place. What do you think the election result will be?
I assume that this first round will lead to a run-off between Bolsonaro and Haddad. Who will win this second round, though? In my estimation, the number of people willing to vote for Bolsonaro in the run-off will decline: his campaign is simply too unstable, too wobbly. For instance, he purports to stand on a neoliberal economic programme, yet he himself is not really a neoliberal at all; even the Brazilian press, which has for years been against the PT and did a lot to strengthen Bolsonaro’s candidacy, is re-orientating itself. Some of the latest op-eds in mainstream press outlets are already labelling him as a risk.
At the same time, strong public opposition to Bolsonaro has developed, led primarily by women who are challenging him on his macho views. They have coalesced into a very diverse, very audible movement including academics, members of other political parties, lawyers and legal experts, and a range of representatives from civil society. As such, protest against Bolsonaro is now tightly organised and rooted in broader society.
Will this benefit the Workers’ Party?
If it comes to a run-off with the PT candidate, there will also be a lot of opposition to the party. Although Haddad stands on a moderate policy platform and is generally trusted as someone who could heal the nation’s divides. This is positive inasmuch as the PT now looks like a party which can offer stability and a degree of order in terms of economic and social policy – the party still faces a lot of rejection which correlates strongly with social class.
Whether voters would consider supporting PT or not depends on their stance vis-à-vis the inclusive social policies introduced by Lula and the PT. Haddad is not the perfect candidate for the middle class because he runs for the PT, a party hated by the middle class.
Overall, however, my impression is that those who oppose Bolsonaro are much better organised; as such, I think that Haddad can carry the day, but it will be a close-run thing. Whoever wins, it won’t be by much of a margin.
Bolsonaro is popular with young voters. How would you explain this in view of his reactionary politics?
This new far-right group is not in any way a uniquely Brazilian phenomenon – just look at President Trump in the US! We’re not talking about the usual hate-filled tirades here, though, but rather of a new kind of extreme right which is partially the offspring of social networks and whose rhetorical tools and style of communication are adapted to virtual situations in those networks and on the web more broadly. I term their discourse ‘pop extremism’ because it appears so youthful and so uncomplicated; it’s playful, digestible, and has something almost folkloristic, or at the very least infantilising, about it.
Could you give us some concrete examples here?
Part of it is the ‘meme-ification’ of politics in which internet memes become protagonists in the debate. In other words, we’re dealing with a far-right which is talking a hard-line, racist, patriarchal, LGBT-phobic discourse, but is putting it out there in a quite playful format like a meme, which can get a laugh – or at least a chuckle – out of many. This youthful ‘pop’ approach can be seductive and has the effect of trivialising and normalising hate-speech. What is interesting is that in the case of Bolsonaro – who makes intensive use of social media to mobilise support – polls poorly among the youngest of voters, who in fact reject him quite strongly and of whom the majority is pro-PT. It’s a strange contradiction: the pop extremists talk a youthful, childish language, but do so to address an adult audience. So what they are doing is infantilising adult voters.
How is the serious economic crisis affecting the political climate and, by extension, the elections?
Since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the economic crisis has made itself felt. In the preceding years of economic stability, neither the middle classes nor the elites had anything against the PT government: after all, the administration was actually able to reach a settlement between the classes. The subsequent economic crisis is a key factor in understanding why the middle classes supported and indeed legitimised the coup against President Rousseff. In essence, economic crises inevitably lead to uncertainty and a feeling of vulnerability; as a consequence, during such periods, people tend to support candidates who take a strong, populist stance.
Moreover, democracies sometimes have trouble producing an adequate response to serious economic crises. Voters look for a ‘saviour of the nation’ to whom they can give their vote, and this is particularly the case in Brazil with its strongly personalised politics. In addition, the economic crisis has renewed the intensity and urgency of the class question in Brazilian society.
When the lower classes begin to make their way up the social ladder, the middle classes feel an immediate threat to their status. In my view, both factors play a role – i.e. the wider tendency to vote for a Great White Hope as a protector against the crisis and the question of socio-economic class, indeed of class war. Unfortunately, the PT is very much the victim of class hatred.
Can you make out any similarities between Brazil and other countries?
Yes, I think there are clear parallels between Brazil and other countries inasmuch as the whole world is being affected by the right-wing extremist insurgency – the American continent, for instance, and Europe, too.. As such, the Brazilian political situation must be viewed through the prism of an international resurgence of right-wing extremism and of the politics of hate – against immigrants, refugees, Mexicans, Latinos. We are facing a political weaponisation of the discourse of division which encourages hatred and rejection of ‘them’ as opposed to ‘us’.
What are the effects of this discourse of hatred in Brazil?
Brazil has some specific issues: its democratic system is undoubtedly less robust than that of European countries, meaning that the influence of right-wing initiatives is substantially greater than in countries with a more stable institutional structure, for instance Germany. What is more, Brazil is a country with an enormous social divide – a country in which the state has essentially renounced responsibility for millions of its inhabitants. We’re talking about a country in which more than 60,000 people die violent deaths every year: if, in a state facing these kind of issues, a candidate is of the opinion that the police must be prepared to kill, then the practical results of this hard-line policy will be immediately and drastically evident. Brazil is a country in which the LGBT population faces serious physical violence: Bolsonaro is a trenchant homophobe, and in what is already a very violent society, this will have direct consequences; the same is true of violence against women, too.
What differences do you see compared to Europe and the US?
One thing that strikes me is that in Europe and the United States, extreme right-wing movements are heavily dependent on the votes of the poor and the unemployed; in the US, the Rust Belt is particularly important political territory for the far right. Bolsonaro’s voters, meanwhile, are exclusively from the middle classes; in Brazil, the lower classes haven’t been abandoned – they have the PT. It is the middle classes who feel let down, unsupported, and marginalised. As such, it is Brazil’s middle classes who have taken on the role of the political victim, lacking as they are a political voice to back them up like the PT does for the poorer sections of society.
* Esther Solano is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in International Relations and Professor of the International Interuniversity Master of Contemporary Studies in Latin America at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
6 Oct. 2018
Brazil elections: Mistrust, anger driving voters to polls, by Thomas Milz. (DW)
They''re furious and not going to take it anymore: Brazilian voters have had it with the corruption scandals that have plagued the country for years. With elections set for Sunday, the stakes are high.
Representative democracies around the world are experiencing a crisis of confidence. In Brazil, there is a particularly high level of mistrust as a result of the corruption scandals surrounding the state-owned oil company Petrobras that have been uncovered since 2014. Virtually all major parties are affected. According to the Datafolha survey institute, 68 percent of Brazilians mistrust the country''s political parties. And according to the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (Ibope) the figure is even as high as 87 percent.
"It''s normal for voters to be disappointed by politics after being exposed to news of corruption on this scale for so long," says political scientist Carlos Pereira of the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro. "It would be irrational if Brazilian voters did not react in this way."
Pereira believes that disillusionment opens the door to the demonization of politics. "And for the theory that all politicians are equal and therefore corrupt." This in turn leads to the belief that democracy is unable to solve society''s problems and shakes democratic legitimacy, he says.
The distance between politics and the general public is not new. It already existed before the mass demonstrations of June 2013, when dissatisfaction with the political class was ignited by fare increases and millions of people vented their anger. It also existed before the disclosure of the "Lava Jato" affair (Operation Car Wash) involving oil company Petrobras in 2014.
The distance was particularly visible during the dictatorship (1964-85), says political scientist Marco Aurelio Nogueira. "Politics was something far away and foreign, also because it was not allowed to be practiced."
With the re-democratization that occurred in the mid-eighties following dictatorial rule, Brazilian society became politicized, Nogueira explains. "People accepted the invitation to join in and take care of politics." In recent years, however, there has been a deep disillusionment, "a renewed distance between citizens and politics," he says.
A further hurdle for any regeneration of the system is the new public campaign financing model. The party leadership decides whose campaign is to be financed. Most of these are long-established candidates. Political newcomers receive an average of 116,000 reais ($30,200) for their election campaign, while veteran candidates receive an average of 766,000 reais ($199,500). A total of 67 percent of the state campaign fund goes to candidates who are already sitting or have sat in Congress.
Yet even the remaining 33 percent does not go entirely to new politicians, but rather to illustrious figures such as Danielle Cunha, daughter of former parliamentary president Eduardo Cunha, who has been imprisoned for corruption.
A majority has lost confidence
After the mass protests in mid-2013, political reforms were supposed to create renewal. At the moment, little change is visible. "The big parties were not able to carry out a process of renewal in their ranks. And the idea of electing a real outsider has not been carried through either." The most prominent such outsider has been ultra-right ex-military Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the presidential election on October 7, after a court banned imprisoned ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva''s candidacy.
"Bolsonaro himself has been in the political arena for many years," says legal expert Michael Freitas Mohallem of the Getulio Vargas Foundation. "The parties have turned their backs on the public''s desire for renewal because they were busy defending themselves. In total, 31 candidates tainted by "lava jato" will also run in the election. A new mandate would give them partial immunity.
The concept of punishing politicians at the polls will remain an illusion. In addition to the parties unwillingness, the institution known as "puxador de votos," (or vote pulling) is also jointly responsible. Candidates with more votes than they need can transfer surplus votes to party colleagues who have not received enough.
Sep. 2018,
A warning regarding the dangerous path followed by Brazilian democracy. (Open Democracy)
President Dilma Rousseff’s removal on 31 August 2016 initiated an attack on Brazilian democracy. This attack reached a second milestone on 1 September 2018, when former President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, a favourite in Brazilian presidential election polling for the elections on 7 and 28 October, was disqualified from running for office. As a result of both actions, Brazilian citizens face the dangerous prospect of a possible victory by a fascist, racist, chauvinist and homophobic candidate, one who calls for violence and armed repression.
We are drawing attention to these two illegitimate attacks. Firstly, a parliamentary attack against President Rousseff. And secondly, Lula’s sentencing without proof to 12 years in prison, as well as his disqualification from running for electoral office. These are steps to prevent the Brazilian Worker’s Party (PT), to which both Rousseff and Lula belong, from implementing a plan for the redistribution of wealth and the reduction of social, racial and gender inequality. For the past 16 years, this plan has served as a successful example of an alternative to neoliberalism responsible for the global crisis.
We are warning that the instrumentalization of judicial power, in Brazil and other developing countries, is central to a strategy led by international financial capital and some media companies falling short of their obligation to report the truth. The strategy operates via allegedly fighting corruption, but is in reality fostering it. It prevents the electoral candidacy, via unjust sentencing, of those who are viewed as a check on the agenda of ‘markets.’
This is particularly serious in the case of Brazil, which during the Lula government was a reference point for multilateralism and encouraged significant initiatives like the BRICS. Yet now, Brazil has decided to ignore the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s request, “to take all necessary measures to ensure that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison, as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.”
We are profoundly concerned about the consequences of illegitimately facilitating the Brazilian presidential victory of a fascist candidate. They would reverberate both within the country and across the international stage, where extreme right-wing leaders are on the rise and even govern, via voting marked by frustration with the 2008 crisis and neoliberal austerity.
So that society can peacefully accept the results of the elections on 7 and 28, there should be a guarantee of just competition among all parties, including the PT."
# Signed: Celso Amorim, former Brazilian Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs; Renata Avila, Director of Ciudadanía Inteligente Foundation; William Bourdon, Human rights lawyer and Founding partner of Bourdon & Associes; Pedro Brieger, Director of NODAL; Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Gaspard Estrada, Executive Director of OPALC, Sciences Po; Baltasar Garzon, Jurist and President of FIBGAR; Rafael Heiber, Executive Director and Co/founder Common Action Forum, Alexander Main, Director of International Policy; Pierre Sane, former Secretary General of Amnesty International and President of Imagine Africa Institute.


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