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Brazil Sets Sights on Eradicating Extreme Poverty

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Close to 8.5% of Brazil’s population lives in extreme poverty. (Photo: Leonardo Barbosa)
Close to 8.5% of Brazil’s population lives in extreme poverty. (Photo: Leonardo Barbosa)

ECONOMY

  • Brazil sets 2014 date to eliminate extreme poverty
  • "Brazil Without Poverty" scheme aims to send financial aid to the poorest areas of Brazil
  • Social welfare initiatives have brought 20 million people out of extreme poverty in the last decade

The Brazilian government has launched a new social welfare initiative that aims to bring millions of citizens out of extreme poverty by 2014.

President Dilma Rousseff said the main objective of her government is to help these people achieve a reasonable standard of living.

The Brasil Sem Miseria, or "Brazil Without Poverty", scheme will be based on existing welfare programs that have reportedly lifted some 20 million people out of sub-standard living conditions over the last ten years.

One of Brazil’s main social welfare schemes is the Bolsa Familia (Family Grant), which pays families a maximum of 242 reais (around $152) per month, depending on the number of children they have and their overall financial situation. In order to be eligible for the grant, the parents or guardians must make sure their children are vaccinated and attend school.

The rapid pace of Brazil’s economic growth has also led to the expansion of the middle class and a rise in general living standards. But over 16 million Brazilians are still classified as being in extreme poverty, living off less than $45 per month.

"A country that has grown like Brazil can't be content with just having a big social program like the Family Grant," Social Development Minister Tereza Campello told the BBC.

Change in Mindset

Brazil Without Poverty will build on the Family Grant scheme and send more financial aid to the poorest areas of Brazil. Additional education and health programs will also be made available to those most in need.

Ms. Campello said that there would need to be a massive shift in thinking if Brazil Without Poverty is going to work. “We need to change the mindset that it is up to a poor person to come to the state and ensure that the state reaches out to the poor person,” she said.

The 2010 Census estimated that around 8.5% of Brazil’s population is living in extreme poverty. Almost 60% of these people live in the country’s north-east, the region which has long been known as the most poverty stricken in Brazil.

Ms. Campello said that the Brazilian government aims to eliminate extreme poverty by 2014 and become the first developing economy to accomplish the first step in the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.

Key Statistics – Brazil’s Economy (source: CIA World Factbook)

  • GDP: $2.17 trillion in 2010 compared to $2.02 in 2009, 9th largest in the world
  • Inflation: 4.9% in 2010, equivalent to 2009, 138th highest in the world
  • Unemployment: 7% in 2010 compared to 8.1% in 2009
  • Population below poverty line: 26%

By James Mulholland for
James Mulholland is a Paris-based internet and broadcast journalist specializing in sports, current affairs and technology news, while also freelancing as a photographer.

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