Social assistance: old-style government persists in Rio

Musical chairs are good only for those who get to sit in them

O Globo reported today on page 19 of its Rio section, in a story that couldn’t be found online, that the speaker of Rio’s state legislature , Paulo Melo, thinks it’s “natural” for governor Sérgio Cabral to have traded an experienced mature administrator with a modern and wide-ranging outlook on Brazil’s social problems, for a  political appointee, to run the state’s Social Assistance and Human Rights Secretariat. Until this switch, the Secretariat was responsible for the Social UPP, which follows the police pacification units into favelas to assess social needs and work to ensure they’re met.

“The Social Action [secretariat] was always run by the Workers’ Party. I see no problem in the secretary’s replacement, ” Melo says in the article. “Henriques was in the post because Benedita [da Silva, no relation to ex-president Lula, but a former federal official in the social policy area] had to leave [to run for congress] They [critics in the press, presumably] are creating a controversy because a technical person left and a political one came in. But Rodrigo [Neves, Henriques’ substitute] also has a technical background. He’s a sociologist with experience in the area of social assistance,” he added.

According to his own online biography, Neves has long been concerned about social issues and was elected twice to the state legislature apparently on this basis, having created laws to “promote development with citizenship for all” — but has never held an executive position in the area of public policy design and implementation. Under President Lula’s government, Henriques designed the national Bolsa Família income transfer program and implemented it in coordination with the five ministries involved in this area. He says the design arose from an “accumulation of knowledge over years” acquired by his group at the Institute for Applied Economic Policy, IPEA, where he was active for a long period.

The Globo piece includes a long description of some of the political acrobatics the governor had to undertake to accomodate allies who helped reelect him to his second term, which began just a few days ago. It doesn’t mention the biggest irony of the story: Henriques is a member of the Workers’ Party. The party’s leader in the state legislature, Inês Pandeló, reportedly told Globo that although Henriques had worked with Benedita, he didn’t have a direct link to the party, and his appointment to replace her in April of last year didn’t have party approval.

At the time of his reelection, Cabral– a member not of the Workers’ Party but of its national ally, the PMDB, or Brazilian Democratic Movement Party– was said to have won with 66% of the vote because of the success of his policy to pacify Rio’s slums, making the city safe in the runup to the 2016 Olympics. Apparently, he also needed some political nuts and bolts.

Just this week, two new appointees spoke of political considerations as a stumbling block to effective government. Cabral’s own new Education Secretary, Wilson Risolia, has set out to reform a school system of 1,693 schools where all school principals and coordinators are political appointees– based on demands from… the state legislature. One hopes the same isn’t the case with the state’s doctors.

The disruption caused by changing political appointments at all levels of government in Brazil creates chaos and slows down the delivery of services to citizens. Since losing his job, Henriques was taken on by mayor Eduardo Paes to run the Instituto Pereira Passos, ostensibly an institution responsible for Rio’s strategic planning for economic development– but which will now house the Social UPP administration at the municipal level. It’s certainly heartening that the work done so far won’t be flushed down Rio’s shaky sewage system. But at this writing, it is still unknown if Henriques’ original staff will go along with him. Meanwhile, thousands of young people in Rio’s “pacified” slums, in a sense orphaned by fleeing drug traffickers (who employed them as soldiers, messengers and lookouts), need training programs and jobs. This was but one area Henriques was working on. And 12,000 more cariocas join the population served by the Social UPP this week, as Rio’s BOPE elite squad today took possession of three additional communities, to create a 14th police pacification unit a month from now.

The shakeup also threw a wrench into the resumé of Felipe Góes, until recently president of the institute Henriques now heads up. Mayor Paes has said Góes, a former McKinsey consultant with a University of Michigan MBA, stays on as Extraordinary Development Secretary. That secretariat oversees the Instituto Pereira Passos, in the municipal hierarchy.

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About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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