Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brazil's "family grant" program receives charges of corruption

The Bolsa Famila program or, "family grant" is a powerful poverty fighting tool used by Brazil's government. But Bolsa Famila has received charges of corruption after an audit found that 1.23 million people receiving the grants were not in poverty.

Bolsa Family gives money to families in poverty as long as they keep their children in school with good attendance. But the program has been unable to keep track of the children, and doesn't know if as many as 1 million children are still attending school.

From Bloomburg, columnist Alexandre Marinis writes about the problems with the Bolsa Famila.

Brazil’s lauded Bolsa Familia anti- poverty program is suffering as charges of bureaucratic corruption and political abuse multiply.

That’s jeopardizing recent gains in lowering the poverty rate in Latin America’s most-populous nation.

In 2009 the global economic crisis will push 2.7 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean back into extreme poverty, which the World Bank defines as living for less than $1.25 daily.

This reverses more than a third of the region’s poverty reduction gains since 2005, according to the World Bank. The proportional increase of poor people there will be seven times greater than that expected for sub-Saharan Africa.

Bolsa Familia, which loosely translates as “family grant,” is a government-run cash transfer benefit and Brazil’s main tool to combat poverty. The state doles out about 12 billion reais ($5.7 billion) to 46 million people, a quarter of the country’s population.

The World Bank hails it as “a silent revolution” that’s “among the world’s best targeted programs.” The International Labour Organization says the initiative is “the largest income distribution program in the world.” It’s been copied throughout Latin America and some developed nations.

Its goals are unassailable. How it’s being managed is another story.

Consider the case of Billy da Silva Rosa. Billy received 20 reais from the government every month and each of his two brothers got 62 reais. The payments stopped after seven months, when a health inspector discovered Billy was a cat owned by the government employee responsible for running Bolsa Familia in the remote town of Antonio Joao, in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

1 comment:

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