Rousseff travels to Rome for first meeting with newly elected Pope; anger after public sector ‘super-salaries’ are revealed; survey reveals most Brazilians are optimistic about the economy
Brazil: President meets Pope Francis
President Dilma Rousseff became the second head of state, after Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, to meet with the newly elected Pope Francis on Wednesday 21 March in the Vatican. The meeting comes ahead of the pontiff’s plans to travel to Brazil to attend the World Youth Day (WYD), which will be held in July in Rio de Janeiro .
During the meeting, both Rousseff and Pope Francis discussed their shared commitment to the elimination of poverty, highlighting the need for more aid and protection for those most in need. The two leaders also spoke of the problems facing young people in Brazil such as drugs, violence and education.
“This is a pope that speaks to the weakest, to the youth, to the elderly and to those who need help . . . It is a reason for us Brazilians and for all Latin America to be proud of, but above all it is good for the whole world,” stated the president after the meeting in the Vatican library.
‘This will be a very important pope at a time when we all need’, added Rousseff, who defined Francisco as ‘a modest pope’ and ‘very normal.’
During the visit, Rousseff also took the time to meet with Lula’s former minister José Graziano da Silva, the general director of FAO (the UN’s food and agriculture organization),in addition to the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano.
Since the 3 day trip to Rome, President Rousseff has faced criticism for staying at the expensive Westin Excelsior hotel in Via Veneto, renting over 50 rooms for the large delegation including four ministers, close advisors and bodyguards.
Anger after public sector ‘super-salaries’ are revealed
As Brazil’s once-booming economy deals with the downturn, new figures are released that confirm many more public servants are earning wages that far exceed those outlined by the Brazilian Constitution.
Since the Lei de Acesso à Informação (Freedom of Information Law) was passed last May, details of employees receiving inflated salaries and in some cases earning more than Supreme Court Judges have been revealed. These ‘super salaries,’ as they have become known, are creating newfound resentment over inequality in the nation’s infamous bureaucracies.
The latest figures to be released are those of 58 military attaches, most of whom were being paid salaries grossly over the legal limit. The highest salary paid in January was R$85,300 (approx. US$ 42,500) to a navy captain, this was on top of a basic pay of R$18,768 (US$9,400) and additional benefits of R$66,300 (US$33,000).
Earlier this year documents were also released detailing ambassadors receiving between R$31,800 and R$58,900 (approx. US$16,000 – $39,500) a month.
The generous benefits, strong legal protections, and powerful unions have all made the public sector a competitive and extremely coveted bastion of privilege.
Although the disclosure of the salary details is certainly a positive step towards more transparent governance, it is only the beginning. Whilst thousands of public employees have exceeded constitutional limits on their pay, many more struggle to get by.
Survey reveals most Brazilians are optimistic about the economy
A study undertaken by the Datafolha research group and published by the Brazilian Folha de São Paulo newspaper reveals a general sense of optimism amongst the population regarding the economic situation in the country.
For 51% of Brazilians, the country’s economic situation will improve in the coming months, whilst an even higher 68% believe their own financial situation is likely to improve. Fear of unemployment is also relatively low with only 31% of the population concerned the problem will increase.
The data are from a survey conducted on 20 and 21 March and is comprised of 2653 interviews, with a margin of error at more or less two percent.
The survey also revealed that a majority 65% of Brazilians believe Rousseff’s government does a good or excellent job whilst only 7% gave the administration a negative evaluation.
The feeling of optimism seems to spread further than just the economy with 76% of the populace stating Brazil is a great or good country to live in. 87% say they have more pride than embarrassment of being Brazilian and 81% believe that the country has much importance in the world stage.