Food insecurity hit 10.2 million Brazilians before the pandemic

. Sep 18, 2020
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Today, we talk about the food insecurity problem in Brazil — which inflicts a major human and economic toll on the country. The issues with vacancies in regulatory agencies. And the multiple impeachment cases across Brazil. 

Brazil back on the Hunger Map

Brazil has made its unwelcome return to the

world&#8217;s Hunger Map — the list of countries in which over 5 percent of the population is food insecure. New data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics shows that, in 2018, 4.6 percent of households face severe food insecurity. In just five years, over 3 million Brazilians moved into the category of those who have nothing to eat on a regular basis, the total number in the country in this category stands at 10.2 million.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/3770959" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The data refers to 2018 — meaning that the post-pandemic situation might be even worse. &#8220;In 2020, people who were already in informal, precarious jobs have now lost their income,&#8221; says economist Marcos Andrade, a professor at São Paulo&#8217;s Mackenzie University.</p> <ul><li>Due to budgetary constraints, the government has <a href="">halved the coronavirus emergency salary</a> to vulnerable populations, now valued at BRL 300 (USD 57). For the country’s poorest 10 percent, the cut resulted in an immediate 44-percent loss in purchasing power.</li><li>Moreover, access to food products has been reduced due to <a href="">recent price hikes</a>. Back in February, BRL 100 (USD 19) could buy 21 kilos of brown beans; now, it is only enough for 14 kilos. The same amount bought 35 kilos of rice in February–– buys only 26 kilos now.</li></ul> <p><strong>Inequality.</strong> Food security data offers a clear picture of Brazil&#8217;s deep-rooted inequalities. Hunger is more prevalent in rural areas, among blacks and multiracial people, and in single-parent homes.&nbsp;</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3771158" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Compromised future.</strong> Half of Brazil&#8217;s <a href="">children under five years old</a> live in food-insecure households. Besides the immense human impact, Brazil&#8217;s inability to protect its population from malnutrition will have major effects. According to the <a href=",or%20US%24500%20per%20individual.">Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition</a>, nutrition problems incur costs through impaired learning, poor school performance, compromised adult labour productivity, and increased health care costs.</p> <ul><li>Adult earnings are reduced by 2.4 percent for every 1-percent loss in potential height.&nbsp;</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>The problem with Brazil&#8217;s regulatory agencies</h2> <p>The General Data Protection Law comes into effect today, but without a regulatory body to monitor how to implement the new rules on how to handle customers&#8217; personal information. Despite an August 26 <a href="">decree</a> detailing the structure and responsibilities of the National Data Protection Agency (ANPD), the government has yet to appoint any of its five board members. Who in turn will need to be confirmed by the Senate.</p> <ul><li>A total of 43 business associations urged the government to take swift action, warning that the lack of a regulatory body would incur unnecessary litigation and insecurity about how the new law will be interpreted.</li></ul> <p><strong>Big picture.</strong> The ongoing woes with the ANPD are part of a bigger issue: it has been 14 months since the government last appointed anyone to the country&#8217;s 11 <a href="">regulatory agencies</a>. Currently, interim members occupy 40 percent of board seats.</p> <p><strong>Who&#8217;s to blame.</strong> While the government&#8217;s incompetence is certainly to blame, the Senate also bears some responsibility for this situation. Senate President Davi Alcolumbre has <a href="">held off confirmation hearings</a> when the names put forward by the administration did not suit his interests. The same scenario happened with antitrust watchdog Cade and the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac) as well.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Seen as the “fourth level” of governance in Brazil, the decisions of regulatory agencies can have a huge impact on the daily lives of the population, establishing rules and standards in a number of key sectors</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>How impeachment day went</h2> <p>Thursday was an eventful and unusual day — even by the standards of Brazilian politics. A total of <a href="">three impeachment cases</a> were heard before local legislatures, concerning two state governors and the mayor of Brazil&#8217;s most famous city. Here is what happened:</p> <ul><li><strong>Rio de Janeiro (state).</strong> In a whopping 24-0 vote, a special committee authorized the State Congress to hold an impeachment trial against <a href="">suspended Governor Wilson Witzel</a>. He is accused of embezzling funds earmarked for the fight against Covid-19. The unprecedented unanimous vote suggests that Mr. Witzel&#8217;s case is beyond salvation.</li><li><strong>Rio de Janeiro (city).</strong> Meanwhile, the state capital’s City Council decided — in a 24-20 vote — not to open impeachment proceedings against Mayor Marcelo Crivella. He is under criminal investigation for allegedly siphoning public money and laundering it through evangelical churches. This marked the fifth time Mr. Crivella escaped impeachment proceedings.</li><li><strong>Santa Catarina.</strong> Governor Carlos Moisés is accused of fiscal irresponsibility, for granting wage bumps to state prosecutors without authorization from lawmakers. In a 33-6 vote, lawmakers decided to move forward with the impeachment process. Now, a committee formed by five lawmakers, five state judges, and the president of the Santa Catarina Court of Justice will have five days to weigh on the accusations and issue a recommendation to the State Congress floor — who will then vote on whether or not to impeach Mr. Moisés.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Business. </strong>The services sector is the backbone of the Brazilian economy. But a recent <a href="">study</a> by think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas shows that, once government aid programs to businesses finish, 25 percent of companies in the services sector will layoff employees or permanently close. Among businesses which plan to fire staff members, 10 percent say layoffs could affect up to 20 percent of their employees.</li><li><strong>Diplomacy. </strong>U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives today in Boa Vista, in Brazil&#8217;s northernmost state of Roraima, to discuss the migration of Venezuelan citizens. Mr. Pompeo will meet with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo before heading to Colombia for a meeting with President Ivan Duque.</li><li><strong>Environment. </strong>Next week, the Supreme Court will hold a public hearing to discuss how the government is managing a fund to promote environmental protection programs. In the days leading up to the hearing, the Environment Ministrytried to unfreeze funds which have been left untouched for the past year and a half — approving BRL 530 million (USD 101 million) for actions meant to <a href="">combat climate change</a>.</li><li><strong>Justice.</strong> Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurélio Mello has suspended a deposition President Jair Bolsonaro was set to give next week — as part of an investigation into whether or not he illegally interfered with the Federal Police. Another justice had ordered Mr. Bolsonaro to give an in-person testimony (instead of a written one), but Justice Mello delayed the process until the full Supreme Court bench weighs in on the issue. A trial date must be set by <a href="">Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux</a>.</li><li><strong>Reforms.</strong> The government&#8217;s whip in the House, Congressman Ricardo Barros, said on Thursday that the administration believes it is possible to approve two major reforms — an overhaul of the federative pact, which sets new responsibilities for states, municipalities and the federal government, and the civil service reform —  before the end of 2020. However, as we <a href="">showed earlier this week</a>, the median time frame for lawmakers to pass constitutional amendments is no less than 246 days. It takes even longer during election years such as 2020–– 327 days.

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