A poverty crisis with the potential of a riot: India and Brazil in the pandemic era
"There is nothing to be done about it...It's madness"...were the exact words of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, when asked about the situation of the pandemic in his country. At the same moment, there was a video footage of him on social media, taking a spin on a jet ski...Many other presidents in different countries, had similar approach towards Covid-19, as if it was an annoying pimple they didn't want to deal with...but this reaction of Bolsonaro, was more than schocking!
The mayor of Sao Paulo, warned a couple of days ago, that hospitals would collapse within days, if the pandemic of Covid-19 kept up to infect people in Brazil so quickly and in so high rates. But Bolsonaro, didn't seem to pay any attention on that. In fact, he opposed to local governors who tried to impose measures of social distancing. In this context of thinking, he fired Luiz Mandetta the Health Minister of Brazil, who thought that social distancing was inevitable. A little while after that, the Justice Minister of his government resigned because he believed Bolsonaro was trying shadowy, to mingle with federal police activities.
By now, Bolsonaro's governance is all based on sowing division. He exploited a period of huge anger against politicians, back in the year 2018, and a polirization between left and right, he appeared to be intact by the biggest political scandal that took place in Brazil under the name "Car Wash", which actually involved a state owned petroleum company of Brazil "Petrobras", and it was then that he placed Moro as Justice Minister, as Moro was the leading judge of the "Car Wash" scandal, and that gave Bolsonaro, the opportunity to "clear" his name of any previous political scandals in his country.
Bolsonaro's political supporters, forming his strong base, are evangelical Christians, and also the military and agriculture sector. Those people, would never like their president to pursue a political approach following the advices of public-health experts. And that, brings Brazil in the exact terrible posistion it is right now...He never cared about indigenous communities in Brazil, populations that actually form a huge majority of the country. Bolsonaro, got rid of all regulations that would prevent land grabbers, to proceed by deforestating the Amazon. Even when the international community argued against this destruction, Bolsonaro replied to Merkel, that she would better "reforest Germany"...
The result of all this arrogance, is 800,000 indigenous people, living inside the Amazon forest, to be facing the pandemic without any protection measure against that, or any potential health measure. More that 11 million people, live in Brazil's favelas, without water supplies, or any infrastructure, and they work under extreme conditions. The past in Brazil, showed that people suffering poverty can become extreme riots. And this current condition right now, is indicative of the heaviest human toll in poor peoples' lives in Brazil. Incomes of people who cannot work from home, have already shrinked, and the danger of a humanitarian crisis, and a hunger crisis, is very close.
Except for Brazil, India is another country with very high population being hit by poverty and extreme living conditions especially after Covid-19. In March alone, there has been recorded that 140 million workers lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate escalated from 8% to 26%. Indians working abroad, cancelled their plans of returning home and they also reduced their remittances to India.
The National Council of Applied Economic Research in India, talks about a 12.5% economic contraction for the year 2020, which is devastating and indicative of what is going to happen next, in a country that more than 60% of Indians survive on less than 3.20 dollars a day...
Narendra Modi, spent an almost 10% of the country's GDP to generate growth, after the crisis. But what he succeeded has nothing to do with the poorest once again...! Instead of supporting the majority of the poorest people (by delivering urgent cash), whose situation worsened after the pandemic took over, he emphasized on supply-side inducements the impact of which, will be shown in medium term the earliest.
Both Brazil and India, have right now populations, living in extreme poverty conditions, and especially after the pandemic, the situation of those people has undescribably deteriorated.
The only thing that can be foreseen, in this vague context of the current era of the pandemic of Covid-19, is that those people form a base of a potentially radical nest for the future to come. Considering the fact that most of the countries are at the moment governed by populists' regimes, and the fact that central authorities gathered much more power lately, with a view to face the pandemic, there is an exploding scenery of radicalism for the years ahed of us, and i see no safety net...!
written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science