What can a president do?

President Dilma Rousseff has proposed a plebiscite that will determine the future of the Brazilian political reform. Judicially, she is trespassing on her presidential powers because this proposal and its progress depend on the congress. It is not her job to force a political reform onto the several branches of the government, but alas that is what she has done.

What Rousseff is doing is refusing to move the chess pieces she can move. The game has been upped by the audience and it is apparent that politicians are terrified: almost all political parties released statements to the press this week regarding the Brazilian protest, corruption, political reform and excessive spending.

Leaving the problems that have been brought to the table by the people that are actually the fault of the Legislative and the Judicial branches of the government and that can be solved by them, there is much the president herself can do to change the landscape Brazil finds itself in at the moment. The problem is that she has been focusing on the things she can’t actually do to distract the people from the real issues.

So what can she do? Two things on the list of demands can be solved with one strike. Corruption and excessive spending come from most places in the government (Congress, executive, local government, etc) but a good place for Rousseff to start is the number of ministries she has to preside over – ministries her government has created.

In 2002 Brazil had 24 ministries. Today, there are 39 ministries that need R$58,4 billion to function every year, money that of course comes from taxes. This is not only excessive, but double the amount of money used for one of the biggest social programs in Brazil, Bolsa Família. And many of these ministries are redundant and could easily be absorbed by other ministries, making them easier to manage and cheaper to keep.

An example of a ministry that could be absorbed by another is the Ministry of Fishing. It is not just a little bit ridiculous that Brazil has a whole ministry dedicated to fishing, but matters seem worse once it’s revealed that there is a Ministry of Agriculture, Stockbreeding and Provision. There is also a Ministry of Farming.

I could give you many other examples (Social Communication Ministry cold be absorbed by Communication Ministry, Women’s Ministry could be absorbed by Human Rights Ministry and so on) but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that an addition of 15 ministries in ten years drains the public funds considerably.

There is also the fact that controlling 39 ministries can’t be easy for Rousseff. There is a high number of people working in these ministries and they are practically free to spend as they like since there are too many of them to account for. This is where corruption and overspending start in the federal government

I won’t even mention the culture of creating public jobs to buy endorsement or benefit friends and family.

This is where Dilma should start. But the people need to pressure her more. And the Congress have to be shaking in their shoes to do something, so I’m hoping these movements won’t end so soon.


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