Monday, July 2, 2007

Lula´s Unsustainable Government

Allthough I like to focus in this blog on the positive, and try to avoid politics as much as possible, sometimes it is necessary to make an exeption, especially when negativity and politics intersect.

Last week, Lula´s government decided to resume the construction of a third nuclear reactor at Angra dos Reis, which had been put on hold since the 1980s because of security issues and a lack of funds. As I mentioned before, Brazil´s only commercial nuclear reactor has been haunted by problems eversince it was built, but even though the ambitious plans of the government provide in the construction of eight new reactors by 2030. One of the main arguments is a future lack of water, as Brazil is largely dependent on hydro electricity . But for a country that has currently about 20% of the planet´s clean water within its boundaries, this can hardly be an argument. Instead, the desintegration of the hydro electric network (which I already mentioned here) as a result of commercialisation is more likely to be the problem. Nuclear power cannot be regarded sustainable, not only because of the numerous accidents that have occured at Angra, but also because the generation of nuclear energy does not form a closed system. In sustainability, the output of one system should be fit to be used as the input for another system, or in the words of William McDonough, Waste = Food. But with our current state of technology, nuclear waste cannot be reused. Therefore nuclear energy is not sustainable.

One of the biggest successes of Lula´s government is the Zero Hunger program, providing the country´s poorest a minimum income to stay alive. As poverty is widespread in Brazil, the program has made the government extremely popular. But even though the program is very necessary, it is not sustainable. As in the case of Angra, it does not form a closed system, as it does not generate output. An educational program for example would eventually result in tax paying professionals, taxes that could be used for new investments. In contrast, the Zero Hunger program can only be seen as a temporary solution in addition to structural investments like an educational program. But programs of such kind have not been initiated upto now.

Lula´s government has been the first that has been formed by the people and not by the elite, and so the government had been provided a historic chance to build a sustainable society. It all started off promising, as could be seen for example with the introduction of an open source program as a new model for development (as I commented here). But the man responsible, Sergio Amadeu, has resigned desillusioned as Lula´s special adviser. Instead of executing a visionary policy, the government relaxes and enjoys its re-election, to borrow the words Marta Suplicy, minister of tourism. (She spoke these words to airliner passengers that had been stranded as a result of an air traffic controllers crisis that has been unsolved since September last year. More on the passivity of the government is discussed in this article of The Economist.)

It seems the government is loosing momentum but there is still a light in the dark. Like in Israel, numerous scandals have been surfacing lately in Brazil about corrupt politicians. This is not necessarily negative. Like the Israeli author Amos Oz said: "sewers just stink when they´re cleaned up". Corruption has long been deeply rooted in Brazilian society. If Lula´s government will be able to deal with this problem, it will all have been worthwhile.

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