HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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24 May 2014

Dis-ingenuity

The Brazilian federal government has launched a new marketing campaign to convince Brazilians that they haven´t really wasted public money on the World Cup. The Folha de São Paulo published a puff piece comparing the investments in stadiums to one month of education for the whole country, while the feds have published a pamphlet comparing the federal investment in health and education since 2009 (R$820 billion) to the investments in stadiums (R$8 billion).

This is wrong for innumerable reasons, not the least of which is the government´s attempt to hide their poor choices behind big and small numbers.

The investment in education is one thing, health another. Why are they mixed together in the government´s “data”? This is a weak attempt to respond to the cry “Da Copa eu abro mão, quero meu dinheiro para saúde e educação!” More, the public investment in health and education is for the Brazilian public, all 200 million of them. As I´ve been pointing out here for the last five years, the investment in stadiums is for an ever more limited public.

Worse, of the nine stadiums fully constructed with public money, seven have been handed over to Public Private Partnerships and Manaus and Cuiabá are desperately trying to find elephant trainers. That is, the state has financed these behemoths and given them to private companies to make a profit, therefore privatizing public space and taking the logics of the public realm and kicking them up the arse.

I don´t actually have a problem with public financing for stadiums as long as they remain public. Why doesn´t the government demand that these stadiums have public schools or emergency care centers inside them? Why can´t we make them multi-functional, integrated elements of the social and urban fabrics? PPPs make the stadiums uni-functional, just the opposite of the claims being made.

Another perverse claim of this new marketing (Neymarketing) in relation to stadiums is that R$8 billion really isn´t all that much money. In relation to the Brazilian GDP this is true, but by that same logic a one hundred thousand kids not having decent schools isn´t much compared to the general population. These stadiums need to be evaluated in their local contexts where they have social, economic, political and urban impacts. As Rodrigo Zeidan at the Fundação Dom Cabral recently told me, “Even though the world cup may provide some marginal direct economic benefit there are huge losses of we take into account the opportunity costs involved in the proposed investments by the Brazilian governments.  All taken into account the world cup is not the brightest investment by a lower middle class income country.”




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