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Social and Environmental Impacts of Constitutional Amendment 95 in Brasil: Should the Budget be Understood as a Common Resource?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Malinverni da Silveira, Clóvis Eduardo; Machado, Vagner Gomes
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10634
Sector: Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): environment
public policy
Abstract: "In this paper we seek to study federal public budget as a common good, that is, something that should not be understood as a resource belonging to anyone, but to the general public, in a collective way. Since the State represents, at least in theory, the public interest, it is assumed that state decisions regarding public budget correspond to the interests of society. In many cases, like that of Constitutional Amendment 95 in Brazil, this reasoning is clearly false. Applying the commons paradigm to this subject provides an interesting conceptual tool to question the way that public budget is managed. Brazilian Constitutional Amendment 95 was enacted on December 15th, 2016. There were large popular demonstrations against its approval by National Congress. Popular dissatisfaction results from the fact that the Amendment changed the rules for the budget planning, imposing a limit on almost all expenses related to provision of social services and investments for 20 years, so that the next five governments will not be able to make relevant decisions on social and envirmental areas. The limit became effective in 2017 having taken as reference the value corresponding to primary public expenditures of Federal Government in 2016, plus the inflation rate. This method is going to be used until 2036. It means that real public investments are going to be frozen up to 2036. That means a continuous dismantling of the public structures which serve the public in general (such as public health, education and environmental policies). Through this research we try to understand social and environmental impacts of Constitutional Amendment 95 from the point of view of the theoretical discussions about the commons. In other words, we seek to study this political and legal phenomenon considering the public budget as a common good. The method consists primarily of a bibliographical research on specific references to the amendment, followed by a documentary research, analyzing an array of government technical reports. We intent to organize, interpret and analyze data about public budget from the past years, as well as planned government expenditures for the years to come. We focused on the “thematic analysis”, suggested by Minayo’s (2014, p. 207), by which the following steps are performed: pre-analysis (floating reading, constitution of the corpus, hypothesis formulation); exploitation of the material (coding, classification, aggregation of data). The preliminary results suggest that the Brazilian public budget is controlled by financial interests opposed to the interests of the general public, in such a way that public power sometimes acts as a guarantor of private interests. Since the budget is not state property but a society-wide resource, we postulate that it should be managed for the benefit of society, with a more direct participation of the community in decision making, as well as developing forms of controlling decisions of public agents."

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