© REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Recent trends in poverty and inequality reduction in Brazil have been impressive. However, the starting point was so high that despite all the promising results there is still a long way to go. The protests highlight this. Despite all progress, there is no room for complacency. Brazil is still a very unequal country in which the vast majority of the population does not have access to public services of a reasonable quality, particularly health, education and transport. The unease with the government spending on the 2014 Football World Cup and the rise on bus fares shows that there is a strong demand for public resources to be better used and targeted to people’s needs.
Better access to better quality public services are the biggest challenges facing the emerging middle class. Despite their increased purchasing power, the emerging middle class finds it difficult (if not impossible) to enter the elite schools, universities and hospitals (public and private) that the upper middle class and the rich use. Having emerged to a middle class status, this part of the population now feels empowered to demand access to quality services.
The Brazilian government has recently been targeting more resources to areas mentioned in the protests. Education and health expenditure as a proportion of GDP have increased in the last decade, respectively from 3.9% to 5.6% and from 3% to 4%, according to World Bank estimates. However, the quality of services is still very deficient. Further resources and much better management to reduce inefficiency, waste and corruption, are now required.