Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Policies against Poverty and Inequality: A Comparative Analysis of Results 2000-2010

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Augusto DE VENANZI , Sociology, Indiana University, Fort Wayne, IN
After the Lost Decade, Latin American countries started to explore innovative strategies aimed at reducing poverty and social inequality. Their search was conducted with a certain degree of independence from the dictates of multilateral organizations, which lead to two trends: (a) a renewed confidence in the state’s capacity to guide social planning; and (b) a rejection of the rigid fiscal austerity measures typical of structural adjustment plans. This study looks at three countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela and their attempts at improving the social conditions of the poor. Special attention is paid to key policies implemented by each government: Family Grant in Brazil, Families in Action in Colombia, and the Social Missions in Venezuela. Flagship policies in Brazil and Colombia are of the Conditional Cash Transfer type, whereas in Venezuela, most social spending is channeled into a direct-service model. Attention is also drawn to reforms in social security: the three countries have all procured important reforms in pension regimes aimed at allowing non-contributing citizens, such as the elderly at risk, to draw welfare benefits. The reforms also seek to incorporate informal sector workers into social security. Data for the period 2000 - 2010 reveal that each country has made advances against poverty and inequality: poverty rates have declined and so have GINI coefficients. However, no key policies have been able to drive a substantial number of workers into the primary labor market, nor have they resulted in the expected vigorous participation by beneficiaries in the administration of policy at local levels. So far the policies’ effects have been mostly compensatory. Reforms in social security have aided some targeted populations though statistics regarding the inclusion of informal workers into social security are vague and inconclusive.