Entitlement to Income in Brazil: the Experience of the Bolsa Família Programme
In Brazil, the 1988 Federal Constitution can be seen as a landmark for guaranteeing citizenship rights and for the building of the social protection network. This Constitution, which concretises the process of redemocratisation experienced by the country, resulted from a broad process of political discussion and mobilisation. Among its most expressive contents it is worth highlighting the strong component for guaranteeing citizenship rights and for the corresponding accountability by the state, asserting the commitment towards direct democracy through the institutionalisation of channels for popular participation in controlling public management, and further, the construction of a new federative pact, with emphasis on decentralisation and on the strengthening of municipalities , the local governments.
Already in its Article 1, the Constitution asserts the federal and republican character of the state, innovating in relation to other federations: from then on, Brazil counts on three autonomous spheres of government, with recognition of the municipalities as federated entities, having their own authority, their own government, with autonomy to legislate and impose taxes within their scope of authority.
In Article 3 of the Constitution the fundamental principles of the Federative Republic of Brazil are defined, among them that of eradicating poverty and marginalisation, and that of reducing social and regional inequalities. In the field of public policy, the Constitution guarantees the universal right to health and education and, moreover, defines Social Security as being constituted by social welfare, health and social assistance policies.
Therefore, any analysis of public policy in the country should consider, among other things, the federative character of the State, the sharing of responsibilities of federal entities in relation to reducing poverty and inequality and ensuring the rights of citizenship, with the corresponding duty of the State, especially in the areas of health and education.
It is also necessary to consider that, despite recent advances in the reduction of inequality and poverty, Brazil has its history marked by unacceptable levels of economic, social and regional inequalities.
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