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Brazil’s DNA

Researchers from Unicamp create index to assess socioeconomic evolution

A group of researchers from the Nucleus of Studies of Public Policies (Nepp), of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), has built an index to assess the economic well-being, competitiveness, protection and social cohesion in the country, besides questions related to education and health and to socioenvironmental development.Called the IDNA Brazil, this index expands the Human Development Index (HDI) created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to incorporate dimensions of the economic and social life and of the sociability of our country, according to Pedro Luiz Barros Silva, the coordinator of the Nepp.

Besides the levels of infant mortality and schooling measured by the HDI, the indicators of the IDNA Brazil tot up, for example, the percentage of deaths from homicide amongst men aged between 15 and 24 years – currently in the range of 385 per 100,000 inhabitants – or the performance of pupils in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), coordinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which analyzes the capacity of the pupils for analyzing, thinking logically, and reflecting on their knowledge and experience. The Pisa attributed an average of 396 points to Brazil and the last place amongst the 40 countries assessed.

The 24 indicators that make up the IDNA Brazil were selected using four criteria: they are of public domain and easy access; they are produced in a continuous and sustainable way; the methodology for collecting them is accepted by the scientific community; and they permit comparison with other countries. The index was tested in an exercise of comparison with similar indicators from Spain, a country that 25 years ago used to show levels of economic and social development analogous to those of Brazil.

In this comparison, some dimensions of the IDNA were impaired, as was the case of the indicator for adequate sewage installations, since in Spain, as in the other countries of the European Union, the sanitation services reach 100% of the population or something very close to that. The indicator for homicides of youngsters was also impaired, to the point of producing an inverted image on the graph: with 1.4 deaths per 100,000, Spain is a clear winner over the Brazilian statistics, which indicate a coefficient of mortality from homicide in this age group 275 times greater.

Brazil of the future
The first exercise in applying the new index took place in Campos do Jordão, between September 18 and 19, when 35 specialists from various areas of knowledge, businessmen, activists from social movements, religious people, and artists met, by initiative of the DNA Brazil Institute. At this meeting, they were invited to create a desirable and realistic scenario for the country 25 years hence. Taking part in the work were the president of FAPESP, Carlos Vogt; geneticist Mayana Zatz; businessman Horácio Lafer Piva; the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva; ambassador Jório Dauster; the leader of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), João Pedro Stedile, and the Buddhist monk Coen Sensei, among others.

To idealize the Brazil of the future, they used as a parameter the IDNA Brazil and the current profile of Brazilian reality made up by this set of indicators. Projected into the future, the index formed a sort of boundary line that made it possible to measure how far the country is from the targets set by them. The result was 46.8%. That is to say, on a scale from zero to one hundred, the country is 53.2% distant from the established targets.”The IDNA allows a comparison of Brazil with itself in the course of time”, explains Geraldo Di Giovanni, a researcher from the Nepp and an advisor to FAPESP’s presidency, who, together with Barros Silva, Geraldo Biasoto Junior and José Norberto Dachs, idealized the Index.

Accordingly, comparing reality and the realistic desire, it was found, for example, that in the next quarter century Brazil will have to reduce by half the levels of inequality between rich and poor, triple the per capita income, and expand the level of secondary schooling from the current 33.3% to 84%, in order to reach the desirable levels of economic well-being and education proposed by the participants in the encounter in Campos do Jordão. The second exercise of the IDNA was carried out under the national coordination of the social movements, in an encounter at the Single Central Union of Workers (CUT). The data is being tabulated.

Inequality in income
In spite of the heterogeneity of the group that met in Campos do Jordão, the results of the projections made using the IDNA were coherent: the indicators for inequality in the distribution of income – measured by the Gini index and by the 20/20 ratio, which indicates how many times the income of the richest 20% is greater than that of the poorest 20% – and the per capita income, corrected by purchasing power parity were the main focus of concern for those who took part in the scenario that they forecast for development.

In the item of inequality of income, Brazil today only loses to the Ivory Coast and Swaziland. And it still records a per capita income that is three times lower than Spain’s. “There is a clear perception that income has to be distributed for growth”, observed the Nepp’s coordinator. This coherence became even clearer when they established targets in the indicator for tax justice, which measures the participation of the taxes on income and property in public revenues, direct and indirect, as a whole, and which in Brazil amounts to 20% of the tax burden. “The target set by the group was 45%, higher than that of the OECD”, Barros Silva observed.