By Marcelo Thomé*
Liberal Amazon has kindly allowed me to write here to discuss the Amazon, which I always try to do with a hopeful attitude regarding our ability to build a Brazilian project for sustainable development. But the elections are drawing closer and I feel the need to start my participation in this column by discussing regional inequalities. Before Brazil turns this key, we will continue with our feet bound to the 19th century agenda, with the basic sanitation deficit as the most glaring of our neglected wrongs. And the progress it engenders towards the 21st century will be restricted to the more well-established development clusters in the South and Southeast, thus further compounding regional inequalities.
Our political and economic powers-that-be need to remember that the Legal Amazon accounts for 59% of the Brazilian territory. More than half of our map needs to be included in the Brazilian economy. And not just to develop the region, but to enable Brazil to have a sustainable development project. Looking beyond our continental borders while thinking about the challenges and opportunities of globalization imposes on us the certainty that Brazil’s GDP needs not only to include the Amazon in the economy, but to encourage the region to play a leading role in order to ensure a sustainable, green economy expanded into structured supply chains throughout the country, with attention being paid to regional strengths.
The country’s development cannot be sustained within the boundaries of the South and Southeast regions. We urgently need to become aware of the potential of other regions. Priority in the public budget, tax incentives and differentiated tax regimes to encourage investments in the North and Northeast regions cannot continue to be labeled as paternalism or even more prejudiced descriptions. In fact, such incentives do not even exist, at least not in the necessary scale, form and frequency. And instead of being a Federative compromise, they would rather be repayment of a historical debt recorded in the social ledger of the 1988 Constitution.
Fighting regional inequalities also means alleviating the social drama that humiliates citizens in the Northeast and North. More than 28 million Brazilians live in the Legal Amazon, the vast majority of which under living conditions that were unacceptable as far back as the early 20th century. The further we go into the Amazon, the more this gets worse. The Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI) compiled by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) shows that 33 towns in the region are among the 50 worst in the country in terms of social development.
Without an economic integration policy for the Amazon, the country will not be able to meet the goals undertaken by the Government of Brazil at COP-26 in Glasgow: zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a 50% reduction by 2030; reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030; and eliminating illegal deforestation by 2028.
The elections are drawing nearer and all presidential candidates display good intentions regarding conservation of the Amazon biome and initiatives for a low carbon economy. But we should demand more from our future leaders and members of parliament – at a minimum, that the Amazon be at the forefront of a national sustainable development project. Failing this, Brazil will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the South as it embraces regional inequalities.
*Marcelo Thomé is an architect and construction entrepreneur. He is also president of the Federation of Industries of the State of Rondônia, and of Ação Pró-Amazônia, an association that brings together the 9 federations of industries in the states in the Legal Amazon. Marcelo is the CEO of Instituto Amazônia+21, whose mission is to promote sustainable business in the Amazon.
Source: Newspaper O Liberal