CPMF, the illusion of stamped funds


Author: Rolf Kuntz

Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, 20/12/2007

The bullshit continues to dominate the discussion of taxes, after the CPMF has been eliminated. The Minister of Finance, Guido Mantega, almost succeeded in imposing on a number of people - some considered intelligent - the idea of ​​creating a tax to finance health. Even oppositionists showed a willingness to join the conversation, and some would have almost certainly adhered to the proposal, if President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had not told his minister to stop it.

The mother of all bullshit, in this case, is a well-intentioned idea: money is lacking to finance public health programs and projects. There is a variant of this nonsense: it is necessary to guarantee the allocation of resources for health and a good solution is to invent a stamped tax.

First point: it is foolish to speak of “lack” of money for health or for any other sector considered a priority. There is no point in complaining about the tax burden, one of the largest in the developing world, and at the same time defending the creation of a tax for a specific purpose. Only “resources” are lacking for this or that important purpose because they spend very poorly and mountains of money are wasted. Does anyone doubt?

Money has not been lacking for the real increase in the payroll. The ratio between payroll and GDP may be lower than it was a few years ago, but the nominal variation in expenditure has been much greater than the rate of inflation. In addition, none of the ten commandments orders the actual increase of the sheet according to the rate of expansion of the product. It is often argued as if this divine order existed, but no respectful theologian has supported this view to date.

There has been no shortage of money to expand the civil service - and the hiring, as has already been proven, was not intended, in recent years, only to compensate for the elimination of outsourced workers. Resources have always been sufficient to create useless secretariats and Ministries, such as Fisheries and Long Term Planning, invented for the government to accommodate comrades and allies. Efficiency and quality gains in the fulfillment of public functions? There is no news of this, not least because productivity and quality in the provision of services, as well-informed Brazilians know, are flags of the neoliberal reaction.

Nor has there been a lack of resources to finance the MST and similar organizations. How much public money is given unchecked to these movements and other "civil society" organizations protected by the government and the parties at the base?

The list of waste caused by both incompetence and trickery would be very long. With the CPMF renovation project overturned, parliamentarians and executive officials rehearsed at least one budget review to find possible cuts. Judiciary works were soon remembered, and with good reason. There was talk of pruning expenses from the three branches of government, proportionally to each one's budget. But why proportionally, and not according to the social utility of each item? How many advisers does a parliamentarian need? Why should the taxpayer pay for his movement and expenses of electoral interest? Only in budget amendments did the Ministry of Planning immediately identify the possibility of cuts of R $ 12 billion. The solution could be more radical. Most of these amendments are parochial and clientelistic and are nothing more than aberrations in a federal budget.

Second point: the linking of revenues does not guarantee the quality of government action and makes the budget unmanageable, increasing waste. There are funds earmarked for education at all levels of government, but student training remains disastrous. It is not necessary to resort to international tests to know this. Just look at the number of functional illiterates and the difficulties of companies to find employees capable of receiving training. This is also true for health and sanitation.

Then there is something comical in this whole discussion: if everyone agrees on the urgent need to invest more money in health, why the devil do we need a budget? Yes, every government needs money to fulfill its role and the competence and seriousness to do it well. It is part of political action - and one of its most important activities - to decide whether the funds will go to this or that function. The allocation of funds does not eliminate this responsibility, does not guarantee good governance, nor does it prevent scandals such as overpriced ambulances.

* Rolf Kuntz is a journalist