Economy &Energy Year III - No 16 September-October 1999

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End of Modernity?
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Brazilian Energy Balance 1999


Graphical Edition:
Editoração Eletrônic
Thursday, 19 February 2004.

End of Modernity?

Carlos Feu Alvim
English Version:
Frida Eidelman

"I am tired of being modern, now I want to be eternal"
Carlos Drummond de Andrade

By recently endorsing the agreement that suspended for one year the self-service in gas stations, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) has symbolically decreed the end of modernity or, at least the end of modernity as a governmental dogma.

The precedent may constitute some risk to the country 's development. Soon other automations will be challenged - from automated teller machines to traffic control robots - which like self-service pumps substitute manpower. The reason furnished for this exception is that these self-service pumps would not be safe but this has no fundament since they have been used for decades in countries with long tradition of respecting the citizen's safety.


One can speculate that the robots that produce cars in Brazil with technology " just like that of Germany" will face a humiliating deportation due to the plea made by car workers - from São Paulo or Bahia - who will restore or establish the "Brazilian way" of fabricating vehicles.

One can make the point that the presidential act is, to say the least, an isolated action and that it does not disrupt the neo-liberal orientation that - clearly stated in the Collor Administration and publicly denied (probably sincerely) by his successors - predominated in the present decade in Brazil and in the so called emergent countries. Nevertheless, only time will show that this is only a concession to the equally regenerated populism or a new economic direction.

The neo-liberal myth reneges on this presidential intervention action. The neo-liberal theory prefers large-scale neo-interventionism in interest rates, exchange policy and a series of monetary mechanisms such as the recent reduction on the percentage of the compulsory deposit in the Central Bank imposed to private banks.

Modern financial sorcerers decide almost alone if it is the time or not to stop the American economy growth, by changing half percent the interest rates, which - according to some others - would provoke fantastic unbalances worldwide.

Meanwhile, our apprentices apply two-figure percent on interest rates in order to regulate the speculative capital flux on which we now depend. This increase of the interest rates increases in tens of billion dollars our accumulated public debt that will bequeathed to the next and future generations.

Nevertheless, FHC's attitude may be heartwarming for those who within the government - up to now without much hope of success - resist and prevent the use of public money at favorable interest rate for financing the elimination of jobs.

A good example is the financing of electronic ratchet that substituted bus conductors. In São Paulo alone about 30 thousand direct jobs would be eliminated (a few indirect ones would be created).

Again, it is an automation practice already adopted in several countries. What is not known is if they had official credit to do it.


In Brazil this seemed viable only with some type of official subsidies, in spite of the saving due to the eliminated jobs and this saving is amplified by a social and tax legislation that penalizes the work force vis-à-vis other production factors

In this case there was no perspective to reduce the bus fares where the benefit granted to the user should be compared to the loss of some jobs. It would be certainly better to let the decision to the "market's wisdom" instead of forcing the modernizing decision.



By endorsing recently the suspension for one year the agreement concerning self-service in gas stations, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has symbolically decreed the end of modernity as a governmental dogma. Is it a new direction for the Government adopted by someone who, like the Poet, is tired of being modern or is it an isolated act?