Socialist Utopia: A City in Brazil Experiments with the Unconditional Basic Income


When the cashier Agnes Marques Ferreira lost her grocery store task in January, the government of her home town of Maricá saved her from plunging into suffering by offering her with a regular monthly basic earnings worth around 900 reals, the equivalent of 140 euros ($ 171).

In theory, the sum would hardly be enough for the single mother of two young boys to make ends fulfill. Marques Ferreira now pays 20 percent less for electricity and water. The citys public transportation system is complimentary of charge, and if she does require to make larger expenses, such as renovating her restroom, she can use for a no-interest loan from the city.

She lives together with her household in an easy house in a Maricá residential area. “In Rio, I would be pleading on the streets,” says Marques Ferreira. “Here, I have a lifestyle that most poor Brazilians can only dream of.”

DER SPIEGEL 20/2021

Bild vergrößern

But if you turn off the primary roadway into the town center, the image modifications. Biking paths run together with the bikes and roads can be borrowed at no charge. Uniformed traffic guards assist children and the elderly across the street. Just off the citys main square, which is going through remodellings, there is a brand brand-new, intense red cinema, constructed by the citys culture company. The buses are also red, as are the loaner bikes and the municipal government. The option of color is no accident: Here, it proclaims, the leftists are in power.Om a Brazil run by the extreme conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, Maricá is like an island. With a population of 160,000, the community has been led by the Labour Party of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the last 12 years, and it is home to an experiment in brand-new social policies intended at equivalent chance and combination.

SPIEGEL International

In Maricá, policies that are being gone over as a model in many parts of the world– particularly for the post-corona era– have actually become truth: unconditional standard income, a complimentary mass transit system and detailed, totally free healthcare. Social researchers, economic experts and politicians from around the world are paying very close attention.

The article you are reading originally appeared in German in problem 20/2021 (May 15, 2021) of DER SPIEGEL.

The town responsible for this beneficence is located around 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Rio de Janeiro, on the Atlantic coast. At very first sight, Maricá is nearly indistinguishable from other Brazilian cities. Filling station, workshops, low-cost restaurants and protestant churches line the four-lane artery that connects it with Rio.

Bild vergrößern

Cashier Marques Ferreira (r.) with her 2 kids, her mom and two nieces

Foto: Kristin Bethge/ DER SPIEGEL

He avoids criticizing Quaquá and Horta, his follower. “They do a good task. Theyre just in the wrong celebration,” grumbles the previous clockmaker. When it pertains to “health, education, standard earnings and urbanization,” he provides them a score of 10 out of 10. “We have the best mayor in the state of Rio de Janeiro.” This verdict isnt simply surprising since it comes from a staunch Bolsonaro supporter. Former Mayor Quaquá was disallowed from looking for public office for 8 years in 2014 by a regional election court. The judge argued that the ex-mayor had abused his power to guarantee re-election by raising the salaries of city workers soon prior to the vote.But his challengers have actually been not able to take advantage of the decision for their own political purposes. And even without holding public workplace, Quaquá remains the most powerful politician in Maricá. He receives his visitors in a dilapidated nation home in the green hills outside the city. The odor of barbecue is in the air, the water in the swimming pool looks as though its been there for awhile and faded posters from the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the Labour Party hang on the walls of the terrace.

” We are a laboratory for all of Brazil,” states former Mayor Washington Quaquá. The 49-year-old governed the city from 2009 to 2017 and laid the groundwork for todays reality. The jolly social researcher is a senior figure in the Labour Party and is an increasing star among the proteges of the effective Lula.

” We Have the Best Mayor” Two years previously, Bolsonaro had actually won 62 percent of the vote in Maricá in governmental elections. It does not take long to discover Bolsonaro fans in the city. In front of a juice stand in the city center sits Wilson Gomes de Anrade, a 78-year-old pensioner.

Bild vergrößern

Washington Quaquá: “For us, Cuba gives romantic inspiration.”

Foto: Kristin Bethge/ DER SPIEGEL

City officials, union representatives and a minister from the previous leftist federal government of Dilma Rousseff are awaiting an audience. Numerous former cabinet members from the Lula and Rousseff age have actually discovered a sanctuary in Maricá.Quaquá sits underneath a big oil painting of Che Guevara, the revolutionary, drinking a cup of coffee. Quaquá appreciates the guerrillero: “For us, Cuba is a source of romantic inspiration,” he says.He has taken his financial concepts, though, from China, a country he admires for its long-term strategic method. “The state there works as an incubator for companies,” he says– a model he copied in Maricá, where the city administration provides support to tech startups.The social well-being safeguard, however, echoes that northern Europe, whose countries likewise inspired his concepts about how to finance that system if the communitys most crucial source of funding– the oil reserves off the coast of Maricá– must eventually dry up.Quaquá calls the vast oil field a “present of nature.” It was discovered throughout Lulas term in office, and the license fees that Petrobras, the partially state-owned oil company, pays to seaside neighborhoods are Maricás essential profits source. The mayor forecasts that the city will receive additional revenues of a billion reals (157 million euros) from those costs in the next three years.Industry Versus the EnvironmentFollowing the example set by Norway, the city has established a fund designed to continue pumping earnings into the neighborhood as nonrenewable fuel sources are phased out. “We have a maximum of 20 years,” states Quaquá.

Bild vergrößern

Mayor Fabiano Horta (r.): “We put up a wall of social security around the population.”

Foto: Kristin Bethge/ DER SPIEGEL

They want to transform Maricá into a supply center for the oil platforms off the coast and develop a brand-new commercial port– ideal on one of the citys most lovely beaches. The objective, he states, is to make the city independent of oil profits in the next 10 years.The city is likewise building an innovation park, total with a university and factories. With this “leftist Netflix,” as Quaquá calls it, Maricá hopes to join the fight of concepts versus President Bolsonaro and his followers.Some critics believe that the oil wealth has gone to the heads of the city administrators.

” We believed: What an insane idea!”

Delfim Moreira, president of the trade association in Maricá

Simply off the citys primary square, which is undergoing remodellings, there is a brand new, brilliant red movie theater, developed by the citys culture firm. The mayor forecasts that the city will receive additional incomes of a billion reals (157 million euros) from those charges in the next three years.Industry Versus the EnvironmentFollowing the example set by Norway, the city has actually developed a fund developed to continue pumping earnings into the neighborhood as fossil fuels are phased out. The objective, he says, is to make the city independent of oil earnings in the next 10 years.The city is also building a technology park, complete with a university and factories. With this “leftist Netflix,” as Quaquá calls it, Maricá hopes to join the battle of ideas against President Bolsonaro and his followers.Some critics believe that the oil wealth has gone to the heads of the city administrators.

While in the health center, he checked out one of the most recent accomplishments of the state-run technological institute, one developed in cooperation with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. It is a transparent helmet that helps COVID-19 clients breathe. From his health center bed, he posted images of the development on Facebook. “We are currently constructing a factory and will offer the thing throughout the nation,” he says.Maricá is a frontrunner in the fight against the coronavirus. The brand-new medical facility that was inaugurated last May– and that brings the name Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara– was completely converted for the treatment of severe COVID-19 cases. City health authorities opened their own lab for test analysis and sent out employees to individualss homes to evaluate them.The senior, other and indigent danger groups do not need to leave their houses to be immunized: Doctors from the health agency come to them. Like the remainder of the country, however, the city does suffer from a shortage of vaccines.” Municipalities were not permitted to purchase their own vaccine till just recently,” Quaquá complains. However in response to the worsening of the COVID-19 crisis in the nation just recently, Brazils highest court ruled three months ago that guvs and mayors might likewise acquire vaccine.One day after that verdict, the head of Maricás city-owned technology institute began negotiations with an agent in Argentina to buy 400,000 doses of Russias Sputnik-V vaccine.Soon, the rate of vaccinations in Maricá will likely be faster than in Rio. The mega-citys conservative mayor, who has spoken derogatorily about Maricá in the past, has recently looked for a more conciliatory tone. He wrote online that he has established contact with his counterpart in Maricá. The Rio mayor added that he is considering how best “to follow his example.”

City health authorities opened their own laboratory for test analysis and sent staff members to peoples homes to test them.

” We accept Mumbuca,” checked out indications in the windows of many of the shops in the city. Maricá is the only municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro to have developed more official jobs last year than were lost as an outcome of the pandemic.The mayor is a reserved male who does not have the charisma of his predecessor, Quaquá. When the red, loaner bikes were introduced– which are available for free throughout the city– he revealed up to the occasion in a plaid t-shirt and red facemask.

The citys public transportation system is complimentary of charge, and if she does require to make larger expenditures, such as remodeling her bathroom, she can use for a no-interest loan from the city.


Related Post