Brasilia, May 22 (IANS) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his country’s 27 state Governors set aside some of their differences to provide a measure of unity against COVID-19 at a time when the pandemic was accelerating in the South American giant.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro, one of the world’s most sceptical leaders regarding the seriousness of the situation, reached minimal agreements with the Governors regarding federal financial aid to the country’s states and municipalities as the virus has infected 310,087 people and killed 20,047 others, reports Efe news.
A video-conference meeting revolved around a financial aid program to the states and municipalities already approved by Parliament but still not green-lighted by the President.
The bill sets forth that the federal government will distribute a total of 120 billion reais (about $21 billion) to the states and municipalities to combat the coronavirus, of which the first half will be released piecemeal over the coming four months.
However, in return for supporting it, Bolsonaro said he intended to introduce a clause that freezes the salaries of all federal, regional and municipal public officials until the end of 2021, a move that was accepted on Thursday by the local government leaders.
As Bolsonaro said, it’s a “share of sacrifice” that is being asked of the public sector amid a profound crisis in which informal workers and private business so far have been the most heavily affected.
According to figures from the Economy Ministry, since the pandemic erupted in Brazil a total of about eight million workers in the private sector have seen their workshifts and pay reduced.
In addition, although about 12 million people were unemployed before the health crisis, now some 50 million informal workers have managed to survive thanks to a governmental subsidy of 600 reais ($110), the distribution of which has been beset with serious logistical problems.
Since the first coronavirus case was detected in Brazil on February 26, this was the second meeting Bolsonaro has held with governors and, in contrast to the earlier meeting, agreement and dialogue was the order of the day instead of arguments and shouting matches.
Bolsonaro, who on other occasions has accused governors of pushing the country towards “bankruptcy” by restricting economic activities, this time expressed more caution and concern about the pandemic.
“We know how this is harming Brazil and the whole world,” he said, adding: “We have to work together,”
Governor Joao Doria of Sao Paulo, the country’s industrial and financial heartland, who has had very harsh confrontations with Bolsonaro over the quarantines that he imposed in his state, hailed the President’s tone on this occasion.
“Brazil needs to be united,” said Doria. “We’re going forth in peace. We’re going to work for Brazil and we’re going together,” he said in his speech.