Today, one of the biggest national gatherings of local government leaders opened in Brazil, with 4,000 mayors and local government officials demanding more fiscal support from central government.
The annual conference of the Brazilian National Confederation of Municipalities (CNM) is taking place in the capital Brasilia, with the country’s president Dilma Rousseff expected to make an appearance, along with the four other candidates for the presidency ahead of the elections set for October.
“Tomorrow we will hear from four candidates to the presidency but don’t be fooled, it does not matter who is elected,” said Paulo Ziulkoski, president of CNM and vice-president of United Cities and Local Governments. “Before, the municipal fund was increasing but since 2008, it has been reduced by an amount equal to 77 billion reais (US$34 billion). The national government has taken 15 billion reais a year from the municipalities.”
The CNM launched its campaign for better funding for local governments on 23 February demanding an increase of 2 percent in the Federal Municipal Fund (Fundo de Participação Municipal), which is the main source of income for the majority of Brazilian municipalities.
On 11 April, local governments from all over Brazil suspended non-essential municipal services for a day and warned citizens about the difficulties they are facing in implementing and delivering local services due to budgetary shortages.
This morning, Henrique Eduardo Alves, president of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Congress), was given a rapturous welcome from delegates after agreeing as representative of parliamentarians to set up a special commission to discuss the amount available to cities and local governments including the CNM’s demand for a 2 percent rise in the Federal Municipal Fund.
“This is one of the most important political meetings I have seen in Brazil and I hope people can open their hearts and minds in participating here,,” said Alves before signing the agreement on stage with President Ziulkoski. “This is a cry for survival. ”
The CNM is also demanding reform of the tax on services and a fairer distribution of the royalties from the sale of gas and oil.
The afternoon session saw the CNM campaigning on a different front with the launch of a two-year project funded by the European Union to combat violence against women in cities.
Denise Messias, project coordinator at CNM, said that the call for applications would open today and would lead to two groups of municipalities (with three to five in each group), which would be pilots for the programme.
“The specific objective of the project is to reinforce the leadership of women mayors acting on violence against women; and also to foster cooperation between local government and civil society and to develop legislation and policy on combating violence against women,” said Messias.
At least one municipality in the group must have at least 50,000 inhabitants and there is a maximum of 600,000 inhabitants for the group of municipalities as a whole. ”We are looking in particular for municipalities which are in the same regional association or have some form of agreement and they must appoint a technical person to supervise the project in their group,” said Messias.
The EU has offered 300,000 euros over the two-year programme, which will culminate in an international seminar to discuss and distil best practices developed from the initiative.