Latin America is one of the most unequal region of the world. Inequality in the region could be traced far back to the Spanish colonial era. Due to the mercantilist political economy of the Spaniards, certain groups such as the European elites, merchants and wealthy landed classes were favoured through the provision of rents while others –natives and slaves –were neglected (Mahoney 2010, 21).
However, in recent years, Latin American countries including Brazil have been on the forefront in the battle against poverty and inequality. Efforts by the ‘left governments’ that came to power in the early 2000’s in reducing poverty and inequality have been hailed across the world, especially by the United Nations (UN) and its agencies. Among others, the establishment of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs by various governments in the region, expansion of social services in sectors such as health (Family health program in Brazil) and education to social classes that have previously been sidelined have contributed to the significant fall in the level of poverty and inequality in the region. Most countries in the region are currently at the forefront, in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) –a testimony to the effectiveness of the newly established social programs in the region.
In Brazil, social development through the creation and expansion of social services have been the main focus of the ‘left party’ since early 2000’s. In particular, the establishment of Bolsa Familia- a CCT program with the aim of transferring cash to poor families in the country, with the condition that children attend school and health clinic on a regular basis have been praised and widely attributed to the sharp decline in poverty and inequality levels. Although the program (in the short-term) have been successful in achieving two of its main goals –reducing poverty and equality– the ability of the program to sustain this positive impact in the near future (long-term) is doubtful without proper reform by the government.
This paper will explore the long-term effect of Bolsa Familia on poverty and inequality reduction in Brazil, and I will argue that without proper reform of the program and further investments in the provision of quality social services especially in the health and education sectors, recent success (reduction of poverty and inequality) in social development through the establishment of Bolsa Familia program might be difficult to sustain in the long run.
For the sake of simplicity, the paper have been divided into different distinct sections. The second section will give a brief background of the Bolsa Familia program with special attention to the conditionalities with which it operates. Section 3 highlights the positive impacts of the program, in particular its contribution to the reduction of poverty and inequality in Brazil. Section 4 analyses different academic literatures published by scholars on the topic. This section...