My Edinburgh colleague Charlie Jeffery is co-ordinating a project under the ESRC’s ‘Pathfinder’ scheme to look at data about ‘place inequality’ in Brazil and UK, and the various data-sets and techniques that are used in each country to deal with this. (More details of that are here.) As a large, complex and diverse federation, Brazil is well used to trying to deal with this issue and has a large amount of data, and some sophisticated ways of analysing it. The situation there is further complicated by the fact that most services (including health and education) are provided by municipalities, not by state governments, and that there is a direct relationship between federal and municipal governments. The role of state governments is more in relation to the collection, distribution and re-distribution of tax. Not only will a rich municipality be able to offer better services than a poor one, but a poor municipality in a rich state will be able to offer better services than a similar one in a poor state. (To make matters a bit more confusing to outsiders, the Brazilians routinely use five large ‘regions’ to understand these variations. The regions have no constitutional standing, but reflect underlying economic and geographical differences within a huge country.)
Last week Charlie organised a seminar in Edinburgh with some of the Brazilian partners in the project, led by Marta Arretche of the Centre for Metropolitian Studies at the University of São Paulo. Those interested can find two of the presentations on this post. First, here is Sandra Gomes’s presentation. Sandra is at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, in the north-east of Brazil, and her presentation explains both the general financial system that operates in Brazil, and some of the data they have to assess both spending and revenues by state and municipal governments. Second, here is Marta’s own presentation, which shows the range of data they have, what they can do with it to understand place inequality, and the techniques they use to do so. It helps a good deal to have Marta’s explanation of these techniques and how much these slides can convey, but they are indeed impressive.
During the seminar, I was struck by the level of detail about financial and fiscal matters that Brazil has. The federal government collects a huge amount of data about fiscal capacity and revenues available to the state governments, under its ‘Fiscal Transparency Act’. I’ll be visiting Brazil to find out more in the next few months (and will write in greater detail about this subject then). But I find it embarrassing that a developing country can utterly shame the UK in the amount and quality of data it has about this subject.
My own slides from the seminar will appear in a separate post.