When private interest overlaps the public
8 de August de 2017

I spend a period as a researcher in Germany, spending also two months by Denmark and Holland. My research aims to analyze the relationship between Rivers and Cities, with the stimulus so that the rivers and their surroundings are preserved and that there are areas for the leisure and the conviviality of the people.

It is in this direction that Germany walks with property, as well as the Netherlands and Denmark. Cities are for the people, created for the democratic coexistence. The bicycle is one of the main means of locomotion for Germans and especially for Dutch and Danes. In Copenhagen, more than 60% of politicians go cycling every day to Parliament.

In Brazil, this debate was already lukewarm. It has cooled once and for all with the political crisis that has dragged on since 2015. Of course there is an ideological bias in the model of the city that each one defends. In Europe, however, it is of much less importance to what is understood as the collective interest – not only what is good or bad for a community, but what really makes a difference in its day to day, bringing together environmental preservation and quality of life.
If there is any positive aspect about the corruption scandals reported in Operation Lava Jato investigations, it is that some of the mechanisms that hamper the development of Brazilian citizenship have been stripped naked. Knowing that senators and deputies defend works that are of specific interest to a large civil contractor company, and that will make little difference to the daily life of a community, is didactic.

It is clear that what defines how we will invest the money we pay in taxes are the private interests, not what benefits the majority of the population. This is serious, needs to be challenged and fought. Curiously, the work of interest is sometimes not even overpriced. But it is not a contractor who has to define what is the priority for a community, a city or a country.

The common view today in Brazil is that this new model of citizenship, of the inclusive and democratic city, is the only agenda of the left. It is not true. Even a liberal-minded government, like the Australian, invests in infrastructure only after answering a simple question: what is the collective interest in using public money to do or not do this work? And put the costs in each investment. This includes traditional costs by adding environmental and social costs, such as savings in health through the presence of a park, or increased hospital expenses with the construction of a highway, for example.

In Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, welfare states, the collective interest in the use of public money is very evident. Thus, the simple design of a street is treated with due importance. It is not secondary, because our daily life is not secondary. Therefore, changing the country is much more than staying in the speech, changing political “A” by the politician “B”. As sociologist Betinho stated: “Without changing society, it is no use changing the government.” Twenty years ago, decisions in Denmark were also top-down, and today the population is the one who takes the reins. Brazil will evolve when the population has another understanding of what makes a difference in their daily life and assume that democracy is the participation of everyone and each one.

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