Maranhão, one of the poorest Brazilian States, is situated between humid Amazon Region and Dry Lands of Brazilian Northeast Region. Maranhão has diversified and rich ecosystems. Contrary as one could expect, inside its boundaries is observed people with bad patterns of living standards. What happened to Maranhão? Someone should ask. We could say that it was a synergy of disabled public policies which took place in this State along 60 years beginning in 1945. From that year to 1965 we had in Maranhão a political group headed by Vitorino Freire, who gave to State wrong policies directed to all economic sectors, principally to the rural one, where lived, at that time, at least 80 percent of the State population.
From the beginning of 1965 to March 2002, took place a political group having as principal leader José Sarney and his family. In this long period, obviously, Maranhão experienced different situations and differences in its pattern of social and economic (under)development. For instance, in 1982 the amount of food production per person (rice, cassava, been and corn) achieved its highest value in the last century, since IBGE (Brazilian Geographic Institute of Economic and Statistics) began to publish data in 1933. In that year (1982), farmers from Maranhão State produced 3,584 grams per person per day of those food crops. Also in 1982 Maranhão State ranked in the second place among all Brazilian States in rice production. Also in 1982 Maranhao yield the highest production of those crops (5,430,933 ton) in a record area of 2,288,113 hectares.
In 1985, José Sarney assumed the Presidency of Brazilian Republic substituting Tancredo Neves who passed away before took place as indirect President. Unfortunately, he adopted wrong macroeconomic strategies which began to destroy the national policy of technical assistance to familiar farmers. This kind of decision impacted strongly the poor States of Brazil. Maranhão State, in that year, started to observe its agricultural production to decline. This caused strong and negative impact over the food crops production both in cultivated areas, and in yield per hectare.
However, the worst situation to all agricultural farmers in Maranhão State took place in the nineties. In the half of that decade the Maranhão State Governor completely eliminated the Agricultural Secretary, and put all the technical forces in a kind of workers reserve bank. There is nothing similar in any place of Brazil along its history. It caused reduction of area, production, and yield of agricultural crops, principally, those coming from the family farmers. This reflected in the relationship between urban and rural population. In fact, we estimated a geometrical tax of the relationship between urban and rural population, which varied from a minimum value of 1.5% to a maximum value of 3.0% per year in the decades of 1920 through out 1980. In the ninety decade, the relationship between urban and rural population increased by an incredible tax of 9.7% per year. By doing in this way they transformed Maranhão in the State of Northeast with the highest migration tax in that decade.
The wrong agricultural policies had as consequence to cause a collapse over the food production. In fact, in 1988 the production amount of rice, cassava, bean and corn was only 678 grams daily per person (19% of the value observed for 1982). This was the worst situation since the period over depression in the thirties.
In April 2002, José Reinaldo became the Governor of Maranhão State, and began his public policy restoring the Agricultural Secretary and all the related institutions of credit, technical assistance, rural extension, foment and agricultural research. He gave priority to familiar farmers, and gave technical conditions to those family farmers to access rural credit of PRONAF (National Program of support to Family Agriculture). This is a National program, which Maranhão farmers rarely participated before 2002 because there was no technical assistance and no public structure to support the family farmers in that time.
In 2000 Maranhão was the Brazilian State with the lowest Human Development Index (HDI). Its value was 0.636, very similar to those observed in the poorest countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia. When José Reinaldo became Maranhão State Governor in April, 2002, he changed policy strategies and planned, as target, to reach HDI of 0.700 at the end of his term by December of 2006. We would like to say that by 2000, Maranhão State was in the bottom position in the Index of Social Exclusion (IES), an index created by Lemos, 2002 based on deprivation of social services (as safety water, sanitation, garbage collecting, and education) and deprivation of income. In year 2000 Maranhão had 50.3% of its population classified as social apartheid. Brazil had 23% of its population classified as social apartheid in 2000 year.
In order to achieve the target of 0.700 HDI, the Maranhão State Leader began a strong policy to include the population of the hundred poorest counties to get access to safety water and sanitation (Maranhão has 217 counties and there were no sufficient money resources to attend all of them). At the same time, he increased his public policies in order to reduce the illiteracy rate, also the largest among Brazilian States by the end of 2001 year (26%). One of his stressed strategies was to encourage family farmers to be priority for the policies directed to rural sector.
In the final of 2005 year, the Governor, strongly supported by his political base in State Deputy Assembly and by the Maranhão State population, had approved by Brazilian Senate a loan of US$30 million from BIRD with US$10 million as the State counterpart. It was the PRODIM program (Program of Integrated Development of Maranhão). This program was designed to increase the living standards of approximately 600 thousands persons in all the 216 State counties, excluding its Administrative City, São Luis.
Therefore, we should say that Maranhão was going through in a different and progressive trial. This new situation put the rural population and the urban population as well, in a better condition as compared with 2001 Year. By the end of 2006 Year, Maranhão advanced in its HDI to a value of 0,702. People going out of social apartheid situation amount over 600 thousands. The daily production of food increased to over 1.2 thousands of grams per person. The average scholar level that was only 4.4 years in 2001 grew up to over six years in 2007. The illiteracy rate, which was only 26% by 2000 year, had declined to 17% in 2007. Therefore, Maranhão State changed his social and economic indicators since its population gave a get out to any influence of that family who had became one of the richest families in Brazil, while transformed the Maranhão population in the poorest one in this Country until the beginning of this century.
*The previous title of this text was: “Brazilian Maranhão State was going through a New Trial”
This paper had been written before the violent and misunderstood attack against the young and fragile Brazilian Democracy. One of the Brazilian Court got out Dr. Jackson Lago, the legitimated Governor of the Maranhão State elected by the Maranhão Population to be their leader, substituting José Reinaldo, from January 2007 to December of 2010. In his place they imposed a person who already was previous Governor in the period 1995/2001, just the one responsible for the nigger and worst period when Maranhão dived down under black and dust waters. In fact, in that eccentric decision made by only four (4) members of that Court, that substituted 1.5 million of persons, they replaced the Governor of Maranhao by one who was defeated in the election realized in October, 29 of 2006 year. This occurred exactly as previously predicted by CEPAL members in the fifties. In underdeveloped regions, the Institutions always work benefiting the richest and that ones who stay closed to the power. By doing so, they (the members of the Official Institutions) cut down the long and fostered poor dreams to go ahead. Poor has not the right to dream. This was the explicit message that they have done to the majority of Maranhão State population. In this moment all of them had lost their hope to advance in their life standards. Additionally the Court Members showed to Maranhão population that they don’t know how to choose their Governor, maybe because they are very poor. In the next election the Maranhao population should stay at home and let those members to do this job for them. This should be cheaper.
**José Lemos is Associate Professor at Federal University of Ceará State in Brazil. Was Visiting Scholar at University of California, Riverside, CA, USA, from spring of 1994 to fall of 1995.