Brazil's Lula Wants Electricity for All
Author: Axel Bugge
The $2.4 billion, five-year project aims to bring electricity to all of Brazil's 175 million people and follows up on Lula's flagship Zero Hunger program of ending hunger and developing the country's poor, rural interior.
"You try to convince a young person, a girl or boy of 17 or 18, to stay with the family in the countryside living by candle light while the passion of the city lights messes with their minds 24 hours a day," Lula said.
"We will lose this battle if we don't do this project."
Brazil's first working-class president has made social programs the main focus of his government but Zero Hunger was slow to get off the ground and he has been criticized for tight budget policies that have reduced spending for the poor.
Lula said he himself grew up in a house without electricity in the poor state of Pernambuco before his family moved to the industrial hub of Sao Paulo, where he went on to become a union leader and president.
But the scores of young who leave Brazil's interior due to lack of opportunities are not as lucky as Lula and often end up swelling the ranks of the criminal gangs that wreak havoc in Brazil's big cities.
Lula said bringing electricity to towns that do not have it would create jobs and open possibilities such as building water pumps in the parched northeast where farming suffers because of prolonged periods of drought.
Lack of electricity is widespread in some parts of the interior, not to mention isolated communities in Brazil's vast Amazon jungle. Just eight percent of households have electricity in the town where the plan will kick off.
The poor would not have to pay for the installation of electricity, Lula said. The "Light for All" project would be financed mostly by the federal government and rest from state and local governments.
Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff said electricity will be supplied by the expansion of existing networks to places that are not too remote while isolated communities will receive their own, independent generation systems using renewable energy sources.