Posted on 2011-11-02
Questions asked by Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis on November 2, 2011.
Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: The Honourable A. RAYNELL ANDREYCHUK
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Issue No. 5
Embassy of Brazil:
His Excellency Piragibe Dos Santos Tarragô, Ambassador;
Paulo Roberto Amora Alvarenga, Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
The Honourable A. Raynell Andreychuk, Chair
The Honourable Percy E. Downe, Deputy Chair
The Honourable Senators:
*Cowan (or Tardif), De Bané, P.C., Finley, Fortin-Duplessis, Johnson, *LeBreton, P.C. (or Carignan), Mahovlich, Mockler, Rivard, Robichaud, P.C., Smith, P.C. (Cobourg), Wallin
* Ex officio members
Changes in membership of the committee:
Pursuant to rule 85(4), membership of the committee was amended as follows:
The Honourable Senator Mockler replaced the Honourable Senator Segal (November 2, 2011).
The Honourable Senator Rivard replaced the Honourable Senator Nolin (November 2, 2011).
Eighth meeting on:
Study on the political and economic developments in Brazil
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: First of all, Your Excellency, I must tell you how really pleased I am that you accepted our invitation. I also want to tell you that, in the brief you have just presented, you have painted quite a complete picture of the situation in Brazil.
Here is my first question. In your report, you mentioned that your president, Ms. Rousseff, is in the process of cleaning house. Last Thursday’s forced resignation of Orlando Silva testifies to that fact.
Another item in the news that also has to catch our attention is Tuesday’s vote in the Brazilian congress on the Access to Public Information Act. The legislation will complement the Transparency Act of 2009, which requires all public administrations to publish the use they are making of public funds online.
Could you tell us a little more about what that act contains? Has corruption in Brazil increased in recent years or is the increase in quality control, the well-publicized charges and the access to incriminating information?
I would like your opinion on that subject; then I will have a second question on something altogether different.
Mr. Tarragô: Madam Senator, thank you for the question. I feel that it is very important to deal with this aspect of Brazilian political life.
Certainly, President Dilma Rousseff has established that her policy is to create an effective government that will serve the Brazilian people well, and whose desires and aspirations match those of Brazilians. She has made it clear that there is to be no doubt as to the ethical or moral conduct of her ministers.
That is the reason why she accepted the allegations published in the Brazilian media. She conducted the investigations necessary to shed light on the accusations of corruption.
Yes, I believe that corruption and access to information are linked.
Today, the press in Brazil has almost total access to government information. Government accounts are open. They can be obtained on the Internet. It is relatively easy to find out about government activities, reports and expenses on the Internet.
But it is difficult to say whether corruption in Brazil has increased or not in recent years. Corruption has always existed. The problem is not just Brazil’s; there is corruption in every country. The improvement has been in access to information. Given the increased access to information, it is now more difficult for those involved in corruption to continue it without being observed by the public. So not only is it critical to guarantee access to information, the press must also always be free. In Brazil, we want that to be the case. In her speech last January 1, the president insisted that she was going to guarantee freedom of the press. I feel that it was a signal of her intentions as well as a warning to those in the public sector in Brazil who might want to continue their shady ways. The message is clear.
I will finish by touching on the vote on the bill on access to public information. Brazilian society is discussing the bill. Brazilians are insisting that access to information be as open as possible. I feel that the question will be settled this week with no problem at all.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Could it be said that the situation has improved?
Mr. Tarragô: No, that is not the case.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: The situation has not improved?
Mr. Tarragô: Has what improved?
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Given that journalists have easier access to information, I am sure that more of it is getting into the papers and giving the impression that there is more corruption. But really, that may not be true.
Mr. Tarragô: No, it is true. Things have improved. Until recently, there have been barriers to the access to information depending on the categories, such as confidential information, secret information and other types of information. The public had to wait for some time before they could have access to information. With the new legislation, wait times will be going down. So access will be easier and wait times for access to confidential or very privileged information will be more reasonable.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I have another question but on a completely different topic.
I have read that it is very difficult to fill some of the technical and technological positions in Brazil. Statistics show that you train 40,000 engineers and architects but you need 60,000.
In your brief, you mentioned that, during the Prime Minister’s visit, bilateral agreements were signed in order to pave the way for cooperation between universities, scientific research centres and other institutions. There is no question that this initiative can help to train people who are more qualified. But is that enough? Will you have to sign agreements with other countries to fill those 20,000 positions every year?
Mr. Tarragô: We are aware of the problem. President Rousseff started a program called Brazil without borders in order to send Brazilian students abroad to complete their training in technical areas, such as engineering and so on. The program is going to start now and go on for four years. The goal is to send 75,000 Brazilian students abroad. A significant number of students will come to Canada for their studies.
The government is in the process of forging ties with other countries, including France, the U.K. and the U.S., in order to address this need to train new engineers for our industry. I am sure that this initiative will open Brazil’s doors to technicians from other countries, which will benefit Brazil’s industry.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Your Excellency, thank you very much for being so kind as to answer my questions.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Following on the chair’s question, could you tell me whether there are other irritants in addition to the Embraer case and the mad cow episode. Are there other irritants that might prevent Canada and Brazil from having more harmonious relations?
Mr. Tarragô: No, I do not think so. There are some little things but they are manageable.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you.