Yet again I have been lax in my blogging… Life has been quite busy here in Brazil, and suddenly I woke up and it was the 1st July and half of the year had gone. And now it is less than 3 months until I move back home!
The biggest things to have happened of course are Dilma’s impeachment and Brexit… And that has had a very big economic impact here in Brazil in terms of the exchange rate. It is now less than 4.3 Reals to the pound. Which is a great improvement for Brazilians wanting to go abroad (similar trends against the dollar and euro too). And for those coming to Brazil for the Olympics, the strengthened Real has made it a bit more expensive again.
It is now just 1 month to go until the start of the Olympics. And there for sure is a lot still to get done. The metro is now at risk again the news is saying, needing an emergency R$1 billion to be able to finish in time. And even that ‘finished’ means open only for ticket holders and accredited people – not for general riders wanting to get between Barra and Zona Sul. Indeed the plan is that the metro would close again after the Olympics to complete the final works. Without the metro, getting out to the Olympic Park will be chaos I fear… The newly opened road between São Conrado and Barra has helped a lot, with an extra lane in each direction, but then one will be taken away for the Olympic Route Network, and instead of nice new metros carrying a thousand people in 15 minutes to Barra, it will be lines of buses carrying 50-60 people in… an hour? Of course, there always was going to be a bus – the metro stops at the start of Barra, where you then have to catch the new BRT (a dedicated walled off lane with big bendy buses) that runs to the Olympic Park then. But maybe a <1 hour journey time from Zona Sul to the Park could comfortably become >2 I fear.
There’s been a lot of scaremongering over the Games… From police protests at the airport saying ‘welcome to hell’ advising people not to come to Rio, pollution scares, Zika… Living here, I haven’t seen any real change in policing, and the biggest part is being provided by the miltary anyway. And emergency loans to pay for security have been approved. The pollution in the bay is quite worrying, but talking to people who have been sailing there, they suggest it isn’t quite as bad as some of the media are making out. Plans to make use of certain tidal conditions etc. can reduce the impact a lot. It is of course very sad that over the previous 7 years almost nothing has managed to be done to cut down the pollution…
I was talking to some people over the last couple of weeks who have suffered indirectly in another way from the Olympics. Rio state is officially in a ‘catastrophe’, and indeed some police, firefighters, health care workers are not being paid. But state managed schools and universities have also been suffering – the state university in Rio has been on strike for 4 months now! Countless schools over the state have been shut too. A generation of people are suffering – 4 months of education is a lot of time to miss and have to make up. There is a complex mix of city, state and federal systems. City and Federal are working ok still, but State is not. Emergency government funding to the state is being prioritised towards Olympic Security, and still universities remain on strike over pay. From a small city a few hundred km from Rio, I’ve heard that initially teachers were being paid half of their salary, with plans to pay the rest in instalments, before the money stopped flowing all together.
But I don’t think it is far to blame this on the Olympics – for me it is down to chronic mis-management of projects, corruption and embezzlement. There should have been enough money for everything, even despite the economic downturn. The metro for instance, to suddenly find itself a R$1 billion short… that isn’t a small sum of money to sudden find missing in the last 30 days, only 30 days after saying everything is now on track!
And the requested loan for the R$1 billion for the metro? BNDES, the Brazilian government’s development bank that does investment loans, will not lend any more money until the payments are made on the existing loans… which of course they are behind in paying. The new loan is in part to go in paying the old loan… Look, it is all the government in the end, be in city, state of Federal. Make things happen!! The eyes of the world are in Brazil, and silly political infighting and divisions will only help achieve failure of the world’s largest sporting event.
It may not be the most popular thing in Brazil right now, it may be blamed for funnelling money away from areas where it is needed. But 95% of it has been spent now. Either get the last 5% completed, or see the whole 95% of it just wasted on a project that might fail.
Actually this isn’t where I was intending this blog post to go…. but it seems I started on a little rant!
The final three months for me are going to be a hectic, fun, crazy time. From working 24/7 shifts, seeing some of the Games, and preparing everything to move back to the UK! German House is a short distance down the beach from me in Leblon – I have very good memories of many nights or afternoons in German House in London, as again it was pretty close to my house!