Brazil Protests 2013: FIFA Makes $4 Billion From Champagne, While Brazilians Just Want Health and Education

As millions protest on the streets of Brazil against what they see as misdirected public spending and rampant corruption in their country, FIFA's corporate partner Taittinger has chosen this moment to announce a sponsorship deal that makes it the "official champagne" for the current Confederations Cup tournament as well as next year's finals. As FIFA stands to make an estimated $4 billion from the World Cup, income disparity between the rich and the poor runs high and public health and education remain sectors in which Brazil lags far behind.

Brazil is a country that has won the World Cup five times, produced some of the world’s best players, and become a world-wide symbol for the sport. It is ironic that hosting the prestigious World Cup itself is what has been a catalyst to millions coming out onto to the streets to protest against mismanagement and corruption by their government. Hospitals, schools, security, and an end to police abuse are the principal demands from this social sector.  

In many cities across Brazil conditions in schools are deplorable. Teachers are poorly paid, lack motivation, and are quite often poorly trained. Brazil is now ranked second last on Pearson's education quality index, out of 40 countries. Worse: One in four students who start out in basic education leave school before they complete the last grade, according to the UN Development Program’s 2012 development report.  

Even major Brazilian cities such as Sao Paulo have significant areas that lack any proper educational systems. Paraisopolis, the second-largest favela in Sao Paulo, is home to 100,000 people. The community has the worst schools of the state and local education system — lagging in primary education, behind in literacy, and lacking control over the adolescents, according to an index of development in primary education. The children in the favelas can attend the public daycare centers until they are four years old. The elementary schools run only half a day, a schedule that causes problems for parents who work eight-hour shifts.

The situation in relation to public health isn’t any better either. Public hospitals are limited in number, poorly equipped, and have long waitlists. Many mainly lower-middle class and poor Brazilians who rely on public hospitals end up aggravating their illnesses due to a lack of professional treatment. There have been press reports about people dying while on hospital waiting lists, without receiving even basic treatment.

An initial budget of R$25.5 billion ($11.4 billion) for stadiums, urban transportation, improvements in ports, and airports has risen to R$28 billion, according to the Sports Ministry's executive secretary, Luiz Fernandes – almost three times the cost of Germany's World Cup in 2006, making Brazil’s World Cup the most expensive World Cup in history.

While over the recent years a new wealthy class has emerged in Brazil and on many counts the economy has been doing well (Brazil is part of the BRIC group of countries), it needs to be realized that such developments have widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Grassroots programs, social-sector necessities, and the large poor Brazilian populous have been overwhelmingly ignored. Problems with education, health, and safety were inherited by previous governments, making the country socially vulnerable, in spite of what the economy index may tell you. Brazil is now one of the 10 major world powers, but how does that matter to the people if the social loss is so evident?