Cutting resources to IBGE is not just a threat of statistical blackout, but a disinformation project

Posted in: 04/23/2021

On March 24th, 2021, the National Congress approved the budget of R$71 million for the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). According to the official pronouncement of the organ, the cut of the resources foreseen in the budget will make the Census, whose accomplishment is foreseen by law, unfeasible.  This demonstrates that investing in information is not a priority for the current government.

The initial cost of the survey was R$ 3.4 billion, but the institute had already been under pressure to reduce the budget, reaching the amount of almost R$ 2 billion, after reducing the questionnaire and asking questions about migration, possession of goods and income. The new cut was R$ 1.76 billion and is equivalent to about 96% of the previous budget, which led Suzana Guerra to ask to be removed from the position of president of the IBGE.

Before the IBGE, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) was also asked by the Federal Government about the disclosure of data on the increase in deforestation in the Amazon, in July 2019. The dispute over the monitoring led to the dismissal of Ricardo Galvão from the position of Director of INPE. Since then, some information has not been updated, such as the Integrated Environmental Information System (SISAM) – a tool for analyzing meteorological data, concentration of pollutants and monitoring of fires.

The lack of information transparency is not just a risk, but a government policy that favors disinformation.

Demographic census: agent visits home for interview
Photo: Agência Brasil

This is not the first time that the Demographic Census – the only IBGE survey carried out in all Brazilian households – has been threatened.  Between 1872 and 2010, 12 Censuses were carried out, eight of them organized by the IBGE. On three occasions the uprising was postponed: In 1930, because of the Revolution.  In 1990, during the Collor government, when there were difficulties in temporarily hiring professionals.  And finally, in 2020, due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus.  It is important to note that the ten-year periodicity is established in Law No. 8.184, of May 10th, 1991.

If the 2021 Census is not carried out, we will enter into a profound lack of knowledge about our country. Brazil will experience a statistical blackout, as well as other countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan, Congo, Libya, which have been without adequate information for more than eleven years to build and evaluate economic and social policies.  In order to carry out an effective public policy, it is necessary to know the characteristics of the population very well.

And at the moment, accurate data is already lacking.

Today there is no clarity, for example, on the volume of the population in each age group. The absence of this information compromises the vaccination plan itself in the fight against the pandemic, as it is not possible to know if the campaigns are reaching their goals of 100% of the population in each age group.  Furthermore, the distribution of the population by sex and age is fundamental in determining the demands for services in education, health, social assistance, housing, etc.  Young people and adults demand schools, job vacancies and maternal and child health care.  As for the basic needs of the elderly, they fall into health care, social security and social protection.

The demand for information is huge. The scenario on home infrastructure conditions has been outdated for more than ten years. We don’t know who migrated in the last decade. Did urban areas concentrate the number of inhabitants even more? Are Brazilians earning more income? What is the occupation rate in the formal and informal sectors of the economy? They are necessary data in the elaboration of local development plans, urban instruments (Master Plans, Zoning Laws, tax incentives, etc.), employment policies, social income transfer programs such as Bolsa Família, among other poverty alleviation activities.

Not to mention the direct implications with the transfer of public resources that are calibrated according to population size. This is the case, for example, of the Municipal Participation Fund (FPM), Basic Education Fund (FUNDEB), among other transfers from the Union to the States and Municipalities. The absence of new counting parameters increasingly compromises the quality of population projections for Federative Units and population estimates for the municipality, which ends up generating lawsuits for recounts and the need for technical clarifications from the IBGE.

The cartographic grid for the 2021 Census has already been updated and made available on the website. Some innovations were presented to face the moment of health crisis, for example, the adoption of a mixed model to carry out the research. The modalities of face-to-face census with the use of mobile collection devices, telephone interviews and self-completion of the questionnaire on the internet will be considered, to be used in cases of households with resistance to conducting interviews. In addition, the intensive use of technology will allow the monitoring and supervision of coverage in real time. IBGE’s experience is as great as its technical excellence.  The Institute has an enormous capillarity as it has research units and agents in each municipality.

The 2021 Census is already ready and cannot be missed. A statistical blackout for the next decade will jeopardize the information supported by Science, necessary to illuminate the country’s paths, already full of obstacles to be faced in the coming years.


Text prepared by Vinicius Corrêa[1]– Studies and Research Manager

[1] My first formal job was as an IBGE census taker. Today, at Synergia, I work as Studies and Research Manager, where I was able to put into practice all the experience acquired at IBGE and in my training as a Demographer.  Written by Vinicius Corrêa – Studies and Research Manager

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