I guess it will surprise no one that we went shopping yesterday for the food and stuff we need for Christmas. Only a couple of days to go, so we needed to stock up, and we expected the supermarket to be busier than a usual Thursday, but there was plenty of room in the carpark, the cash-outs had no queues and you could push a trolley around without bumping into anybody.
Fatima and I are lucky to have sources of income in both Brazil and England, so it was my credit card that we used to pay for the groceries yesterday. Even so we were much more frugal than last time my credit card paid for Xmas, two years ago. We chose to spend only half as much as we had done then.
The answer is that Rio State is bankrupt.
Fatima is, as I am sure most of you know, a teacher and, therefore, is paid from the public purse. And the public purse in Rio State is just about empty. Fraudulently empty, corruptly empty, incompetently empty if you want the truth. So, we are the lucky ones because I am able to use a small English tax rebate recently received to pay for our Christmas joy.
All former public sector employees of Rio State, however, are suffering from the State`s corruption and ineptitude. The governor has told everyone that there is no money in the pot, so there was a decision just recently that pensioners` pay for November 2016 would be spread over a number of payments. (Fatima is still working for one school and her pay for November was delayed for that job into mid December as was the case for other public sector employees.) But for those who used to be teachers and nurses and firemen etc the situation is much worse – and Fatima is retired from one of her teaching jobs.
The pensions should, of course, have been paid for November IN November, but pensioners were promised their first small payment, towards the November pay-packet, for the 23rd of December, with a second small payment due on 29th December, each payment amounting to about one eighth of the month`s retirement pay. The rest would come in January 2017. By the way, to be clear, this applied to payments for retired schoolteachers and retired policemen and retired firemen and retired nurses too, all people living on very modest incomes anyway!
There has been no information about their December pay-packets yet, by the way. And, as happens in France and some other countries, public sector workers, and their retired equivalents, are due to a “thirteenth month`s” pay each year as well, which is also normally paid out at Christmas-time. So instead of receiving effectively twelve week`s-worth of pay between the end of November and the end of December, Fatima and all her retired colleagues were promised only about ONE week`s pay for November and December combined.
Now, as of Wednesday, the Governor sent out a text to all retired public sector employees, saying that for some extraordinary technical reason they would be unable to pay the aforesaid payments on 23rd and 29th December as promised.
NOTHING. That is how much all retired teachers and firemen and nurses etc have available to them for Christmas 2016. NOTHING, zilch, sweet FA, zip, nada.
Some, like us, are lucky enough to have more than one source of income, at least one of which is NOT dependent upon Rio State. Some are lucky enough to have put by some savings, for the future, with which they can make current ends meet. Some are getting by with family help and some are, effectively destitute and getting into debt in order to get by.
The problem, as I have indicated before, is that indebtedness in Brazil attracts usurious rates of interest, with a minimum interest rate from High Street banks of five per cent PER MONTH – and we have no idea how long this crisis will last. It is also quite possible that the Governor might decide Rio State`s position is so hopeless that they will choose NOT to pay the thirteenth month`s salary at all even for those still working! No one yet knows.
Just to rub salt in the wounds we are also, just now, hearing details of the life-style of Sergio Cabral, the politician most recently indicted for corruption (and ex-governor of Rio State, by the way). He had salted away millions in Swiss banks and eventually he and his wife and family have been exposed and they are currently in court. Word is they would think nothing of spending R$57,000 (about £10,000) on just one frock for Mrs Cabral and, of course, she had many more than just the one frock!
And, over several years between 2009 and 2011 the Cabrals paid out at least £1,000 per room per night for five nights, over the Christmas period, for some of their friends to stop in a hotel nearby their huge mansion in Mangaratiba. The “friends” included none other than the family of Mr Pezao, another member of their same political party, who happens to be the current Governor of Rio State. Small world isn`t it.
Anyway, for what it is worth, we shall not starve this Christmas. But, whereas we bought a whole trolley load of fare, Fatima noticed a former colleague of hers, now retired, in the same supermarket, who simply bought one small chicken, presumably for his Christmas lunch, and no trimmings!
Here`s wishing you all a Dickens of a Christmas from hot and humid Brazil.
In view of the resent posts about my novel let me send you a link to the story contained in the novel of Christmas 1535…
And, just to give you some Christmas cheer. Let me send you some medieval Christmas music I circulated in 2013….