The Federal Senate has approved the bill that provides for the allocation of R$ 5 billion in subsidies from the Federal Government for free public transport for seniors. More than a stopgap, it is a blank check, with no considerations. The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection (Idec), which has been monitoring the subject closely (it is now proceeding to the Chamber of Deputies), published an article in the Folha de S. Paulo and explained the reasons why this is not the correct path to take.

In the text, Rafael Calabria, Coordinator of the Idec Urban Mobility Program, explains that the gratuity should not be supported by the federal government because it is not a cost, but in fact a benefit guaranteed by the Constitution. It is necessary, he says, for the Government to contribute financially to urban public transport, but through measures that promote the quality of the service and the transparency of the funding.

In Brazil, in general, the private sector receives the concession to operate public transport. In most cases, the profit is based on the number of people who pay the fare, which makes transport precarious: the fewer buses in circulation, the greater the occupancy and the better the profit. With the free subsidy, this model, which is mistaken, will be reinforced: the lines with more seniors will receive more funding, even if they are less frequent and have worse buses.

The bus company owners, who seek the costing of the gratuity, also coordinate bill 3278/21, which is in progress before the Senate, proposing to replace the “remuneration by occupancy” with “remuneration by cost,” due to the collapses suffered with the pandemic. The model of “remuneration by cost” is the ideal, with federal transfers being necessary, although city halls must demand considerations from the concession companies to improve the quality of the services and make them cheaper.

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