In the end of 2011, Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo published a story about the growth of Brazilian contractors in foreign countries. The report highlighted the contribution of the National Bank of Social and Economic Development (BNDES) through its funding to these companies, which had grown 1185% in 10 years.
This information contributes to a better understanding on the importance of the debate about BNDES’ foreign funding activities. The first and most obvious question is: “Is it legitimate for a development bank, kept with tax money from Brazilian contributors, to fund infrastructure in foreign countries?”
However, the main obstacle to a general debate about the bank’s investment in foreign countries is the striking lack of information. The bank refuses to release details about the subject, such as amount and destiny of funds, under the argument that this information is protected by “bank secrecy”. Brazilian legislation is also of little help for retrieving this kind of crucial data.
These and other questions will be discussed in the upcoming seminar BNDES’ Investments in Latin America: a Debate by the civil society. The seminar is being held by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (Ibase).
Ibase is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that fights for the “radicalization of democracy” by promoting a dialogue between the civil society and the public power in Brazil. It is responsible for a study that collected scattered data on the bank’s activities in Latin America in order to stimulate questioning by civil organizations. One of the study’s observations, for instance, is that BNDES’ fundings are destined to a small number of beneficiaries: about 75% of the bank’s investments in Latin America benefit only 8 multinational companies. So far BNDES has not adopted a policy to safeguard human rights in its lending activities.
The purpose of the seminar is to establish a dialogue between the bank and several entities from Latin America, such as the Chilean Latin Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), the Argentinian Citizen’s Forum for Justice and Human Rights (FOCO), the Brazilian Unique Workers Central (CUT), the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), and many others.