Brasilia – President Dilma Rousseff denied Tuesday that the expansion of financial aid for Brazil's poorest citizens will boost the nation's birthrate, as some critics of those programs have said.
"It's hard to imagine that a family will decide to have more children because they have 32 reais ($17) more in their monthly budget," she said in her weekly column "Conversation with the President" published in regional newspapers.
The amount cited by Rousseff is what the government provides every month for each child and teenage member of some 13 million families with monthly incomes of less than 140 reais ($77).
The president proposes expanding that financial assistance until 2014 to another 17 million families living in conditions of extreme poverty.
Critics of such programs say they will cause an exponential hike in the birthrate, which Rousseff, armed with statistics, dismissed in her column on Tuesday.
"Figures from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics show that the average number of children per woman has been falling in all social segments and in all regions of the country" since 1970, to an average of 1.94 in 1999, the president said, recalling that those social programs have existed since 2003.
"She also said that 40 percent of Brazilians living below the poverty line are younger than 14, and added that one of the goals of these social programs "is to give those children and adolescents access to better health care, better education and good nutrition."
At the same time she stressed that families in the lowest strata of society can only get this aid if their children attend school regularly.
"That strategy has been successful because, according to the Education Ministry, the index of children and adolescents between 6 and 16 who have dropped out of school has fallen by 36 percent" thanks to those programs, Rousseff said.