Voters face stark choice on Brazil`s economic future

As Brazilians head to the polls Sunday, here is a look at the policies of the two presidential contenders, leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff and center-right senator Aecio Neves.

Economy:

- Rousseff, Workers` Party (PT): The incumbent blames the global economic downturn for anemic growth since she took office in 2011. Inflation has meanwhile broken through the government`s target ceiling, hitting 6.75 percent. Rousseff points to record-low unemployment of around five percent as a plus and says she is laying strong foundations for a recovery, with such measures as reforming the tax system. She has vowed to revamp her treasury team if she wins, and rejects central bank autonomy.

- Neves, Social Democracy Party (PSDB): Favors more economic orthodoxy and less state interventionism, as well as a degree of austerity to bring inflation back down to the 4.5 percent government target in the medium term. Backs tax reform and central bank autonomy. Says winning back the confidence of foreign investors is a priority.

Education and Social Programs:

- Rousseff: Says it is thanks to her government that 75 percent of oil royalties have boosted education spending, including bolstering teachers` wages and all-day schools. Promising 100,000 grants to allow Brazilian students to attend the world`s best universities, beefing up a similar program from her first term. Promising to ramp up social programs closely associated with two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, such as "Bolsa Familia" (family allowance), which has lifted tens of millions of people from poverty in the past decade, and a popular public housing scheme.

- Neves: Wants to see the worst-performing schools brought up to the national average in 10 years. Proposing more all-day schools. Backs more investment in the sector -- seven percent of GDP to 2019 and 10 percent thereafter. Wants to continue PT social policies but make them more efficient.

Corruption and Politics:

- Rousseff: Committed to reinforcing anti-corruption laws, including punishing those who do not declare all earnings to tax authorities and those who make illicit gains while in public office. In favor of public consultation for political reforms. Says corruption scandals have come to light precisely because her government has been investigating graft.

- Neves: Like Silva, wants to cut the size of the cabinet and also reduce political influence on state contracts. Backs an end to presidential re-election. Wants to disband political parties that fail to win a minimum five percent of the vote in a bid to strengthen the currently fragmented party system, with 32 registered parties.

Aboortion:

- Rousseff: Opposes legalization -- as does much of the electorate -- and backs the current law, which only allows terminations in cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother or if the fetus is missing part or all of the brain.

- Neves: Opposes legalization and backs current legislation. 

Gay Marriage:

- Rousseff: In favor. Brazil`s Supreme Court has recognized same-sex marriage but Congress has not passed legislation to that effect.
- Neves: Backs same-sex marriage on the basis that it is "already a reality."

Legalizing Marijuana:

- Rousseff: Opposed. "The issue is not one of legalization but combating it, helping to treat addicts and prevention," she said in June.
- Neves: Wants to await evidence on regulating legal production, the path taken in neighboring Uruguay. But rejects Brazil being a "guinea pig."

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