Public social services and sustainable development: estimating opportunities in the global South by Celia Lessa Kerstenetzky, Marcio Alvarenga Junior, Lucas Costa, Ricardo Bielschowsky published by Journal of Post Keynesian Economics (7/2023).
In this article, which seeks to check the supposed potential of public social services to promote sustainable and equitable well-being, we assess, on the one hand, the magnitude of unmet social needs in Brazil in terms of additional public spending on education and health, and, on the other hand, the economic, social, and environmental benefits that might accrue from meeting these needs. Estimating the size of unmet social needs reveals abysmal distances between current service provision and a set of benchmarks. The huge size of these gaps reflects the lack of priority given to these services in the various national development projects of the past. In turn, the measurement of benefits, carried out with the help of the 2019 Brazilian Input Output Tables (IOTs), and the generation of an environmental matrix based on the IOTs, reveals that investments in these areas are key opportunities for promoting sustainable development. The greater capacity for galvanizing the economy and generating formal employment, and the smaller carbon footprint of public education and health services when compared to the average for the economy, stand out. Additionally, in comparison with the private social services provision network, public services stand out in terms of average wages, collection of taxes and contributions, formal employment, income multipliers and formal employment, and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of wage.