Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff moved quickly this week to improve bus services in the metropolis of Sao Paulo, where protests over a fare increase in June triggered an outburst of national discontent that battered her popularity and questioned the country’s infrastructure for two major world events in 2014 and 2016.
Rousseff announced that 3 billion Reais (1.31bn dollars) in federal money will be invested in creating 99 km of new express lanes to speed up bus services in Sao Paulo, the country's financial capital.
Brazilian cities cannot expect people to spend six hours of their life every day in a bus she said at an event in Sao Paulo where she also announced more funds to clean up the city's filthy creeks and rivers.
It was a protest over a planned increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo that set off a month-long wave of massive protests against Brazil's high cost of living, poor public services, corruption and the misuse of government money.
More than a million Brazilians took to the streets at the peak of the protests, rocking the country's political establishment and undermining Rousseff's popularity to the point where her chances of re-election next year are now unclear.
Deficient public transport, a major cause of anger for Brazilians who endure long commutes to get to work or study has resulted from decades of neglect and lack of investment that left Brazil with such dilapidated infrastructure that it has become an obstacle to economic growth.
This is evident not only in the cities but in airports, sea terminals, storage capacity and the highways network to transport grains, minerals and other commodities for export. Next year Brazil is hosting the World Cup and in 2016 the Olympics, and FIFA has expressed growing concern precisely about how ready will the country be for those major events.
During the recent visit of the Pope there were major gaffes committed in the organization referred to the pontiff’s security and movements. In effect on his arrival to Rio do Janeiro the driver erred the avenue of the route and the papal caravan got stuck in a traffic jam surrounded by buses, cars and people trying to touch Francis or receive his blessing.
The funds for bus lanes were already earmarked by Rousseff's government in its investment program to speed up the country's sluggish growth.
Since the protests, and with elections emerging on the horizon, Rousseff has been under pressure to boost spending, at a time when she is trying to regain credibility as a fiscally responsible leader.
Sporadic protests and rioting have continued in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to demand the ouster of the governors of those states. Some of the protests even took place during Pope Francis recent week-long visit.
Rousseff made the announcement about the investment alongside Sao Paulo's mayor Fernando Haddad, a rising star in her ruling Workers' Party. She said 55% of Sao Paulo's 11 million inhabitants rely on public transport and Sao Paulo has the smallest metro underground train system in the world for a city of its size.
Rousseff announced additional investments of 3.6 billion to drain and clean up eight filthy creeks and recover the springs that feed two reservoirs that supply drinking water to the city. Garbage, wastewater and unauthorized squatter settlements have compromised the springs in recent years.
The president also pledged to spend 1.5 billion Reais to build low-cost housing to resettle families living on the banks of the creeks and reservoirs.