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Support for Brazil's Lula dips, jobless fear grows
( 2003-11-03 10:29) (Agencies)

Ten months into office and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has seen his high approval rating dip slightly with growing concerns about his ability to tackle near-20-month high unemployment.

The per centage of people who believe the charismatic former factory worker's government is doing a "good" job dropped to 42 per cent in October from 45 per cent in August, according to a poll by the Datafolha institute published on Sunday.

Some 54 per cent of Brazilians now think Lula's government is bad or terrible at fighting unemployment, according to the poll, compared with 50 per cent in August and 43 per cent in March.

Brazil's first working-class president remains one of the country's most popular leaders in recent history. His approval rating was identical to that of centrist predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso around the same time in his first term. Ratings for Lula's government were slightly higher.

The number of Brazilians who believe Lula's government is doing an "average" job rose to 44 per cent from 42 per cent in August. Only 11 per cent felt he was doing a poor job, up from 10 per cent.

The study came after Lula last week accused his predecessors of being "cowards" for not having the courage to transform Brazilian society, which has one of the world's biggest income gaps.

Lula won office last October by promising to create 10 million jobs and eradicate poverty among nearly 30 per cent of the population. He vowed to do this without creating the kind of double-digit inflation that in the past has often gobbled up working-class Brazilians' wage packets.

Lula managed to curb seven-year high inflation by raising interest rates, but crushed consumer and business confidence in the process.

The economy was barely expected to grow in 2003, before an expected 2004 rebound. Unemployment rose to 13 per cent in June and has hardly budged since.

On the social front, Lula recently streamlined his unwieldy "Zero Hunger" anti-poverty program, merging four welfare programs into one. He said the plan was now "on the right track."

The poll found the per centage of Brazilians who thought Lula respected the poor most fell to 66 per cent from 70 per cent between April and October. Those that thought he respected the rich more rose to 16 per cent from 14 per cent.

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