Closed Shipyard Leaves a Trail of Unemployment And Bankruptcy In Bahia

Local businesses are suffering after Operation Carwash and the end of the Enseada Paraguaçu shipyard's activities

By Franco Adailton

"Now, São Roque do Paragauçu looks like a ghost town, but before, it was so pretty to see that sea of people arriving from work," says Alexandre Chaves, 34, currently unemployed, about the time when the shipyard Enseada Paraguaçu was bringing wealth to the town of Maragojipe, Bahia.

Built by a consortium made up by Odebrecht, Kawasaki, OAS and UTC, the enterprise fell into disgrace in 2014 after three of the four companies - only the Japanese Kawasaki was not involved - were denounced in Operation Car Wash, along with rig and drilling ship company Sete Brasil. The resulting crisis froze the shipyard's activities and killed 7,642 direct jobs.  

Almost 90% of the workers lived in nearby towns, like Salinas das Margaridas, Nazaré, Santo Antônio de Jesus and Maragojipe. The latter was hit the worst, with 3,588 jobs closed in 2015 - 75% of all formal work positions in town.

Joilson Borges (sitting, in a blue shirt), made R$ 2.800 (US$ 750) monthly in the shipyard but had to go back to fishing and working as a handy to make ends meet - Folhapress

The frenzy around the shipyard's construction caused 7,000 businesses to open in the surroundings. But since the recession's beginning, between 2014 and early 2016, R$ 96 million (US$ 26 million) left the local economy.

Shop owners who had good profits during the shipyard's peak, from 2012 to 2015, went bankrupt. Today, empty streets, closed stores and properties for sale or rent portrait the residents' dismay. 

Manoel dos Santos, aka Bira, invested R$ 3 million (US$ 800,000) to expand his hotel, called Ponto Dez, established in São Roque do Paraguaçu since 2005. But he had to stop the construction work, which was nearly done when the first rumors about Operation Car Wash started to circulate.

The intent was to go from 29 to 103 rooms. Bira not only left the work unfinished but also had to close another inn, with 21 rooms.

"We're not close by God's mercy. May He enlighten the next president, because although the shipyard is a private venture, it depends on public funding."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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