Brazil boosts spending to speed up World Cup works



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The Brazilian government announced measures on Monday to speed up preparations to host the soccer World Cup in 2014, boosting spending and cutting red tape for public works projects.

The move follows growing concern in recent weeks, including by the soccer world governing body FIFA, that preparations for the sporting event were seriously delayed.

The debate put the spotlight on numerous obstacles to investment in Brazil's fast-growing economy and angered President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been touting the tournament as an accomplishment of his government ahead of October's presidential election.

Brazil will also host the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

In a signing ceremony arranged at short notice, Lula pledged 5.5 billion reais ($3.1 billion) to revamp airports in the 12 cities that will host the soccer tournament.

He also lifted restrictions on the ability of cities to raise debt to pay for infrastructure such as roads, stadiums and trains.

Lula, who called some of the concerns senseless, said the latest measures would avoid problems Brazil had with funding the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The federal government also donated real estate and earmarked 740 million reais on Monday to allow seven cities, including Rio de Janeiro, to overhaul their ports and facilitate docking of large cruise ships.

"Certainly it will be an alternative to the lack of hotels," said Pedro Brito, the ports minister.

Lula blamed the Sao Paulo state government, which until April was run by the opposition presidential candidate Jose Serra, for failing to provide an adequate stadium to host the World Cup.

"Frankly, I can't imagine a World Cup in Brazil without Sao Paulo as one of the corners for athletes to play ball," Lula said during the ceremony in the capital Brasilia.