In a rare and meticulous look by a foreigner free of bias on the economy and society, the author retraces the long path trodden by Brazilians in the last decades to arrive at the present situation. Marcus Lopes, from São Paulo.
The expression of the writer Nelson Rodrigues on our “mongrel complex" is well known, or rather, the inferiority in which the Brazilian places himself before the rest of the world. For whoever still believes in the old phrase, the reading of Brazil, Country of the Present - The Power of the Green Giant, (Editora Cultrix, 256 pages) is recommendable. It is written by German journalist Alexander Busch, who has lived for 16 years in São Paulo and serves as correspondent for the Wirtschaftswoche, of the Handelsblatt, and the Swiss magazine Finanz und Wirtschaft.
In a rare and meticulous look by a foreigner free of bias on the economy and society, the author expounds the motives as to why Brazil is no longer a mere exporter of raw materials and is consolidating itself as one of the emerging powers of the 21st century, so that it is a grave error to subestimate the potential of the largest and the most complex nation of South America.
Busch points out to his countrymen and European neighbors how the previous “country of the future” is presently fertile land for good investments, thanks to the stabilization of the currency, diversification of the economy and increase in the purchasing power of the lower layers of the population, creating a vast consumer market. In addition, he shows the economic data that prove these changes, already noted by such giants as Nestlé. Among them, the position of the eighth economy in the world and the advances in the Human Development Index (IDH) in recent years, -0,81 in 2009, against 0,78 for China and 0,62 for India.
The author retraces the long path trodden by Brazilians in the last decades to arrive at the present situation, including galloping inflation up to the 90´s, the military dictatorship and the corruption of the political class. In a healthy political and ideological aloofness, the author shows how the situation started to change, for the better, as from the Plano Real and the privatizations carried out by ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB). In the eight years of the presidency of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), he highlights the social advances and the continuity of economic policies, apart from the skill of the country in getting around the world crisis of 2008.
“Despite all the blemishes of Brazilian politics, I firmly believe that the democratic system is one of the decisive reasons for the rise of Brazil to the situation of a world power,” says Busch, in one of the passages. One of the chapters recalls that the privatizations carried out by FHC were strongly critised, but transformed the old state-owned Companhia Vale do Rio Doce into the present Vale, the second largest mining company in the world. Embraer entered head first into the world civil aviation market and Brazilians do not have to suffer to get a telephone line, a veritable penance in the times of state-owned telephone companies. “I do not know why there is so much aversion to privatizations from Brazilians since life has improved", he inquires.
In Lula’s government, in turn, Petrobras, that continued being a government owned company, grew and became one of the main world oil companies. In addition, thanks to the sensitivity (or sagacity) of the previous worker and social programs of the federal government, the lower classes became middle, making Lula one of the most popular presidents in the History of Brazil.
In addition, in his journeys through the country, Busch recounts that he met companies and businessmen that worked like veritable motors of the Brazilian economy, in a range that covers from bio-fuels to state of the art technology. “Few foreigners know names like Votorantin, Ambev, Odebrecht, Marcopolo or Itaú”, he records. On the other hand, companies of other emerging markets like China, India and South Korea are much better known. The reason is that there are no Brazilian brands or known consumer goods manufacturers as is the case with Asia. Brazil has no brands like Samsung", he justifies. Nevertheless, even North American symbols like Budweiser beer, today belong to a conglomerate controlled by Brazilians, Inbev.
It is true. To foreign eyes, we are still the exotic football paradise, of samba and Amazonia, an image that needs to be dissipated. However, despite our moving in the right direction, the German closes his book recalling that we still have immense challenges to be overcome. One of them is the grave problem of public security, which turns Brazilian cities in to veritable battlefields. It is a situation that should only improve when the other problems pointed out by the correspondent is solved, or at least toned down the social abysm that still separates the rich from the poor.