Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

The forgotten BRIC: Why Brazil might be the next world superpower

China and India are not the only two countries in the running for the “America’s Next Top Supersuccessor.” Brazil, the most booming democracy south of Texas, is a force to be reckoned with. Becquer Medak-Seguin

Unlike China and India, Brazil is primed to be a world superpower. This is because Brazil possesses something both Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs long for: a stable platform upon which to trade. The emphasis here is on the word “stable.”

During the last three years of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s tenure, which dates back to the year 2000, Brazil’s gross domestic product growth rate has skyrocketed from a passable one percent to an impressive nearly six percent. This increase might seem measly compared to China’s astonishing 10 percent average GDP growth rate since the end of the Cold War. And India’s increase from a little over two percent in the mid-’80s to nearly eight percent today. The problem with India’s and China’s growth rates, however, is that the countries themselves are not nearly stable enough to support sustained high economic growth.

We often forget that China and India are still desperately poor countries. In spite of their growth, if we were to combine the populations of the two (roughly 2.3 billion people), a disconcerting 1.5 billion people would still be in extreme poverty, earning less than $2 a day according to the World Bank. Brazil, on the other hand, has reached deep into its back pocket and decreased its poverty rate 33 percent over the past three years from 52 percent, a number comparable to that of China’s and India’s poverty rates.

India, for one, is not yet a major player in today’s world trade market. Though it has an abundance of people, it contributes all but a fraction of a percent in world exports. The stereotype that India supplies hordes of wiz kids to top information technology companies is false. Though it is true that many of the world’s most intelligent, brilliant, academic and lauded people call it their homeland, India contributes not yet a million people to IT jobs globally. According to economist Pranab Bardham, chief editor of the Journal of Development Economics, “India is the largest single-country contributor to the pool of illiterate people in the world.”

China, though ahead of both India and Brazil on economic development, is falling behind on politics. Its Communist Party is only now beginning to open up the private sector to world markets. Its timeless tradition of homogenizing everything from high culture to language to bureaucracy has hampered its ability to develop its economic potential. And instead of opening its floodgates to foreign investment, China has sealed them tightly. The problem: The floodgates are just now beginning to overflow, a step behind both India and Brazil.

Perhaps the biggest problem both China and India face in becoming superpowers is the inequality between the urban and rural. Brazil has boldly dealt with this problem and is already reaping the benefits.

In Brazil, rural farmers have been employed by multinational private enterprises. And this is without destroying their priceless Amazon and bucolic backdrops. Plenitudes of social welfare programs in Brazil have been crucial in lifting millions of people out of poverty. But what has lifted the most people out of poverty in Brazil is its avant-garde “Pro-Alcohol Program.” In 1973 the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries turned off the exporting spigot of oil to countries in the “West.” Instead of following the U.S. route by filing a faux plan to become independent of Arab-supplied energy, Brazil took its own. Not only did they become independent of Arab-supplied energy, by the 1980s they became independent of oil altogether. By ’85, 75 percent of cars manufactured in Brazil were fueled by sugar-derived ethanol. Though this trend declined through the ’90s owing to repeatedly poor harvests of sugar, Brazil has been picking it back up over the last three years. Now, one-fifth of the Brazilian fleet runs purely on ethanol, and Brazil is the sole frontrunner in the races for oil-independence and the green alternative to oil.

Free trade, an idea toyed with during the late 1990s, finally became a solidified certainty for the nation’s businesses. As a result, Brazil has invested heavily in sub-Saharan Africa as to both set an example to its fellow South American nations and reap the economic benefits of a diversified economy. An estimated 3,000 Brazilian firms either invest or trade with those across the Atlantic, over twice that of a decade ago. With respect to investment in Africa, Brazil has become a pioneer among its challengers, China and India. Whereas Brazil’s investment, both cultural and economical, was rooted back in the 16th century through Portuguese colonization, China’s investment in Africa only really dates back to the early post-Cold War era. Africans are very skeptical of China’s ambition, boding poorly for China and the rest of the Oriental world.

So far, it is a mystery why we haven’t included Brazil in the running to be one of the next world superpowers. Not only do they have the manpower, thriving economy and flourishing democracy to support such an influential role in the world, but they also boast of the cheapest mass-production-potential alternative energy source with which to replace oil. Brazil is a model, and the rest of the world should start taking some pictures.

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