What’s holding back Brazil?

February 24, 2014

Otaviano Canuto – Project Syndicate, 2/21/2014

One often hears that Brazil’s economy is stuck in the “middle-income trap.” Since the debt crisis of the 1980’s, Brazil has failed to revive the structural transformation and per capita income growth that had characterized the previous three decades. But, with the right mix of policies, it could finally change its fortunes.

The prevailing explanation for Brazil’s failure to achieve high-income status lumps the country together with other middle-income economies, all of which transferred unskilled workers from labor-intensive occupations to more modern manufacturing or service industries. While these new jobs did not require significant upgrading of skills, they employed higher levels of embedded technology, imported from wealthier countries and adapted to local conditions. Together with urbanization, this boosted total factor productivity (TFP), leading to GDP growth far beyond what could be explained by the expansion of labor, capital, and other physical factors of production, thereby lifting the economy to the middle-income bracket.

Progressing to the next stage of economic development is more difficult, reflected in the fact that only 13 of 101 middle-income economies in 1960 reached high-income status by 2008. According to the dominant view, success hinges on an economy’s ability to continue raising TFP by moving up the manufacturing, service, or agriculture value chain toward higher-value-added activities that require more sophisticated technologies, higher-quality human capital, and intangible assets like design and organizational capabilities.

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Brazil’s economic trap

January 16, 2014

Amy Kaslow – CNN Fortunate Magazine, 1/15/2014

Brazil is in a bind. It has a wealth of natural resources and is among the most powerful industrial producers in the world, but the nation’s economic growth hinges on skilled workers it doesn’t have.

The country has grown fast, achieving in the past 20 years what “it took the United States to accomplish in 200 years,” marvels Ambassador Thomas Shannon, who recently finished his tour as Washington’s top envoy to Brasilia and now serves as a senior advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazil is a top exporter of farm products (sugar, coffee, oranges, beef, poultry, soy) and manufactured goods (from airplanes to vaccines), and it may join the ranks of the world’s biggest oil suppliers before long.

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The global search for education: education is my right – Brazil

December 16, 2013

C.M. Rubin – Huffington Post, 12/15/2013

Nations around the world face the challenge of achieving equity in education in diverse societies. In Part 1 and Part 2 of “Education Is My Right,” we gained perspectives from leading voices in the UK and South Africa. Like many other countries, Brazil is working to support its learners. Today in Part 3 of “Education Is My Right,” we will discuss some of the key issues faced as well as the initiatives education leaders have launched to help resolve the problems in Brazil.

It is my pleasure to welcome to The Global Search For Education Maria Helena Guimarães de Castro. Maria is a retired professor of political science at the State University of Campinas/Brazil; an associate researcher of the Center for Public Policies at the State University of Câmpinas, São Paulo; and the executive director of SEADE, a public foundation of the state of São Paulo, responsible for the production and analysis of social and economic data. Previously, she served as Brazil’s vice-minister of education; the president of the National Institute of Education Evaluation and Research/INEP, located in Brasilia; and the state secretary of education of São Paulo. Additionally, I asked Helen Janc Malone, author of Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform, which features Maria’s work, to weigh in. Helen is the Director of Institutional Advancement at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC.

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The cost of corruption in Brazil could be up to $53 billion just this year alone

December 2, 2013

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 11/28/2013

As many Brazilians are still watching incredulously the imprisonments of the principal figures in the Mensalão (“Big Monthly Payment”) scandal, the scheme in which public funds were used to buy political support for the then-Lula da Silva government and to pay off debts from election campaigns, one of the biggest questions surrounding the imbroglio is: how much money exactly was diverted into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians?

According to the investigation initiated in 2005 and carried out by Brazil’s Public Ministry, the country’s Federal Police and the Brazilian Court of Audit, the huge cash-for-votes case involved some R$ 100 million ($43 million) siphoned from taxpayers’ money. No wonder why Brazil’s Attorney General Roberto Gurgel called it “the most daring and outrageous corruption scheme and embezzlement of public funds ever seen in Brazil.”

And that could just be the tip of the iceberg. A 2010 study by the FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State, in its acronym in Portuguese), the average annual cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the country’s total GDP. The World Bank lists Brazil in its database with a GDP of $2.253 trillion as of 2012, while the OECD expects Brazil to grow 2.5% this year.

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Brazil and the US have a higher increase in university exchange students

November 18, 2013

Raul Juste Lores- Folha de S. Paulo, 11/14/2013

The exchange program between students in Brazil and the U.S. experienced the largest increase in history during the past academic year.

The number of Brazilians studying in America universities grew by 20 percent between 2012 and 2013, and the country comes in 11th place in the ranking of foreigners in the American higher education system.

Brazil experienced the second highest growth in terms of top destinations chosen by American college students who study abroad, a 16.5 percent increase in a one year period, second only to Japan, where high growth is due to a sharp fall last year after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

Read full article in Portuguese here.

Open Doors 2013 Report on International Educational Exchange



Public education in Brazil

October 23, 2013

Shannon K. O’Neil – Council on Foreign Relations, 10/23/2013

When people talk about what holds Brazil back, education tops the list (along with infrastructure). The poor quality of Brazil’s public education system limits students’ capabilities and adaptability, creates mismatches between workers’ skills and companies’ needs, and stifles productivity and entrepreneurship. These limits affect the entire economy—hampering economic growth, competitiveness, research & development, and even oil production (as Petrobras has struggled to find skilled workers for its pre-salt finds).

Brazil now ranks fifty-third (out of sixty-five countries) in reading, math, and science in the PISA exam, up from dead last in 2000 but still behind Mexico, Romania, Thailand, and Russia. But perhaps most striking in the education system are the country’s great disparities. Brazil’s several high quality public universities—including the University of São Paulo, an internationally recognized university—juxtapose a notoriously weak system of primary and secondary schools.

In part it has to do with funding. A sizable chunk of the federal education budget—some 5.5 percent of GDP—goes to tertiary education. Brazil spends almost five times more per college student (with its free public university system) than per elementary school pupil. This top heavy investment disproportionately benefits the rich, whose children perform better on the university entry tests after spending their elementary, middle, and high school years in private schools.

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