Brazil Protests Fizzled, but Roots of Anger Remain

July 14, 2014

Jenny Barchfield – ABC News, 7/13/2014

The protesters who many feared would wreck Brazil’s World Cup party failed to show up. While the national team fell short of claiming the coveted championship, the country at least can say the tournament that wraps up with Sunday’s title game has gone off with only scattered demonstrations.

Brazil avoided a repeat of last year’s Confederations Cup when violent protests broke out in several cities and more than a million people took to the streets on just one night to demand the government spend on improvements for education and other public services instead of soccer. But the absence of conflict during the World Cup came less from dissipated anger than attention being glued to the games and police cracking down on even small demonstrations.

Paulo Cavalcante, a 50-year-old public servant, shouted himself hoarse during last year’s protests, even bringing his teenage daughter along on the marches. But during the World Cup, like many other Brazilians, he chose to stay home.

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In World Cup Of Education, Brazil Is Bad, But Argentina Is Worse

July 14, 2014

James Marshall Crotty – Forbes, 7/12/2014

One of the underplayed sub-plots of this year’s World Cup is that many of those who vociferously protested on the streets of Brazil were doing so on behalf of better teacher pay and benefits. In other words, education was a huge subtext in this futbol-crazed country’s first World Cup since 1950. And beautiful, hilarious, resource-rich Brazil – which does not often register in American consciousness outside of Carnival, Amazon deforestation, and Gisele Bundchen – actually does want to be known around the world for more than soccer greatness. Especially now that their presumed stranglehold on this year’s Cup was surgically eviscerated, 7-1, by a superior German squad in last Tuesday’s semifinal in Belo Horizonte.

But, as Brazilians now know, expectations for greatness do not always correlate with success. This is especially true when it comes to education. In no surprise to close Brazil watchers, on the eve of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian protestors fulsomely, and often violently, argued that the record-breaking $14.1 billion that Brazil spent on staging the Copa Do Mundo — including a suspicious $1.2 billion cost overrun in building 12 new, albeit gorgeous, soccer stadiums – would have been better allocated towards building hospitals, public housing and, most urgently, schools and other education infrastructure.

The leftist government of the otherwise popular President Dilma Rousseff has been flat-footed in its response. To such an extent that now, with the distracting bread and circus of a Brazil World Cup triumph off the table, “Dilma” is in danger of being removed from office altogether.

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Never mind football, perhaps the scientists from Brazil can revive national pride

July 11, 2014

Robert Young – The Conversation, 7/11/2014

One of the reasons Brazil took its loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals so hard was because many Brazilians wrongly believe the rest of the world only looks up to them for their footballing skills. Brazil has many world leading projects, but they can be overshadowed by the beautiful game.

During the opening ceremony of the World Cup there was a moment when the Walk Again Project of Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis was supposed to be showcased – it received less than three seconds of coverage. It is a world-leading project in which paraplegics are able use their thoughts to control an exoskeleton. But Nicolelis went to develop the project in the USbecause the right environment was lacking in Brazil for his research.

When it comes to higher education, Brazil is ranked 13th for global scientific productivity of papers published, but in terms of scientific innovation it is a very low performer.

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African Students Thrive in Brazil

June 27, 2014

Nicolas Pinault – Voice of America, 6/26/2014

Brazil is not only a dream destination for soccer fans from all over the world. The emerging power is also receiving more and more students from Africa. The country is more accessible than the U.S. or Europe, and African students can find better infrastructure here than they can at home.

With almost 40,000 students, the University of Brasilia is an institution in Brazil’s capital city.  Among them are a hundred or so Africans who came to try the Brazilian adventure.  Most of them are from Angola or Cape Verde, but you also find some Francophones from Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Here you have more facilities for the students, like the library,” said Congolese student Morgan Tshipampa Nganga Mayoyi.  “Many other things you do not have at UNIKIN [University of Kinshasa]. The Brazilian government also helps the students with grants.  So we have better conditions here than in Congo.”

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From Bootblack To Master Of Moneymaking: Meet Brazil’s Newest Billionaire

June 27, 2014

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 6/27/2014

Public servants are notoriously underpaid and sometimes even unpaid for long periods in many countries across the world. Not in Brazil, though, where those who work for the government have stability in the service established by the Federal Constitution and are frequently paid more than their private sector counterparts. As a result, many Brazilian graduates fresh out of college don’t think twice before applying for an entrance examination known as “Concurso Publico,” or “Public Contest,” through which candidates for public office are selected to be hired.

It is such a competitive process — just last year some 12 million Brazilians applied for 120,000 public service vacancies — that an entire industry offering everything from books to preparatory courses has formed to attend them.

But few people have profited as much from that as Jose Janguie Bezerra Diniz, the founder and principal shareholder of Ser Educacional, a Brazilian education company. Founded in 1994 in Recife, northeastern Brazil, Ser Educacional started its activities by providing courses that prepared students who were seeking public-servant opportunities. In 2003, the company began to offer undergraduate, graduate and technical education to mid-and lower-income students, and it now operates several campuses under the brand names of Faculdade Mauricio de Nassau and Faculdade Joaquim Nabuco.

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Student Loans Give Rise to Hidden Billionaire in Brazil

June 24, 2014

Blake Schmidt – Bloomberg, 6/24/2014

A month after Dilma Rousseff took office in January 2011, the Brazilian president vowed to step up subsidized loans for students attending the nation’s for-profit universities. The initiative was a bid to expand access to training for an emerging middle class that grew by 40 million people in a decade.

Since then, about 8 million people have received state-sponsored scholarships and another 1 million were approved for student loans. The demand has been a boon for Brazilian school operator Ser Educacional SA (SEER3) and its founder, Janguie Diniz. Since the company’s October initial public offering, Brazil’s largest for an education company, the stock has surged 44 percent, making the 50-year-old a billionaire.

“Those programs are extremely important, because most of the students are young and can’t afford to pay,” Diniz said in a phone interview from his office in Recife. “I was never really interested in becoming a billionaire but in doing the work that needs to be done on education.”

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Andres Oppenheimer: World Cup has been a failure for Brazil

June 23, 2014

Andres Oppenheimer – Miami Herald, 6/21/2014

The World Cup is far from over, but it’s not too early to declare it a failure for Brazil: The country has missed a golden opportunity to rebrand itself as an emerging technological power, and to upgrade its stereotype of being the nation of carnival, beaches and soccer.

Here are some of the stories you are not hearing from the more than 5,000 journalists from 70 countries who have traveled to Brazil to cover the world’s biggest sporting event, and who in recent weeks — before the opening of the games — have written extensively about the country:

• Brazil is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. It’s Embraer aircraft maker is the world leader in production of mid-size passenger planes, which it sells to American Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa and nearly 80 other commercial airlines.

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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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