Another Brazil Essay

This essay has a total of 3127 words and 18 pages.

Another Brazil

Brazil: National Context Geography Brazil occupies almost
one-half of the entire South America continent, and is the
fifth largest country in the world. It borders all Latin
American countries except Chile and Ecuador. The
9,170km coastline and the 50,000km navigable inland
waterways provide great potentials for water transportation
which has not been well developed. Brazil is topographically
relatively flat. 40% of the land is under the Amazon Rain
Forest. Most of the arable land is found in the South, but the
process of land development for agriculture is pushing into
the Central-West and the North as well. The climate is
mainly tropical and sub-tropical, and is particularly humid
and rainy in the Amazon region and along the coast.
Temperate climate is found in the south and on the higher
lands. The nation is free from earthquakes, hurricanes and
cyclones, but rainstorms, drought and frost occasionally
cause considerable damage. Demography and Social
Patterns Population is around 155 million and growing at
about 2% per year. It is concentrated in the southern states
of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, and Parana. Almost 60% of the
total population live on 20% of the land.(See Table 1) 80%
of the population is urban and 20% are rural dwellers. 55%
is under 20 years of age and less than 10% is over 60. The
average life expectancy is 63 years old. The majority of
Brazilians are of European or African descent. Besides the
original Portuguese settlers, other significant ethnic groups
include Africans, Germans, Italians, and Japanese. The
official language is Portuguese, but English is widely used in
the business community. The predominant religion is Roman
Catholicism. There is religious freedom, and religion is not a
source of social unrest. The general level of education
requires much improvement. About 75% of children above
ten years old are considered to be literate. Around 5% of
enrolled students go on to higher education. As a result,
most of the labor force are semiskilled or unskilled. There is
a shortage of managerial, supervisory, and technical
personnel. Living Standards The gross domestic
product(GDP) per capita in 1993 was about US$3,000 per
annum. There exists a wide income gap, with '1% of
population stinking rich, 20% stinking poor'. 10 million
families are roofless, while the 12 million homeless peasants
seek shelters in peasant squatters in the countryside where
land is so unequally distributed. Substantial funding are
needed for public housing, health care, schools, and
infrastructure. Other major social problems include violent
crime and corruption. Resources Brazil is rich in natural
resources. It has some of the largest iron ore deposits in the
world and is now one of the biggest gold producers. Other
metals and minerals are also mined on an increasing
scale.(See Table 2) The extensive river system provides
great hydroelectric potential, as evident in the Itaipu dam
project. Since the oil crisis in the 70s, Brazil embarked upon
the ProAlcohol program for alcohol fuel manufacture from
sugar cane to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil. As
for agriculture, Brazil is a major exporter of soybeans and
orange juice in addition to the traditional coffee and cocoa.
The fishing potential along the coastline is significant but has
not been fully exploited.(See Table 3) The natural scenery
and favorable climate also foster a prosperous tourist
industry. Political Climate and Forces Brazil remained a
Portuguese colony for more than 300 years until it became a
republic(Federative Republic of Brazil)in 1889. The latest
Constitution was promulgated in 1988, and it is still under
review. Brazil is composed of 27 states and the Federal
District of Brasilia, the capital city. The states are divided
into municipalities, which are further divided into districts.
The federal government consists of three branches: the
executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The executive
branch is headed by the President under whom are several
executive departments and independent regulatory agencies.
The appointed heads of the executive departments form the
Cabinet. The legislative branch, the Congress is made up of
the elected Senate and the House of Representatives. The
judicial branch consists of a system of federal, state, and
local courts throughout the country, headed by the Supreme
Court. There are many political parties, but ideologies are
not well developed as a democratic system returned only in
1985. Parties normally represent specific economic groups
and interests within the country. After the industrialization
resulting in fierce inflation and foreign debt, Brazil went
through a period of military autocratic regime through 1964
to 1989, until the first popularly elected president since
1960, Fernado Collor de Mello. Although the chance of the
military having a coup is slim, they still remain a strong
political force. President Collor had significant support and
vowed on reform on the much needed economic policy. He
planned to lower tariffs, control inflation, promote free trade,
and reduce the over bloated public sector. However, he
resigned in 1992 for charges of corruption. His successor,
former vice-president Itamar Franco was seen as indecisive
in economic matters. He chose to make increasing growth as
his first priority instead of reducing inflation. Despite of a
already huge deficit, he tried to stimulate growth by
increasing government spending. The current president,
Fernardo Henrique Cardoso was Franco's finance minister.
He pushed through a stabilization program which included
significant economic liberalization and income tax increase.
He managed to lower inflation and federal deficit by
introducing the Real Plan. Now, he is pushing the
Constitution review which vows to privatize state-run
monopolies and redistribute tax revenues. Luis Inacio Da
Silva(Lula), leader of the Workers Party(PT) was the
second runner-up in the two most recent presidential
elections. His socialist philosophy stresses social justice,
restraints on market capitalism, limits to integration with the
world economy, debt relief, and a larger state role. He
represents the left wing of the Brazilian politics which is
growing in importance. Meanwhile, pressed by the public
outcry for better public services, President Cardoso
announced that of his $500 billion planned spending for
1996-99, two-thirds would be embarked for social services
such as education and housing. However, Mr. Cardoso
disappointed western observers by allocating two-thirds of
the social spending to welfare payments. Since 71% of the
population is Roman Catholic, the Brazilian Church has
traditionally had great influence in the political scene. In
recent years, Vatican has strengthened controls over the
Church, making it more conservative. However, the Church
still remains a left-of-center social action wing which excises
influence on voting results. The Brazilian Church is closely
related to the poorer and express sympathies for the PT.
With the return of democratic election, the recent political
turmoil seems to be ended. However, President Cardoso
would still have to face an over represented Congress from
the poorer northern regions, and one who greatly hinders the
progress of the Constitution Amendments on behalf of their
proteges-local business and powerful. However, given the
first-year success of the real, President Cardoso should have
more power in advancing his economic reform. Economic
Growth Brazil is the tenth largest economy in the world. Its
economy grew considerably from the mid-1960s to the end
of the 1970s. However, during the 1980s, economic
performance faltered; macro-economic instability, high
inflation, and increased indebtedness characterized the
decade.(See Table 4) Under the recent economic reform,
growth has been restored and inflation has been
reduced.(See Table 5) The major challenges facing Brazil
now is to maintain growth and control inflation, . National
Values and Ideology People Brazil is a very mixed and
culturally diverse country. Brazilians are viewed as
passionate, open, and patriotic especially when it comes to
soccer in the eyes of the western world. Throughout various
stages of the history, such as the struggle for independence,
for the Republic, and the recent parade against violence in
Rio de Janeiro, , the ideas of liberation and optimism are
always there in the background. However, they are also
conservative especially when related to religion. Like other
cultures in the tropical, Brazilians are leisure oriented. The
working day is normally eight hours, Monday to Friday.
Besides statutory holidays, the annual Carnival causes a
standstill to all businesses Monday through Wednesday.
Recreation activities are mainly outdoors, taking advantage
of the tropical climate. Society Though under a democratic
system, the society is still highly stratified with a small group
of business elite and landowners controlling the direction of
major policies. The Congress is dominated by whites. A
century after the abolition of slavery, blacks lack adequate
political representation, education, and housing. The basic
unit of society differs among different regions. Individualism
dominates in the highly industrialized South where people
enjoy a greater social mobility. In the rural northern regions,
however, fazenda-traditional large agricultural producing unit
is the basic social system. It is characterized by the dualistic
system, with the landlords at the top and everyone else at the
bottom. In the traditional agriculture based society, powerful
fazendeiro tended to extend their power into the political
system in order to control government policies. This is why
the present government is facing large resistance on land
reform from the North. The hierarchical relationship is also
closely linked to clientelism in which superiors grant certain
favors to inferiors, thereby creating indebtedness and moral
obligations while securing a steady supply of labor or scarce
skills. While in urban contexts with high rates of
unemployment, job opportunities are provided in exchange
for loyalty and backing in elections. Such concept of
'extended family' is the foundation of human relationship in
Brazil. National Strategy Institutional Framework The
Executive holds much of the responsibility for formulating
and implementing trade and industrial policies. The present
government has eliminated and simplified many regulations
dealing with specific trade and tax concessions that used to
be complicated. The complex investment code has also been
simplified and liberalized, though a few constraints still
remain. The main economy agency is the Ministry of
Economy, Finance, and Planning(MEFP) headed by Pedro
Malan. Under it the principal business regulatory agencies
include: BACEN-Central Bank(monetary policy, foreign
exchange controls, control of foreign capitals and profit
remittances, regulation of banks and financial institutions),
CVM-Securities Commission(securities markets and listed
companies), CADE-Administrative Council for Economic
Defense(monopoly, cartel, antitrust monitoring),
INPI-National Institute of Industrial Property(technological
development), CDI-Industrial Development
Council(industrial development, granting of fiscal incentives),
and DECEX-Foreign Trade Department(foreign trade,
control of export and import licenses). In the formulation of
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