In 1982 it was debt re-negotiation but, “for the long term,” prospects were excellent. Brazil made progress in the 1990s until the Mexico crisis and then the Russia crisis and then the Asia crisis got in the way but, “for the long term...” In truth, Brazil is vulnerable today not because of some temporary condition demanding removal but because change is always half-finished. Masterful improvisations (“Brasília, TheReal Plan”) mask weak institutions.
Some advances are incorporated into the body politic, while others wither. The Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) enjoy well-deserved acceptance. But the courts dither and the schools decay. It’s a Brazilian paradox that banks are safe but the streets are not. In Raizes do Brasil, historian Sergio Buarque de Hollanda said, “We place our reliance upon a web of personal relationships, rather than the impersonal workings of modern institutions.” He touched upon the joy, and the frustration, of a great nation, one still in the making.
Tom Murphy, Senior Editor, AE-Brazil (www.aebrazil.com)
©OECD Observer No 229, November 2001