Brazil Looks Inward

Did you know that Brazil was only second to Japan in economic growth for much of the 20th century?

November 20, 2000

Did you know that Brazil was only second to Japan in economic growth for much of the 20th century?

Since its discovery 500 years ago by Portuguese explorers (eight years after Columbus stumbled upon North America), Brazil has sustained periods of rapid economic growth followed by crushing setbacks. In the first of two Globalist Factsheets, we look at Brazil from the inside. In an upcoming Factsheet, we look at Brazil and its place in Latin America and the world.

What are some examples of Brazil’s economic ups and downs?

Between 1900 and 1980, Brazil was second only to Japan among all large nations in its rate of economic growth. (The Economist)

After defaulting on its foreign debt in 1981, Brazil by 1998 had made six economic plans and 11 agreements with the IMF. (New York Times)

Brazil’s currency, the real, is the seventh different currency introduced since 1965. (New York Times)

Why is debt one of Brazil’s most persistent burdens?

Over a 12-month period from late 1998, the Brazilian government paid about $49 billion in interest payments to service its debt — or twice as much it spent on public health. (The Economist)

Still, as of January 1999, Brazil’s public sector debt was only 35% of GDP — compared to an average of 43% in the OECD countries. (Standard & Poor’s)

Is Brazil a workers’ paradise?

Brazil’s social security system allows workers to retire after only 20 years on the job — often with pensions higher than what they received while working. (Wall Street Journal)

In Brazil, it takes the equivalent of a U.S. constitutional amendment to lay off public workers. (New York Times)

Of Brazil’s work force, which is estimated at 73 million, only slightly more than 10% pay any income taxes. (Milken Institute)

Are economic wealth and resources broadly shared?

Three percent of the Brazilian population owns 66% of the country’s arable land. (Washington Post)

Brazil has the most unequal distribution of income in the world, with the top 10% receiving about half the nation’s income — while 43% survive on less than $2 per day. (Economic Policy Institute)

With 80 million people of African origin, equal to about half of all Brazilians, no other country outside Africa has such a large black population as Brazil. (BBC)

How will Brazil’s economic development affect its natural resources?

Over the past 30 years, an area of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest equal to the size of France has been timbered — much of it illegally. (Financial Times)

As of 1999, only 14% of all timber from the Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest was exported. The remaining 86% was consumed domestically. (Financial Times)