Brazil: The Shame of Being the World’s 7th Largest Economy

    Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, Brazil

    Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, BrazilIn the 19th century, Victor Hugo refused to shake hands with Pedro II, the emperor of Brazil, because he was the ruler of a country living comfortably with slavery. Today, Victor Hugo would not shake the hand of a Brazilian to congratulate him for achieving seventh position among the international economic powers while living so comfortably with the surrounding social tragedy.

    With the exception of six countries, we are ahead of all the world’s countries in the value of our production, but we are unconcerned about our position, according to UNESCO, at 88th place in education.

    We are the seventh in the value of our GDP, while ignoring the fact that we are, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the 55th country in the per capita income, making us a power inhabited by poor people.

    Even worse, we do not see that, according to the World Bank, we are the world’s 8th worse country in terms of income concentration, better only than Guatemala, Swaziland, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.

    We are the world’s seventh economy, but according to Transparency International, due to corruption we are in 69th place in the order of countries with ethics in politics. The perfect grade is 10; Brazil has a grade of 3.7.

    We are the seventh power in production, but, when we examine our production profile, we become aware that for decades we have exported nearly the same type of goods and we continue importing the modern products of science and technology.

    We are one of the greatest producers of automobiles; yet we have one of the largest populations of flanelinhas, young male school dropouts who are paid by drivers to watch their cars parked in the streets.

    A UNESCO report released in March shows that the majority of the world’s illiterate adults live in only ten countries. Brazil is one of them, with 14 million, with the added aggravation that, in Brazil, which has a national flag inscribed with the words “Ordem e Progresso,” they cannot even recognize their own flag.

    From 1889 to today, we have reached the seventh position in the world in the economy, but we now have almost three times more illiterate adult Brazilians than we had in that year, besides our 30 to 40 million functional illiterates.

    We are the seventh economy and we do not have a single Nobel Prize.

    According to a study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which researched 46 countries, Brazil remains in last place in the percentage of young people completing secondary school.

    We are even worse shape when we take into account the training necessary to face the challenges of the 21st century. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), our teacher remuneration lags behind countries like Mexico, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and the Philippines.

    Their preparation and dedication is probably in an even more unfavorable position due to the low quality of the schools where they are obliged to teach.

    We are the seventh economic power but of our children’s school attendance, in hours per day, days per year and years over the course of a lifetime, is among the worse in the entire world.

    In addition, we certainly have the greatest inequality in each person’s education, depending upon the income of the student’s parents. The 10% richest Brazilians receive educational investments nearly 20 times greater than the 10% poorest.

    We are the seventh power, but we have illnesses like dengue fever, malaria, Chagas and leishmaniasis. Some 22% of our population lives without running water and more than half without sewerage connections.

    According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 43% of Brazilian homes, 25 million, are not considered adequate for habitation; they do not have the combination of running water, sanitary drainage and garbage collection.

    This dichotomy – possessing one of the world’s richest economies alongside a social world among the poorest – can only be explained because our national project is illogical, without foresight and without ethics.

    Illogical because we do not perceive that “a rich country is a country without poverty,” as President Dilma has said.

    Without foresight because we do not perceive that our economy is great but backward, incapable of competing with the knowledge economy already established in countries with less wealth and more future.

    And without ethics because, while we are commemorating our position in the economy, we are forgetting our shame in the social sector.

    Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM in Portuguese and http://twitter.com/cbbrazilianview in English and write to him at cristovam@senado.gov.br.

    New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.

    Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).

     

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