According to mainstream economists, like Jeffrey Sachs [pdf], all Brazil needs to do is learn the lessons of China, stop looking to the domestic market, and set their sights on becoming competitive internationally.
Brazil, I think, has everything that it takes to do it, if there is a strategic focus on being a competitive world leader. However, it requires a change of emphasis and a change of strategy from what has been typical for several decades. Most importantly, with a Brazilian population that is increasingly centered in the working age, with slowing population growth, and with an increasingly educated population, Brazil has the chance to follow the same trends as China, and to achieve the same kind of growth rates that have eluded this country for the past quarter-century.
Sachs’s formula for success makes a perverse sense, given the fact that internally Brazil is being pulled apart. We all know that Brazil has one of the most unequal distributions of income on the planet (the chart below is the percentage of income received by the top 20 percent):
Then, there are all the other signs of disorder and lack of progress in Brazil, such as the cocaine boom in the new “cracklands.”
And, of course, the story that symbolizes the poles of wealth and poverty in Brazil: Thor Batista, the son of Brazil’s richest man, driving his father’s $1.3 million sports car, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and killing Wanderson Pereira dos Santos, who lived in a shack on a highway in Rio de Janeiro.
Two Brazils also met head-on: one in which a small elite live with almost unfathomable wealth, and another in which millions eke out an existence on the margins of that abundance.
“There have been so many people run over that I’ve lost count,” said Caubi Lopes, 49, a manual laborer who knew Mr. Pereira dos Santos and lives near the site of the car crash, in Duque de Caxias, on Rio’s outskirts. About 100 families live there in shacks wedged into a slope near the highway.
“It’s only this case that has gotten so much attention because of that man,” said Mr. Lopes, referring to Mr. Batista’s father, Eike Batista, a mining magnate with a $30 billion fortune who used to park the McLaren in the living room of his mansion.