Opinion polls indicate that the candidate from the ruling Workers Party Dilma Rousseff, hand picked by Lula da Silva, will win Brazil’s presidency next Sunday. A run off is scheduled for a month later if no candidate gets 50% of the ballot, but in any of the two options Ms Rousseff is forecasted to take office next January first .
Ms Rousseff’s candidacy has rested on the immense popularity of the Brazilian president and the economic boom experienced by the country during the last eight years when an estimated 35 million people were lifted out of poverty.
Under Lula da Silva, (and hopefully with heir “Lula da Silva in skirt”) Brazil managed an international presence in world affairs well beyond that of recent decades, among which as member of the BRIC group of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China). The president’s natural optimism and enthusiasm has spread to the rest of Brazilians believing that the “land of tomorrow” is finally en route to becoming a world power.
Precisely, “Brazil, a rising power” was discussed at a recent Conference of the Americas sponsored by The Miami Herald and the World Bank, and Andres Oppenheimer, a Latin American expert and columnist cautioned about that very wide consensus among Brazilians that the country is inevitably heading for the club of the most powerful nations in the world.
Yes, Brazil is a new emerging world power, but “it must overcome a domestic obstacle potentially deadly: the self-convincement of its inevitable rise to that exclusive club”, writes Oppenheimer.
The economy is poised to expand 5% or more this year; the country has discovered one of the world’s largest sub-salt oil reserves and will be hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, which made Lula da Silva comment that “God is Brazilian”.
Plenty of literature supports that windfall optimism: Time named Lula da Silva “the most influential person in the world”; The Economist dedicated an edition under the heading of “Brazil takes off” anticipating that the Brazilian economy will soon overtake UK and France. Two new books, ‘Brazil on the Rise’ and ‘The New Brazil’ from distinguished US academics are also equally upbeat.
Brazil has also become reliable, predictable and in spite of different governments, for the last 16 years economic policies have been steady and predictable generating confidence and growing investments domestically and internationally.
Nevertheless, there are potential dangers, writes Oppenheimer quoting some of the panellists at the Miami conference: insufficient and antiquated infrastructure; poor quality education and if Ms Rousseff’s victory is overwhelming radical groups could push for “nationalist and state intervention policies that belong to the past”, particularly since she evidently lacks the charisma of her creator.
“Triumphalism in the ruling Workers Party, an overdosed pride that they invented the wheel when the truth is that the commodities boom of the last 16 years played a leading role in Brazil’s recent development”, indicates Oppenheimer.
Furthermore there are sectors in the ruling party that believe Brazil can continue to grow without foreign investments in clue areas such as hydrocarbons and agriculture, “but hopefully triumphalism can be contained since much of the population continues to look into the future with scepticism”.
“One of the good things that have happened to Brazilians is that they no longer speak of Brazil as ‘the country of the future’, but rather as the ‘fifth power’, which is a more realistic goal”.
Oppenheimer ends his column talking about his experiences during recent trips to China and India. Both emerging economies are well aware that they have something in common: they are still far behind all other world powers in almost all sectors.
In all the interviews with Chinese and Indian officials Oppenheimer was impressed by their concern with the fact their countries were not advancing in areas such as education, science and technology with the speed of other powers.
China openly admits it’s the second-largest economy but not second largest economic power.
“I did not see or feel the same concern or humbleness in Brazil from Brazilian officials”, underlines Oppenheimer.
“Chinese and Indians have a healthy doses of constructive paranoia which pushes them to advance sustainedly. Unless Brazil adopts the same attitude and avoids the complacency that can come with so many prophecies from overseas about its inevitable rise, it will certainly not become one of the world’s leading emerging powers”, concludes Oppenheimer.