Lula or not, why Brazil is the best BRIC

Written by R Viswanathan | R Viswanathan | Updated: Dec 15 2009, 03:22am hrs
Brazilians say that a speech should be like a miniskirtshort enough to arouse interest and just long enough to cover the area of interest. Their country has always aroused the interest of outsiders with tiny bikinis and a mammoth carnival, sexy Samba and lusty Lambada, balmy Bossanova and fantastic football, the amazing Amazon and the bewitching beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

But now the country has started attracting a new kind of attention from global business leaders. For example, Petrobras, the state oil company of Brazil, plans to invest $174 billion in 2009-13 on recently discovered offshore oil fields. This is the worlds largest corporate investment plan. Obviously, this news is exciting for companies from around the world.

Which city has the worlds largest fleet of private jets and helicopters Not New York nor Tokyo. It is Sao Paulo. Tiffany and Bvlgari have more stores in Sao Paulo than in any other city in the world. Sao Paulo has the largest Ferrari sales and the second-largest sales of Lamborghini and Porsche in the world.

Brazil is also becoming a global player in energy and food in a world getting increasingly concerned about energy and food security and climate change. It is well-positioned in both fossil fuels and renewable energy. It is a global leader and pioneer in ethanol for automobiles. More than 90% of the cars produced in Brazil have flexi-fuel engines running on petrol or ethanol or combinations of the two. Embraer has even produced some aircraft running on ethanol. Plus, 80% of the electricity generated in Brazil comes from hydroelectric sources.

The Amazon forest of Brazil contributes 20% of the earths oxygen and is blessed with 20% of the fresh water supply of the world. It has the largest surplus land available for agriculture. It is using currently 52 million hectares for crops,which can be increased by another 100 million hectares, without touching either the Amazon or the sensitivity of environmentalists. Besides the land under crops, the country has 172 million hectares under pasture for cattle.

Brazilian agriculture is big business with its huge farm sizes which lend themselves to large scale commercial farming using heavy machineries, investment and innovation. Most cultivation is rainfed and doesnt need irrigation canals or bore wells as is the case in India. Brazilian productivity is one of the highest in the world thanks to fertile soil, scientific and commercial farming practices, and constant innovation and research and development. Brazil is the worlds largest exporter of beef, chicken, sugar, soya, orange juice and coffee.

Brazil is also rich in mineral resources. Vale, the Brazilian company, is among the top global mineral players.

With such rich natural resources, Brazil was considered a country of the future. But the joke in the past was that it would always remain as a country of the future. Now, Brazilians have woken up. They are convinced that their time has come. They are determined to unlock their potential. There is a paradigm shift in the mindset of Brazilians. There is a new confidence, optimism and vision among the political and business leaders.

Brazilians have liberated the country decisively and irreversibly from the past curses of hyperinflation, excessive external debt and unstable currency and exchange rates. Today, the countrys macroeconomic fundamentals are strong, healthy and predictable. It has even started lending money to IMF!

Government policies are based on a broad consensus, as it has found an equilibrium between pro-poor and pro-business policies. There is neither ideological polarisation nor extremist political parties. Whoever wins the next presidential elections in October 2010 after Lula, the country is not going to change its pragmatic direction. Brazil is now the role model for Latin America, where there has been a resurgence of the Left in recent years.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Brazil is part of BRIC, which is increasing its weight in the global balance. But Brazil has distinct advantages over other BRIC countries. It has one language and one faith and does not face ethnic, religious, linguistic conflicts, terrorism or troublesome neighbours. Although it has more people of African origin than the US, there are no hyphenated Brazilians. It is a true melting pot.

Brazil has no border disputes. On the other hand, Brazilians have been enthusiastically initiating efforts to integrate their region through Mercosur and Unasur. Sure, Brazil faces problems such as poverty, crime, drugs and arms. But these can be controlled internally.

It is this new profile of Brazil which has aroused the interest of global leaders who have started courting Brazil seriously. The 30% increase in FDI in Brazil in 2009 is a reflection of the new confidence of global business in Brazil. The awards of the World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016 are stamps of recognition.

Realising the growing importance of Brazil, the government of India has established a bilateral strategic partnership and a trilateral alliance in the form of IBSA. India has been working closely with Brazil in the Doha Round and on the issue of expansion of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Indias bilateral trade with Brazil reached $5 billion in 2008 and is set to increase rapidly. Indian companies have invested in Brazil in IT, pharmaceuticals, energy, agribusiness and engineering. Even Bollywood has been attracted by the carnival land. Dhoom II was shot in Rio.

In Brazil, India has become a household experience with the prime time soap Camino das Indias (route to India), telecast on the popular Brazilian TV channel Globo. This Indian story with Indian costumes and customs but Brazilian actors has generated tremendous interest.

Brazil was discovered accidentally by Pedro Alvares Cabral who wanted to find the route to India. Now the Indians and Brazilians have found a common route to the future.

The author is Ambassador of India to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Views are personal