The impacts of human development statistics

There are two faces of development in Brazil. World-competitive industry coexists with
stagnant,protected sectors. Modern agriculture coexists with low-productivity traditional practices.
ButBrazil is amid a spurt of economic development that might herald a lasting transformation for a
country often considered synonymous with inequality and unmet potential. Economic growth has
returned, health and education have improved markedly, the country’s democratization has proved
durable, and inequality—among the highest in the world—has at long last started to fall. But there is still
a long way to go to achieve genuine development in Brazil.
Many Brazilians have been frustrated with the uneven pace of development. They are known for
tellingself-deprecating jokes such as “Brazil is the countryof the future—and always will be.” Brazil has
evenbeen cited as having experienced”growth without development.” But despite massive inequities,
Brazil has made economic and social progress and should not be tarred with the same brush as
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, orGabon, which have had less social development for their levels of growth and
investment. Extremely high economic inequality and social divisions severely threaten further progress
in Brazil. But there are growing reasons to hope that Brazil may overcome its legacy of inequality so
that the country may yet join the ranks of the developed countries.
Brazil is particularly interested because its growth performance from the 1960s through the early 1980s
was the best in Latin America, with at least some parallels with East Asian export policy and
implementation. However, Brazil had a more significant role for state-owned enterprises, much lower
education and other social expenditures, and much higher inflation.
Brazil’s performance is followed widely in the developing world, as it is the largest and most populous
country in Latin America; with some 193 million people, it is the world’s fifth-largest country in both area
and population. Brazil is consolidating its role as the lead country in the Latin America andCaribbean
region; it is a vital member of the G20leading economies addressing the aftermath of the financial
crisis; and one of a group of developing countries pushing for fairer international trade rules. It is one of four influential countries referred to by financial analysts of emerging markets as the”BRICs” (Brazil,
Russia, India, and China).
Although over two decades of military rule ended in Brazil in 1985, an ongoing debt crisis,years of
stagnant incomes, and extremely high inflation followed. It took drastic policies to reduce inflation, and
revenues stagnated in the aftermath. The 1980s and the 1990s have been described as “lost decades”
for development. So the recent signs of palpable progress, especially since about 2004, have been
welcomed with relief and growing enthusiasm among many Brazilians. Although the country remains
politically divided between the centre-left and the centre-right, astriking convergence has been
achieved on policies agreed to be necessary for equitable and sustained growth, ranging from active
poverty reduction programs to relatively orthodox monetary policies. The economy has been booming
due to commodity exports to China, including soybeans and steel. One persistent worry is whether the
economy could continue to increase if commodity prices, which have been much higher in recent years,
revert to their long-term trends for the decline.
But despite the nation’s early and now resumed growth, other development indicators in Brazil lagged,
eventually undermining growth prospects. It would seem that Brazil benefited from much higher
incomes than CentralAmerican countries and spared the destructivenessof civil war, it would seem,
should have been in a much better position to fight extreme poverty and improve economic equity and
social indicators. Instead, the country has continued to see a higher percentage of its population in
poverty than expected for an upper-middle-income country. Despite some recent improvements,Brazil
remains one of the countries with the highest levels of inequality globally. So how shouldBrazil’s
development performance be evaluated and future priorities chosen?
Income and Growth
Growth is generally necessary, though not sufficient,for achieving development. In 2007, Brazil’s per
capita income was $5,860. Using purchasing power parity, its average income was $9,270,about one￾fifth of that of the United States but more than eight times that of Haiti (World Bank data).
Growth has been erratic, with substantial swings over time. Data for gross domestic product growth
(GDP) per capita are sometimes presented for the periods 1965–1990, when for Brazil, it was 1.4%,and
for 1990–2000, it was 1.5%. This appears to suggest remarkable stability. But the former figures
combine the booming years from 1967 to 1980and Brazil’s “lost decade of development” of the1980s.
Nevertheless, performance through this period was still better than most other countries ofLatin
America. And in 2000–2008, annual per capita growth rose to 2.6% (World Bank data).
Brazil has had an export policy stressing incentives for manufacturing exports and protections for
domestic industry, with numerous parallels with Taiwan and South Korea in their earlier formative
stages. Its percentage share of manufactured exports in total exports grew dramatically, reaching 57%
in 1980, although it dropped markedly during the lost decade of the1980s. Although the share of
exports increased again to get 54% by 2000, these still essentially represented processed foods and
ores. By 2007, this figure had fallen to 47%, reflecting increased commodity prices; manufactured
exports also continued to rise. Brazil’s prolonged status as ahighly indebted country was asubstantial
drag on growth performance, as were continued problems with infrastructure. Today,however, the
Industrial, Technological and ForeignTrade Policy (PITCE) program is actively working on upgrading
the quality and competitiveness ofBrazilian industry.
High and growing taxes may have also slowed formal-sector employment growth. The overall tax
burden increased from about 25% of gross national income to nearly 40% in the decade from 1993
to2004. Payroll taxes are high, and as many as half ofBrazil’s labour force now works in the informal
sector,where taxes may be avoided (and labour rights and regulation circumvented).
However, Ricardo Hausmann, Dani Rodrik, and Andrés Velasco argue that Brazil does not lack
productive investment ideas, nor is concern about government behaviour the factor holding back
investment. Using their decision tree framework to identify the most binding constraints on economic
growth, Hausmann, Rodrik, andVelasco argue that Brazil has high investment returns and is most
constrained by a lack of savings to finance its productive opportunities at reasonable interest rates. In
raising domestic savings, Hausmannhas emphasized the importance of “creating a financiallyviable
state that does not over-borrow, over-taxor under-invest.”
Technology transfer is critical to more rapid growth, competing internationally, and beginning to catch
up with advanced countries. Brazil has made notable progress. The government is cutting the edge of
agricultural research and extension in commercially successful export crops such as citrus and
soybeans. After a disastrous attempt to protect the computer industry in the 1980s was abandoned,
Brazil has begun to see the expansion of the software industry, as also seen in India. But Brazil has not
absorbed technology to the degree that East Asian countries have.

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