Protests in Brazil are the result of progress
Demonstrators raise their hands after clashes with riot police during a protest on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday. IN LAST week’s column, Tony Leon reluctantly gnaws on a slice of humble pie regarding the progress made by Brazil during the past two decades. He posits that the riots taking place throughout the country reveal that enthusiastic interpretations about the country’s development were too optimistic.
Instead of asserting that the overwhelming mountain of data about Brazil’s development is somehow wrong, let us start with the assumption that the evidence is correct. Most important among this is the fact that Brazil’s mixture of prudent macroeconomic policies and progressive social policies has reduced the poverty rate from 35% in 2001 to 21% in 2009.
During the same period, the Gini measure of inequality fell from 59 to 54, while Brazil has an unemployment rate of only 5.7%. This is one of the lowest figures in the world; lower indeed than in the US, Canada and almost all of Europe.
Critics underestimate the scale of overall poverty reduction, as the latest figures show that more than 40-million Brazilians have escaped poverty in the past decade. The result of all of this has been an exponential increase in the size of the middle class in Brazil.
Indeed, for the first time in the country’s history, most Brazilians are now officially considered to be part of the middle class. Accompanying the rapid ascent of 40-million people into the middle class has been an increase in something else: their expectations.
And it is the government’s failure to reach these heightened expectations that are the root cause of the protests.... Read the full, comprehensive news article and discuss at Business Day