Brazilians grew up hearing that Brazil was the country of the future. During
hard times, it was common to hear comments as “yeah, always the future, never
the present” and such. Well, things are changing. Is the future here? Or maybe
is it around the corner? What does this present economic situation, these new
numbers really mean?
Recently Bloomberg news in Germany was giving advice and the reporter told people to trade their American dollars for euros or, yes, Brazilian reais. The numbers for the GDP of the last three months are expected with a 1.2% raise in relation to the previous months, and a 5% increase compared to last year’s numbers.
GDP of 5% is very good news. The economy grew throughout the year, pushed by investments, production and family spending. Car sales went sky high. With the weaker dollar, investments in imports of machinery and such improved a great deal. If exports had a downfall of 7.5% in volume, the values went up 7%, so it evened out at the end.
And there are more good news. Although things are far from ideal as far as the Amazon forest, the Ministry of Environment came out with good numbers. Deforestation went down this past year, for the third year in a row. Between 2006 and 2007, 11,223 sq km (4,333 sq miles) of forest went down, 20% less than what was registered in 2005-2006.
The number is close to the best record, occurred in 1991, when there was the smallest number since this work of official measurement started, 11,030 sq km (4,250 sq miles). Four thousand square miles is still a dangerous number, but the improvement brings hope.
According to the Federal Code, landowners in the Amazon may legally put down up to 20% of their property, but in reality this number is not respected. Some 80% of the deforestation that is taking place is illegal. The government hopes to bring down to zero all the illegal deforestation.
There is a growing ecological concern in Brazil, and this is showing with industrial research. Recently researchers from the University of São Paulo developed a plastic film made of manioc and sugars to make food packages, which is both biodegradable and edible, has anti-bacterial action and may change color according to the state of preservation of the product it wraps.
The alternative is yet being developed but it promises to play an important pro-environment role. Brazil uses about 4 tons of plastic every year and only around 16.5% is recyclable. One third of this number derives from plastic film and two thirds from hard plastic.
According to scientists, it takes a good 100 years for plastic to decompose, a very high price paid by the environment. This invention not only will reduce trash considerably, but will also act in a positive way to reduce the quantity of synthetic preservatives used in food, because of its anti-bacterial property.
Brazil is the second producer of manioc in the world, a root with many uses in the country. The tendency of today’s world to find solutions for the ecological problems that have been affecting our planet grows everyday, everywhere.
The international success of some Brazilian companies adds another item to this successful Brazil. Companies rating high among the leading in the world, like international Vale do Rio Doce (mining), Petrobras (empowered after the new oil findings and now among the top ten of the oil world), Embraer (aircraft manufacturer), Gerdau (powerful steel giant with steel mills in Brazil),Votorantim (multiple power), Braskem (thermoplastic resins), Sadia (chilled and frozen food), Perdigão (food), Natura (cosmetics), Coteminas (textile), WEG (engines), JBS-Friboi (beef) and Marcopolo (body of buses) multiply zeros, jobs and international prestige.
Not only these companies are officially among the most competitive ones in developing countries, as Brazil is number three with 13 representatives in the list, losing only to China, with 41 companies, and India, with 20, according to Brazilian daily newspaper O Globo.
More foreign investment is coming in everyday. The stable economy is the main factor of attraction; as for choices, they are endless. People like the Google boys and Bill Gates have gone to Brazil attracted by what we do with sugarcane as fuel.
In late November a Cuban mission went to Brazil to hold meetings with the government but they went around private businesses as well. They wowed at the “green plastic” they found at Braskem, made of polyethylene with sugar-cane alcohol and had longing eyes in the aircrafts, tractors and farm machinery made in Brazil.
Reading about Brazil in retrospective to research for this article, I could go on and on. If the arts were the subject here, at least one whole page would be needed to fill with all the wonderful news on what has been created in Brazilian music, film, dance and fine arts.
Along with all this optimistic information, there is the unavoidable bad news: all the corruption stories; all the political maneuvers that makes one wonder who is the bad guy; killings; violence in the slums; violence in the streets; child, youth and elderly abuse. The list, unfortunately, is also endless.
But it is the end of the year. Time to rejoice and renew our hopes. Time to think positively and to look forward. Time to believe that if that promised future is not here, it could be closer, as a matter of fact, maybe even around the corner.
With eyes more focused in the quality of life of people and in the health of this earth that shelters and feeds us, we must keep on hoping. Without losing sight of what has yet to come.
The author’s original title for this article was “Time to keep our hopes up! (and our eyes wide open)”
Clara Angelica Porto is a Brazilian bilingual journalist living in New York. She went to school in Brazil and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Clara is presently working as the English writer for The Brasilians, a monthly newspaper in Manhattan. Comments welcome at email@example.com.