The government of Brazil will be hosting the first-ever conference to bring together the leaders of Latin America and the Arab world. The “Arab Latin Summit” will take place in BrasÀlia on May 10 and 11, 2005.
This summit will give Brazil a great opportunity to showcase the Brazilian economy to the leaders of the Arab world. Today, the Brazilian economy has become an attractive alternative for long-term investments for the Arab world surplus petrodollars. Brazil is the dominating economic force in South America, and is among the up coming economic powers of the new century.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his team of economic advisors are doing an outstanding job in developing new friendships and new economic partnerships with a number of countries from around the world.
President Lula’s economic team realized that today Brazil together with China, Russia, and India are part of where the economic action will be in many decades to come. These are the countries that will flourish and grow and promise spectacular economic development in the first part of the new century.
The New Economic Powers – BRIC
On December 27, 2004 “Business Week” published an article “Four Countries You Must Own.” The article said: “Once in a great while a trend takes hold that’s so powerful, it transforms the entire global economy: the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, the modern industrial nation in the 19th century, and the emergence of cheap computing and communications in the 20th century.
“The newest megatrend? It’s the rise of the BRICs. That’s shorthand for four dynamic developing nations with large populations — Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
“… While commodities are expected to remain strong, many global investors believe rising incomes and growing employment in the BRICs will make consumer companies golden. In a decade, say the Goldman economists, the BRICs’ middle class will total more than 800 million, greater than the populations of the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan combined today. The BRICs’ middle class now number more than 250 million, says Goldman, and those consumers are already spurring demand for cars, cell phones, and better food, furnishings, and clothes.”
Early Last Year
The American press did not give almost any coverage at the time, but early in 2004 President Lula of Brazil, started talking with various countries to form the Group of Five (G5); for them to have meetings on a regular basis. This new G5 group would counterbalance the economic power of the current G6 group.
The G6 group more or less represents the past the new G5 group will represent the future. The original members of the new G5 group will be: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. In the last 12 months Brazil has finalized extensive economic agreements with these four countries.
I wrote about 10 articles in the last 6 years saying that Brazil should adopt the Euro as its new currency. But today the world economic landscape is changing so fast that we have to adapt to the new world economic circumstances.
My suggestion then is that (the BRIC’s) these four countries should consider the creation and adoption of a new currency similar to the “Euro.” I would name the new currency “The Global.” But they should let the door open to other countries such as South Africa, Angola, and Saudi Arabia just in case they also want to adopt this new currency.
Technological advances are moving faster around the world than most people realized. There is a disconnect between what is happening in reality, and the perception that people have of the world.
We need to create from scratch a new way for society to organize so they will be able to survive in the future. We should use Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction” theories, and look around to the systems of the past and develop a superior system for the generations of the future.
The economies of Brazil, China, Russia, and India are going through a major transformation and they have been adapting and re-tooling themselves for the future.
On November 6, 2000, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter hosted a “Global Economic Forum” in New York. One of the lectures on that day was called “Is the United States Hogging Global Savings?”
On this presentation they talked about global savings, and they said: “In 1999, the sum of the current accounts for all countries that ran surpluses came to US$ 378 billion. In a sense, this is the pool of money that funds countries that run current account deficits. By that measure, the US used 89% of the total world savings.”
In the following five years to the end of 2004 that trend continued without much change.
The United States has been hogging global savings year after year. But that trend will not last forever for obvious reasons.
The United States government also has been borrowing money from foreign countries to finance its government budget deficit at a rate of US$ 2 billion per day.
One thing we have to keep in mind: until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the United States benefited from all the communist countries being out of the international financial markets. In the fifty-year period up to 1989 the communist countries did not compete with the U.S. for the pool of money available for investment from around the world.
Today the U.S. has a lot more competition from other countries than in the past, but many people from around the world still operating under the old type of mind set have been sending their savings to the United States for safe keeping.
But today everything is moving at the speed of light, because of new technologies and the Internet. In the near future investors from around the world will realize how fast everything has been changing. There is a real possibility that in future years the competition will become even tougher for the United States, and a large portion of international investment money will go to other countries instead of the United States.
United States Current Position
Today the U.S. government has over US$ 8 trillion of cumulative debt, and the states have another US$ 2 trillion in outstanding debt for a combined total of US$ 10 trillion.
On top of that the US government has another estimated US$ 70 trillion in unfunded liabilities coming due in the near future. (Liabilities related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government pensions, and other US government liabilities)
The states also have unfunded liabilities that are outstanding as of today – and they are estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Basically, if the U.S. government were a corporation, the U.S. government would be insolvent, and would have to file for bankruptcy, because they are carrying so much debt. And there is no way the U.S. economy will be able to generate the necessary cash flow in the future to pay its debts and keep itself afloat.
We also have to keep in mind that the United States spends almost US$ 500 billion dollars in defense, year after year, instead of using this money to update the American economic infrastructure and create new jobs and a future for the American population.
Today, the cumulative debt of the United States government is so large and completely out of control that as a result the U.S. government has to include on its annual budget, year after year, over US$ 300 billion for payment of interest on its debt.
To put things in perspective, the amount Americans pay in interest alone, each year, is at least 3 times the amount of the Brazilian government annual budget of $ 100 billion dollars; the amount necessary to run the Brazilian government for an entire year.
Important Trends Affecting the US Economy
Today, 1/3 of IBM business and a very important part of its future strategy is the re-structuring of most American corporations and the shifting of good paying American jobs to foreign lands. “IBM” is the ultimate “outsourcing company on steroids.”
The doors are open to IBM at most corporations in the United States. IBM has clout and connections at high levels like no other business in America. The impact that IBM will have on American businesses in the coming years will be mind-boggling.
I know that there are a lot of other companies in the outsourcing business, which make things even worse for the American job market. But I don’t think that any one company will have as much impact on the US economy as IBM will have in the coming years, only Wal-Mart will come close to IBM’s impact.
IBM has an army of consultants, all you need is a handful of consultants to approach the management of major American corporations and in no time they can convince management that they can save a zillion dollars by shifting thousands and thousands of good paying American jobs overseas.
IBM is an “outsourcing company on steroids” and they can outsource millions of American jobs overseas in a very short time frame. Look at the deal that IBM made with Procter & Gamble (P&G) regarding outsourcing and multiply that a thousand times and that is the main purpose of the IBM Corporation today.
IBM will be a major contributor to wage deflation in the United States, and will dramatically help the United States economic race to the bottom.
Another trend that will affect the American economy is the high costs of pensions and health care. For example, as reported by Fortune magazine: “GM has been steadily shrinking its North American workforce, to about 181,000 today, but it can’t do much about the 679,000 retirees and their dependents who rely on it for pensions and health care. In all, health and pension spending came to US$ 2,200 for every vehicle GM built in 2004.”
GM and also Ford for that matter, are in a horrible bind today, because the carmakers are saddled with these so-called legacy costs, mostly related to their retirees health and pension benefits.
GM’s plight is an awful reminder to other U.S. companies that are in the same position with mature businesses and an ageing workforce. The liabilities and obligations of these companies related to health and pension costs for their retirees are increasing at a time of severe global competition for these businesses. And they have to compete with powerful lower-cost producers such as India, and China.
Many of the major American corporations are in the same boat as GM. Today, they started repudiating the benefits that they had promised their workers, and they are eliminating the benefits of millions of retirees in the United States. In the area of corporate pensions alone there are US$ 450 billion of unfunded liabilities that corporate America promised to its 44 million workers and retirees.
Since World War II corporate America paid lower wages for its employees in exchange of the promises to pay the health care and give its employees a pension after they retire.
But now that corporate America will have to pay its bill, they will repudiate these obligations, and will try to pass to the US government the responsibility of these costs.
When the US government assumes these pension obligations, the retirees will have major cuts in their benefits, resulting in a lower standard of living for a large number of American retirees.
The Turning Point
Today, people from around the world are still sending their savings to be invested in the United States. But in the near future, finally we will have a reality check and people will realize that the world has changed drastically in the last few years.
Then investors from around the world will realize that economies such as Brazil are the place to invest in the beginning of the new century. They will start looking at the Brazilian economy in the same way we look at a small company with a fantastic potential for future growth and profits.
And at the same time they will look at the United States including its government in the same way we look at a mature company, bloated with all kinds of fixed costs, and over leveraged; with an unbelievable amount of outstanding liabilities.
I hope the Arab Summit in Brazil will accomplish many objectives, including reciprocal re-discovery of two regions with historical affinities and a vast but yet unfulfilled potential in the field of economic relations. Today there are over 10 million people of Arab descent living in Brazil, and they have made a valuable contribution to the social and cultural development of Brazilian society.
The major goal of this Arab Summit will be to educate the Arabs of the oil producing countries about Brazil, and help to build a bridge between these Arab countries and Brazil.
We hope to establish a strong friendship between these countries and Brazil, and also the foundations for a new business and economic relations that will be mutually rewarding: for Brazil and for all these Arab countries of the Middle East.
Ricardo C. Amaral is an author and economist. He can be reached at email@example.com.