By Taryana Odayar.
Brazilian Minister of Strategic Affairs Marcelo Neri was optimistic about the direction of socio-economic policy decisions in Brazil, as he delivered a public lecture here at the LSE which was organized by the LSE Brazilian Society. Minister Neri is a notable politician and academic who holds a PhD from Princeton University and has appraised the policies of over 24 countries, as well as being instrumental in the design and implementation of policies at three different governmental levels in Brazil.
He is also the founder of the Centre for Social Policies, former Secretary General of the Council of Economic and Social Development (CDES) and former President of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea).
The lecture covered the growth of social welfare in Brazil over the past twenty years, and provided a detailed analysis of the role played by public policy instruments such as housing, technical education and median income in Brazil, the latter of which, according to Minister Neri, rises during the election year and then falls soon after the new candidate is elected, leading Neri to jokingly quip that perhaps Brazil “should have elections every year”.
Neri also pointed out that although Brazil seems to be at odds with both developed and emerging economies, the country is a good mural of the world as the poorest in Brazil are as poor as the untouchables in India, and the richest in Brazil are as rich as the richest in Russia, resulting in what he referred to as “a world within Brazil” comprising of both developed and undeveloped areas.
But arguably the key idea from the lecture was Minister Neri’s evaluation of the increasingly important “Chizil” (China and Brazil) relationship which can be traced as far back as the early eighteenth century, and which was only disrupted with the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Diplomatic relations were quick to resume officially in 1974 with the establishment of the Brazilian Embassy in Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in Brasilia, and a cordial relationship has subsisted between the two countries ever since.
In 2010, efforts to strengthen these mutually beneficial ties were increased, culminating in proposals for more cooperation between Brazil and China in political, financial, energy, mining and agriculture related fields at the second BRIC Summit which was held in Brazil.
And in 2012, when former Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed the Brazilian Congress, he was firm in his belief that, “both Latin America and China have similar experiences in gaining national liberation, defending national independence and constructing the country” and therefore the two countries are “expected to support each other in the political fields, strengthen economic complementarity, and carry out close cultural contacts.”
Indeed, this is exactly what the two countries have been striving to accomplish, with China becoming Brazil’s largest trading partner in 2009, bringing former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to dub China “Brazil’s most promising business partner and a strategic ally.”
According to Minister Neri, this situation is ideal as it is conducive to bringing about an ideal combination of Chinese growth and Brazilian inclusion, thereby reaffirming the statements expressed by Deborah Wetzel, the World Bank Director for Brazil, who earlier in the year said that she “often joke(s) with some of my (her) government counterparts that we need to create “Chizil”, which is a connection, a breed of China plus Brazil. If we could get China to have Brazil’s social and environmental sense of things and if we could get Brazil to have China’s planning capacities together it’d be perfect.”