Brazilian Economy

     Brazil earned the reputation of being a "miracle economy" in the late 1960s when
double-digit annual growth rates were recorded and the structure of the economy
underwent rapid change. Since 1981, however, Brazil’s economic performance has
been poor in comparison to its potential. The country’s dramatic reduction in
output growth, which averaged an annual GDP growth of only 1.5 percent over

1980-93, reflected its inability to respond to the events of the late 1970s and

1980s. Some events that took place during this period were: the oil shock,
increases in real interest rates, the debt crisis, and the resulting cutoff of
foreign credit and foreign direct investment. These shocks, in combination with
poor management of public finances and heavy state intervention, resulted in
large fiscal deficits at state and federal levels. Even if the fiscal deficits
were reduced after 1990, deviating policies generalized indexation, and exchange
rate management contributed to keeping inflation high and increasing. Monthly
inflation skyrocketed from 3 percent in the late 1970s to 50 percent in
mid-1994. The country’s income distribution, already poor, worsened
drastically in the 1980s. Against these conditions, the success of the Real

Stabilization Plan in effect since mid-1994, which has reduced inflation to an
annualized rate of about 15 percent, stand out noticeably. Growth rates were
satisfactory in 1994 and 1995 at 5.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively (Page 45-47).

From Portugal’s discovery in 1500 until the late 1930s, the economy relied on
the production of primary products, such as sugar cane for exports. Portugal
subjected it to a strict enforced colonial pact, or imperial mercantile policy,
which for three centuries heavily restricted development. The colonial phase
left strong marks on the country’s economy and society, lasting long after
independence in 1882. Significant changes began occurring only late in the
eighteenth century, when slavery was eliminated and wage labor was adopted.

Important structural transformations began only in the 1930s, when the first
steps were taken to change it into a modern, semi-industrialized economy. These
transformations were particularly strong between 1950 and 1981, when the growth
rates of the economy remained quite high and a diversified manufacturing base
was established. However, since the early 1980s, the economy has experienced
substantial difficulties, including slow growth and stagnation. Nevertheless,
the country still has the potential to regain its former dynamism. In the
mid-1990s, it had a large and quite diversified economy, but one with
considerable structural, as well as short-term problems. Socioeconomic
transformations came about rapidly after World War II. In the 1940s, only 31.3
percent of its 41.2 million inhabitants resided in towns and cities. By 1991 its
population had reached 146.9 million and 75.5 percent lived in cities, therefore
creating two of the world’s largest metropolitan centers – Sao Paulo and Rio
de Janeiro. The rate of population growth decreased for about 3 percent annually
in the transition. By mid-1999 it had an estimated population of 166 million
(Levine 200). The share of its primary sector in the gross national product
declined from 28 percent in 1947 to 11 percent in 1992. Despite this reduction,
the agricultural sector remains important. Although part of it is primitive and
demanding, part is modern and vigorous. Brazil remains one of the world’s
largest exporters of agricultural products. In the same 1947-92 period, the
contribution of industry to GNP increased from less than 20 percent to 39
percent. Its GNP per capita in 1999 was of $4,750 per year. The industrial
sector produces a wide range of products for the domestic market and for export,
including consumer goods, intermediate goods, and capital goods. By the early

1990s, it was producing about 1 million motor vehicles annually and about 32,000
units of motor-driven farming machines. On an annual basis, it was also
producing 1.8 million tons of fertilizers, 4.7 million tons of cardboard and
paper, 20 million tons of steel, 26 million tons of cement, 3.5 million
television sets, and 3 million refrigerators. In addition, about 70 million
cubic meters of petroleum were being processed yearly into fuels, lubricants,
propane gas, and a wide range of petrochemicals. Besides, Brazil has at least

161,500 kilometers of paved roads and more 63 million megawatts of installed
electric power capacity (Becker 88-90). Even with these figures, the economy
cannot be considered developed. While the economic changes since 1947 raised the
country’s per capita income above US$2,000 in 1980, per capita income in 1995
was still only US$4,630. Growth and structural change have not altered
significantly the country’s extreme unequal distribution of wealth, income,
and opportunity. Regardless of impressive rise in economic growth and output,
the number of poor has increased sharply. Most of the poor are concentrated in
the rural areas of Northeast (Nordeste) Region, or in the country’s large
cities or metropolitan areas. The economic and political troubles of the 1980s
and early 1990s have only complicated the task of correcting its developmental
pattern. Since early 1994 it has implemented a successful stabilization program,
the Real Plan, named after the new currency introduced in mid-1994. Inflation
was contained at less than 70 percent in 1995. The program was based on an
initial adjustment, a nominal exchange rate anchor, and tight monetary policy.

An external debt restructuring agreement with commercial creditors was reached
before the beginning of the stabilization plan. The Real Plan started with the
real at equality with the dollar. There was no law fixing the parity but the
central bank undertook to support the domestic currency at this level. No limit
was placed on currency appreciation, and capital inflows drove the real to
appreciate by over 15 percent. Since March 1995, as a result of trade deficits
and international capital instability, the exchange rate policy has been
modified to a managed climb and the currency has been allowed to depreciate
against the dollar. Monetary policy has been gradually relaxed following a fall
in output growth after the first quarter of 1995. This stresses the policy of
gradual depreciation and shows clearly that the authorities did not attach any
special importance to dollar equality. The authorities had targeted a positive
balance in the operational account of the consolidated public sector budgeted in

1995, but the final result was an estimated operational deficit of 5 percent of

GDP. This was caused by a substantial rise in federal and state wage bills and
high interest payments on the public debt (DuQuette 40). Expansion of 3.9% in

2000 (compared with 0.8% in 1999) will be led by exports and private investment.

This will more than offset another year of public-sector austerity. Also, a
recovery in wages, declining interest rates and an expansion of bank credit will
encourage private consumption, alough this will lag behind the other drivers
of growth. Industrial production grew in February for the fifth time in seven
months, the first time Brazil has posted such a broad expansion since late 1997
(LaitnFocus) Public debt growth accelerated after mid-1995 due to the need to
stabilize short-term capital inflows drawn by high domestic interest rates. This
policy together with the need to extend central bank credit to the financial
sector to help troubled banks has also led to a growing quasi-fiscal deficit.

The Real's value has held well below its weakest point early in 1999 (around R2:
$1), ending 1999 at R1.79: $1. Although debt repayments are forecast to be
higher in the second half of the year, overall trends in the balance of
payments, including healthy foreign investment inflows, should strengthen the

Real further. We forecast a year-end exchange rate of around R1.71: $1(World

Bank Group). CONCLUSION The economic experience of the 1980s served as a
contribution to Brazil. Government is much less likely to be seen as a solution,
and many more Brazilians see the public sector as the problem. The somewhat
tiresome debate between the monetarists and the structuralists that dominated
discussions of inflation in the 1970s has been superseded by recognition that
more supply growth does have a close relation to inflation, but that the
essential problem is the fiscal deficit that drives the money supply process.

The external shocks of the 1980s have also shown Brazilians that their country
cannot be isolated from the rest of the world. By the early 1990s, Brazil was on
the path to becoming more open to trade than it had been for several decades.

Despite the loss of Brazilians access to world capital markets in the early

1980s, external capital was beginning to return to Brazil by the early 1990s.

Brazilians also learned that price stabilization is not easy and that"magic" solutions centered on price freezes do not work without the more
difficult fiscal adjustments that appear from a political agreement. That the
early 1990s had not created general agreement, even though political leaders and
economists admitted that fiscal adjustment was necessary for macroeconomics
stability. The failure of successive stabilization plans that ignored the
underlying fiscal disequilibrium also forced long-term costs, because the
credibility of government economics policies was hurt. The fall of Collor de

Mello government in 1992 under changes of enormous corruption and the
economically unrealistic terms of the 1988 constitution have made the job of
recovering government credibility even harder (Stephan 210). For Brazil to
return to the kind of economic growth that many of its people once considered as
their birthright, a lot of changes must take place. First, the public sector
deficit must be lessen significantly. This can be done in a variety of ways
without putting heavy costs in Brazilian society. Privatization of economically
inefficient state companies is one way, and in the first half of the 1990s some
progress was made in that area. The complex system of tax and credit subsidies
that was created in past decades suggests many opportunities for some sort of
reform, which would also lower the fiscal deficit. Secondly, Brazil recent moves
toward becoming a more open economy offer the hope that it can achieve some sort
of economic efficiency and make sure that its resources flow into certain areas
where Brazil has a strong international position. Also, cease the protection of
certain sectors that have only cost the Brazilian consumers. Opening their
market to the world will contribute to the economic welfare of the country.

Finally, Brazil can be become an economically prosperous country if it can
address the inequalities of the distribution of income. To help the ones who are
not privileged, the country must focus on education and provide other basic
services to this class. Without great efforts to try to even out this problem,
the government may find it harder to govern and may reduce the hopes for
successful and sustainable price stabilization, because of their fiscal
disequilibrium (Tulchin 90-100). Brazil, Economic Indicators, 1995 – 2000 1995

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Real Sector GDP (real annual %-change) 4.2 2.7 3.6 -0.1

0.8 3.1 Q1 2000 Industry (real annual %-change) 1.8 1.7 3.9 -2.1 -0.7 6.7 Apr-00

Unemployment (%) 4.7 5.5 5.7 7.7 7.6 7.8 Apr-00 Fiscal Balance (% of GDP) -4.9
-3.8 -4.3 -7.6 -5.6 - 1999 Monetary Sector Money (annual variation of M1 in %)

25.1 4.6 58.9 7.1 22.7 16.5 Apr-00 Money (annual variation of M3 in %) 45.4 39.8

25.5 20.0 27.6 29.0 Apr-00 Inflation (CPI, annual variation in %) 22.0 9.1 4.3

2.5 8.4 5.4 Apr-00 Inflation (PPI, annual variation in %) 6.4 8.1 7.8 0.6 28.9

17.0 Apr-00 Interest Rate (SELIC rate in %) 38.9 23.9 42.0 31.2 19.0 18.5 May-00

Markets Stock Market (ytd in US$-terms in %) - 31.6 20.2 -43.0 66.9 -11.4

31-May-00 Stock Market (Bovespa ytd in %) -1.3 63.8 44.8 -33.5 151.9 -12.5

31-May-00 Bond Market (EMBI Plus var. in %) 21.2 34.6 12.6 -15.4 40.7 -0.3

31-May-00 Bond Market (C-Bond over UST) - 531 539 1,124 640 785 31-May-00

External Sector Exchange Rate (Real/US$) 0.973 1.039 1.116 1.208 1.789 1.827

May-00 Balance of Payments (US$ m) 13,480 9,017 -7,845 -17,285 -10,759 -10,194

Apr-00 Current Account Balance (US$ m) -17,972 -23,136 -30,916 -33,611 -24,375
-3,078 Apr-00 Trade Balance (US$ m) -3,466 -5,554 -6,757 -6,593 -1,206 -133

May-00 Exports (US$ m) 46,506 47,747 52,990 51,140 48,011 51,165 May-00 Imports
(US$ m) 49,972 53,301 59,747 57,733 49,218 51,298 May-00 Int. Reserves (US$ m)

51,840 60,110 52,173 44,556 36,342 28,581 May-00 Int. Reserves (months of
imports) 12.4 13.5 10.5 9.3 8.9 7.0 May-00 External Debt (US$ m) 159,398 180,003

193,698 235,082 236,945 242,511 Mar-00 Ratings Sov. Rating Moody's - - - B2 B2

B2 31-May-00 Sov. Rating S & P - - - BB- B+ B+ 31-May-00 Sov. Rating Fitch -
- - B+ B B 31-May-00 Sov. Rating DCR - - - BB- BB- BB- 31-May-00 © Copyright

LatinFocus 2000 Last updated on 06 June 2000

Bibliography

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Wilson Center Press, 1997. DuQuette, Michel. Building New Democracies: Economic
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Toronto Press, 1999. Stephan, Alfred C. Authoritarian Brazil: Origins, Policies,
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Homepage: Economic Indicators, Forecasts, Briefing, Calendar, and the Most

Essential Links to Government. 2000 Online. Internet. Available http://www.latin-focus.com/countries/brazil/brazil.htm

"World Bank Group." Brazil. 2000 Online. Internet. Available http://www.worldbank.org/