Too often, a spirit of international cooperation evaporates just when it is most needed and most promising. And then, lack of cooperation leads to crisis; crisis belatedly forces cooperation; but that cooperation must begin with picking up the pieces.
Brazil has made remarkable social gains over the past decade and a half. Millions of families have been lifted from extreme poverty, and access to education and health has improved thanks to a series of well-targeted social interventions, such as Bolsa Familia, the conditional cash transfer program. I was privileged to see some of this tangible progress during my visit to Brazil last week.
I met with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister for Social Development, who explained the network of social programs in the country, and guided us on a visit to Complexo do Alemão—a neighborhood and a group of favelas in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. We got there after a ride on the recently built cable car, which links several neighborhoods on the hills to the North Zone. This is a great example of infrastructure that has contributed immensely to improving the economic opportunities of people, who now have a quick way to move around and connect to the larger city. The stations themselves are also focal points of the efforts aimed at improving the daily lives of the people of Rio de Janeiro, since they house important services such as the youth center, a social assistance center, a public library, a training center for micro-entrepreneurs, and even a small branch of the bank that distributes the Bolsa Familia monthly grants.
There has been a remarkable increase in financial flows to frontier economies from private sources which, in relation to their economic size, are now on par with those to emerging economies (see chart).
Since the early 2000s, Brazil’s economy has grown at a robust clip, with growth in 2010 reaching 7.5 percent—its strongest in a quarter of a century. A key pillar of its hard-won economic success has been sound economic policies and the adoption of far-reaching social programs, which resulted in a substantial decline in poverty.
In the last couple of years Brazil’s growth slowed down. Although other emerging market economies experienced a similar slowdown, the growth outturns in Brazil were particularly disappointing. And the measures taken to stimulate the economy did not produce a sustained recovery. This is because unleashing sustained growth in Brazil requires measures geared not at stimulating domestic demand but at changing the composition of demand towards investment and at increasing productivity.
The so-called BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China—could be a game changer for how low-income countries build their economic futures.
The growing economic and financial reach of the BRICs has seen them become a new source of growth for low-income countries (LICs).
LIC-BRIC ties—particularly trade, investment and development financing—have surged over the past decade. And the relationship could take on even more prominence after the global financial crisis, with stronger growth in the BRICs and their demand for LIC exports helping to buffer against sluggish demand in most advanced economies.
The potential benefits from LIC-BRIC ties are enormous.
But, so too are challenges and risks that must be managed if the LIC-BRIC relationship to support durable and balanced growth in LICs. Continue reading “BRICs and Mortar—Building Growth in Low-Income Countries” »