In late 2009, The Economist covered Brazil in an leader and special report which contrasted the country with fellow BRIC countries, but warned that the biggest risk may be hubris.
“WHEN, back in 2001, economists at Goldman Sachs bracketed Brazil with Russia, India and China as the economies that would come to dominate the world, there was much sniping about the B in the BRIC acronym. Brazil? A country with a growth rate as skimpy as its swimsuits, prey to any financial crisis that was around, a place of chronic political instability, whose infinite capacity to squander its obvious potential was as legendary as its talent for football and carnivals, did not seem to belong with those emerging titans. Now that scepticism looks misplaced. China may be leading the world economy out of recession but Brazil is also on a roll. It did not avoid the downturn, but was among the last in and the first out. Its economy is growing again at an annualised rate of 5%. It should pick up more speed over the next few years as big new deep-sea oilfields come on stream, and as Asian countries still hunger for food and minerals from Brazil’s vast and bountiful land. Forecasts vary, but sometime in the decade after 2014—rather sooner than Goldman Sachs envisaged—Brazil is likely to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, overtaking Britain and France. By 2025 São Paulo will be its fifth-wealthiest city, according to PwC, a consultancy. And, in some ways, Brazil outclasses the other BRICs. Unlike China, it is a democracy. Unlike India, it has no insurgents, no ethnic and religious conflicts nor hostile neighbours. Unlike Russia, it exports more than oil and arms, and treats foreign investors with respect. Under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former trade-union leader born in poverty, its government has moved to reduce the searing inequalities that have long disfigured it. Indeed, when it comes to smart social policy and boosting consumption at home, the developing world has much more to learn from Brazil than from China. In short, Brazil suddenly seems to have made an entrance onto the world stage. Its arrival was symbolically marked last month by the award of the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro; two years earlier, Brazil will host football’s World Cup.And perhaps that is the biggest danger facing Brazil: hubris. Lula is right to say that his country deserves respect, just as he deserves much of the adulation he enjoys. But he has also been a lucky president, reaping the rewards of the commodity boom and operating from the solid platform for growth erected by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Maintaining Brazil’s improved performance in a world suffering harder times means that Lula’s successor will have to tackle some of the problems that he has felt able to ignore. So the outcome of the election may determine the speed with which Brazil advances in the post-Lula era. Nevertheless, the country’s course seems to be set. Its take-off is all the more admirable because it has been achieved through reform and democratic consensus-building. If only China could say the same.”