Kuala Lumpur


Tuesday October 12, 2010

By Karim Raslan

Brazil has ambitions to be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2025. The samba-dancing country with abundant natural resources will be the critical player in the global food supply chain of the future.

THE new global order has arrived. Bankrupt nations like the UK will be sidelined and forgotten. Future growth will emerge from Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Turkey. Among these nations, Brazil stands out most.

It’s the biggest country in Latin America, with a population of over 198 million and abundant natural resources such as iron ore and petroleum.

Brazil is in the midst of a major political transition as the republic’s much-loved President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (better known as Lula) reaches the end of his second term.

Voting in last week’s first round saw the favourite and Lula’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, failing to secure the mandate outright.

Still, Rousseff, who hopes to become Brazil’s first female leader, garnered 46.9% of the votes, while her closest challenger, Jose Serra, the centrist governor of the dynamic province of Sao Paulo, polled 32.8%. An upset in the second round of voting is very unlikely. However, Lula will be a tough act to follow.

His 80% approval rating is propelled by his extraordinary personal narrative as a poor boy made good. Indeed, this trajectory reflects the underlying sense of wellbeing enjoyed by his countrymen and women as more than 30 million have joined the newly enlarged middle class.

Lula’s open, confident manner has enhanced his nation’s rise into the global elite – exemplified by Brazil’s inclusion in the G-20 economies, ranking 8th in terms of size. The economic numbers reinforce the Latin American nation’s status.

For example, Brazil’s oil and gas giant, Petrobas, recently raised US$67bil (RM208bil) in order to explore and harness vast offshore reserves. Indeed, Brazil aims to be a top-10 oil producing nation by 2020, producing five million barrels a day – dwarfing Malaysia.

The samba-dancing country is also the largest iron ore producer in the world – something that makes its relations with China, its largest trading partner, all the more complex. The Brazilian mining conglomerate Vale, with market capitalisation of US$147bil (RM456bil), is currently the second largest miner in the world after Australia’s BHP Biliton.

Vale is also poised to be one of Malaysia’s largest investors with a proposed logistics hub in Perak worth over RM3bil.

Brazil’s ambitions to be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2025 are built on a diversified economic base.

Agricultural innovation, for example, has been a constant for decades. As reported in the Economist recently, the state research institute, Embrapa, adapted plants and animal varieties so they would thrive in the tropics, especially in the acidic soil of the cerrado — the largely flat savannah of the interior.

Such initiatives have resulted in a 150% increase in agricultural output over the past 30 years. It’s worth noting that the increases were achieved with only 20% extra land utilised – environmentally friendly. Indeed, today, Brazil is the world’s granary. It is the biggest exporter of not just coffee, sugar, orange juice and tobacco but also ethanol, beef and chicken. By 2025 it will displace the United States as the world’s leading food exporter. Needless to say, Brazil will be the critical player in the global food supply chain of the future.

Unlike other resource-rich nations, Brazilians have not neglected their manufacturing capabilities. For example, its aerospace champion, Embraer, is a global leader in the production of small aircraft.

Brazil, with supermodel Gisele Bundchen and footballer Kaka, is also a global proponent of “soft” power. Its successes to date are enviable; hosting the football World Cup 2014, as well as the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s diplomacy is also becoming more independent. It no longer follows the Americans. Recently – and along with Turkey – it sided with Iran, defying the United States. Brasilia will definitely be eyeing a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council should it be enlarged.

Brazil’s immigrant roots infuse the nation with an inclusive and attractive identity. Indeed, anyone can be a Brazilian – even Rouseff herself is half-Bulgarian. Public attitudes are open-minded and dynamic. The optimism is palpable. It is truly the new-found land of opportunity. Brazil, once labelled a “country of the future”, has finally arrived confidently as the country of the future.

While inequality is still prevalent, strong economic growth is easing the tensions. As I said, global power has shifted. Malaysia and Malaysians should forget about fading nations like the UK and look out for Brazil.

Source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/10/12/focus/7203908&sec=focus


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