quarta-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2011

The sixth largest in the world!


Rodrigo Constantino, a Brazilian Economist, wrote an article for his blog about the recent news that Brazil surpassed UK's GDP.

I translated it into English, and the original text can be found both in the post above and in his own blog, Rodrigo Constantino.

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The sixth largest in the world!

By Rodrigo Constantino

Rodrigo Constantino: "Who cares?!"
Nationalists are frenzied by the news: the Brazilian economy, as measured by the defective GDP, just overtook UK’s and is now placed sixth in the world ranking. Is it not amazing? We are richer than the British are! Or are we?

In fact, it is definitely not what it seems - and there are several reasons for it. First of all, the most obvious “detail”, one that even infants apprehend: the UK produces such a large value of goods and services with barely over 60 million people, while Brazil’s GDP results from about 200 million. In other words, the Brazilian production per capita is still much smaller than the British, and this is more important than the absolute value by far. After all, we passed Switzerland’s GDP (7.6 million inhabitants) some time ago now, and I do not think that was an occasion for fireworks.

That is not all, though. The GDP is a measure in current value of the production flow, and it is calculated based on many factors such as the exchange rate and the commodity prices, especially when it comes to a country such as Brazil, which exports basic goods to a significant extent. The UK is going through a painful period of adjustment, including an economic downturn and a currency devaluation of the Pound. Emerging countries, especially those with abundant natural resources such as Brazil, have a different pace, growing and watching their currencies appreciate.

President Dilma’s government can evidently take no credit for what is going on in Chile or Australia. Brazil, in truth, is growing less than its peers. What is more: it is curious that Brazil’s sudden growth halt is to be blamed on the global crisis, according to the government, whilst the very same government avoids giving credit to the global economy’s growth, especially driven by China, for Brazil’s own boom. Two weights, two measures.

Moreover, other indices should be taken into account to measure (or in order to try to measure) the prosperity of a society. The HDI (Human Development Index) is one of them, though also rather flawed. But one need not go so far. Give a rather shallow look at the country and Brazil’s poverty, slums, crime rates, chaotic infrastructure, illegitimate concentration of income thanks to government privileges, corruption, and impunity will be all too evident to make one perceive that only foolish nationalists would celebrate such insignificant news.

Yes, indeed: we are the world’s sixth GDP. Yes, indeed, we just surpassed the UK in terms of GDP. So what? With so many problems under our noses, it is legitimate to ask: Who cares?! Did anyone out there improve their lives after hearing this news? So, why do we not give attention instead to the immense amount of problems we must tackle in order to make Brazil a better country, one more prosperous, free and fair? We could begin by tackling impunity, which is crucial for our future. Did someone see Fernando Pimentel out there? The government’s marketing about the fact our GDP surpassed the British is just "for Englishmen to see" - or, in this case, to make naive nationalists believe that this changes everything.


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Translator’s note 1: Fernando Pimentel is the current Brazilian Minister of Industry, Commerce and Trade. He is suspected and accused of illicit enrichment of about $ 1.1 million through his consultancy company.

Translator’s note 2: “for Englishmen to see” (para inglês ver) is a literally translated Portuguese expression which actually means “window dressing” in English. Its origins are obscure, although the most common explanation agreed upon by specialists dates from the period during which Brazilians trafficked slaves from Africa and the English, whom were supposed to watch over the seas from their ships, turned a blind eye on the illegal trade - hence, “for Englishmen to see”.

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