Bolívar in Brussels: A Lack of Ordem and a Need for Progresso

Few countries know how to party the way Brazil does.  As a result, back in 2007 when FIFA announced that Brazil would be hosting the 2014 World Cup, football fans and partygoers were ecstatic.  The world cup is meant to be in Brazil, and no other country in the world appreciates the beautiful game more than Brazil (sorry England).  However, with a little over a year to go before the World Cup, there is still much work that needs to be done in the land supposedly known for order and progress.

Image courtesy of kathsmee, © 2007, some rights reserved.

Image courtesy of kathsmee, © 2007, some rights reserved.

Throughout the planning for this upcoming World Cup, there have been various “unforeseen” costs as well as delays in construction and renovations of stadiums and infrastructure throughout Brazil.  A notable example of the disorder there has been in planning this World Cup is the renovations on the Maracana.  According to Bloomberg[1], the aforementioned football stadium was officially reopened on April 27th 2013.  The total cost of this overdue, 3-year renovation was close to $500 million.  Originally, this stadium was meant to be ready for use by this past December.  When it became evident this would not be possible, the new deadline was April 15th 2013, which also did not work out.

Despite various failings such as the lack of timeliness in renovating the Maracana stadium, there are some good stories that have come out of Brazil’s world cup planning.  One example has to do with raincoats.  Yes, raincoats.  Why, you ask?  Well, according to Radio New Zealand News[2], police in Brazil were going to order 17,000 raincoats.  However, once they realized that the World Cup would be during what is known as the dry season, they then cancelled the order.  Had the police gone ahead with the order, it would have cost millions- $3 million to be exact.  Yet, every time a story comes out of having reduced spending just in the nick of time, there are many more stories where the money has already been spent.

The way this World Cup is being handled by Brazil is very much a reflection of the country’s recent economic history.  From 2008 to 2011, Brazil’s annual GDP growth has been very different in each and every year.  In 2008, the economy grew 5.2%, in 2009 in contracted by 0.3%, then in 2010 growth shot up by 7.5% and finally in 2011 growth slowed to 2.7%.  As the numbers clearly show, Brazil is no China.  Economic growth in Brazil is shaky and inconsistent.  However, unlike in China, the people of Brazil enjoy the freedoms that come with living in a democratic country.  Granted, democracy in Brazil is far from perfect.  However, at a minimum, a government committed to increasing freedom is better than a government which buys liberty for temporary and unsustainable economic growth.

Back in 2008, the world was wondering if China would be able to successfully host the Summer Olympics.  Ultimately the Games in Beijing proved to be very successful.  However, a high cost was paid for the success of the Beijing Games: many people lost their homes.  To make room for infrastructure and construction in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Games, the Chinese government forcibly removed people from their homes.  These people were displaced and helpless as they watched their own government destroy what was theirs.  Such displacement of people is completely unacceptable and a major human rights violation.  The Sarkozy government back in 2008 considered having the French team boycott the Games due to violence in Tibet.  While ultimately, the French team did participate in the Games, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attend the Opening Ceremony.

It is no secret that Brazil has a problem handling the rapid rise in urbanization across its country.  As more and more people move into cities, they do so by living in the infamous shantytowns known as favelas.  These communities are constantly afflicted by poverty, violence, and drug addiction.  Hopefully the Brazilian government will not do to the impoverished people of the favelas what the Chinese did to their urban poor for the sake of a sporting event.

The Brazilian government should look at the World Cup in 2014 and then the Olympics in 2016 as an opportunity.  The opportunity is that Brazil can work on eradicating poverty, not hiding it.  In this final year before the World Cup in 2014, all eyes are on Brazil.  Dilma Rousseff and other important leaders in both politics and business in Brazil should do everything they can to reduce poverty as quickly as possible.  They should then continue to do so in the years between the World Cup and the Olympic Games. In doing so, Brazil will be deemed a leader among emerging markets by continuing to diligently apply Lula da Silva’s model of compassionate capitalism.  Hopefully this upcoming world cup will announce to the world not just the arrival of Brazil as an economic force to be reckoned with, but it will also reignite faith in the virtues of capitalism and democracy.