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From Inside Brazil : Development in a Land of Contrasts

2006, Thomas, Vinod

The overarching theme of the book is development in a land of contrasts. There have been large economic, social, and political changes. The mass of society is far more expressive and politically involved today. In 1945, the country had 7.4 million voters, about 11 percent of the population. Today it has 120 million voters, or 67 percent of the population. The economy has been modernized, the capitalist ethos spread across regions, mass communication reached every part of the country, and basic education (though of varying quality) has become almost universal. Poverty has been reduced, but inequality remains extremely high. Moreover, the country has become more violent and prone to disorder. Meanwhile, the state has become weaker and less present where it should be present (in the slums and urban fringes), and more present where it should not be. The author captures remarkably well the transformations of the 1990s, when Brazil deepened its insertion into the global economy, opening to imports and to foreign direct investment on the one hand, and increasing its competitiveness on the other. This led to a great expansion of exports, and to the return of large trade surpluses, increasing considerably the share of trade in the country's gross domestic product. However, there is an unfinished agenda with two main imperatives. The first is the need to enter a new and sustainable growth cycle; the second concern is the reform agenda, especially the economic and institutional reforms that are highlighted by this book. Finally, social and environmental issues must remain a high priority.