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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:31 PM
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TIME: Brazil The One Country That Might Avoid Recession

The One Country That Might Avoid Recession Is...
By Tim Padgett and Andrew Downie / Sao Paulo Thursday, Mar. 05, 2009
President Lula's fiscal reforms have been accompanied by social programs

Brazil is no stranger to economic crises. In the 1970s and '80s, Latin America's economic giant turned financial mismanagement into an art form. The current global turmoil has not left Brazil unscathed: stock prices, exports and growth are all down. But something interesting is at work this time around, and the best place to see it is in one of Brazil's favelas, the vast urban slums that are desperate even in the best of times. Walk through So Paulo's sprawling Brasilndia, though, and you don't sense the relentless doom and gloom gripping other cities in the world. Take Efignia Francisca da Silva, who exudes middle-class expectations and remains positive despite the tsunami of bad news. Thanks to a government scheme to encourage entrepreneurs, the once dirt-poor housewife has received some $8,000 in low-interest bank credits in recent years and now owns three shops that sell everything from shampoo to public-transit tickets. "I didn't have a bank account before," says Da Silva, 37, standing beneath graffiti-covered walls and pirated power lines. "I never had a car. I bought a Fiat Palio." Does she fear the global recession will quash her dreams? "I trust Lula. I don't think we'll be hit that hard."

"Lula" is President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva (no relation to Efignia), and most Brazilians believe he's the reason their country is surviving the current downturn better than other places. In past crises, Brazil was usually the nation in need of the largest life preserver. If it wasn't drowning under fiscal recklessness, it was being held under by draconian austerity plans. Brazil, the old joke goes, is the country of the future and always will be. Now, in the middle of the worst global downturn for decades, Brazil could finally be the country of the moment. According to a recent study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), Brazil may be the only one of 34 major economies that avoids recession in 2009. While the U.S. debates whether to nationalize its crippled banks, Brazil's remain comparatively sound. Oil companies worldwide are slashing investment, but Brazil's state-run Petrobras is going ahead with a four-year, $174 billion expansion plan. "Brazil," Lula boasted to TIME, "is riding the current crisis better than many developed countries."

To be sure, the boom years of 5% growth and soaring exports is over. Industrial production has plunged. Even Embraer, the aircraft maker whose jets sell to scores of airlines, and which has become a symbol of Brazil's newfound confidence, recently announced plans to lay off 4,000 employees, almost one-fifth of its workforce. Commodity exports soybeans, steel are weak. The main stock market is down 25% since September. But Lula, a former shoe-shine boy who heads the leftist Workers Party (PT), has so far kept the good times from becoming a hellish bust. In Brazil, that's nothing short of miraculous.

There may be another miracle in the making. Because unfettered capitalism is widely blamed for the global meltdown, economists and laborers alike say Brazil has become an example of what Lula likes to call "the financial strategy of the future." By that he means a postideological approach that is equal parts wealth creation for corporations such as Embraer and wealth redistribution for underdogs like Da Silva. All this under the kind of prudent financial regulation that seems to have gone missing in the developed world of late.

Brazil still faces huge challenges; its education system is dysfunctional, its political system squalid, corruption endemic. But consider: 53% of Brazil's 190 million people now occupy the middle class, up from 42% in 2002. This increased social mobility happened at the same time the country's main stock index soared some 480% before last fall's downturn. Lula seems to have cracked Latin America's chronic conundrum: how to expand underachieving economies while reducing epic inequality. In so doing, he's created a model that's "an insurance ticket, not a lottery ticket," says Marcelo Neri, head of the Center for Social Policies in Rio de Janeiro.

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predfan Donating Member (769 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 03:13 PM
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1. Being energy independent doesn't hurt.............
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Blue_Tires Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 04:03 PM
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2. ttt
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