A New Way Forward for Brazil’s Economy

Brazil’s current Congress has an opportunity to set the country back on track. But reform will not come easy. An article by Thomas J. Trebat, Director at Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro

Thomas J. Trebat
February 04, 2020

Part of a continuing series on how Latin America can overcome a decade of slow economic growth. 

Economic analysts, myself included, once thought that Brazil could reach a per capita income equal to Spain or Portugal by the early 2020s. Instead, the 2010s seem destined to go down as a lost decade for Brazil in many of the ways that matter most: productivity, living standards, health, education, and fairness.

Brazil’s future remains uncertain. Will it catch up to what might have been, with GDP growth of 4-5% per year, or will it fall further behind the more advanced economies?

Brazilians are often inspired by an optimistic view of their future in a great and prosperous nation; hence their frustration today. But that bedrock of optimism suggests that the social consensus for a compelling new model for growth can indeed emerge. The current legislative session, which opened Feb. 1, offers a first step forward.

In coming weeks and months, Congress is expected to debate numerous ideas to reignite Brazil’s flagging economy. This is an opportunity to rethink the future and correct past missteps. To start, the below three categories of reform could help move Brazilian society toward a consensus-driven economic model that delivers more for everyday people.