South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
In the end, Brazil did not get the golden outcome it had hoped for: a sixth World Cup victory. The national team’s drubbing by Germany in the semi-finals saw to that. For a football-mad country such as Brazil, the humiliating 7-1 defeat was a disaster.
Yet the sun, amazingly, still rose the next day. By Monday the tournament will also be over. Brazilians will then turn off their plasma screens, tidy up the beer cans and rise from a month of soccer stupor. The metro stations and airports will fill again. Traffic will return. Dilma Rousseff, the president, will host the sixth summit of Brics countries – with the Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African leaders in attendance – and campaigning will begin for October’s presidential election. Life in Brazil will return to what usually counts as normal.
While perhaps bleary and hungover, Brazilians have good reason to look back on the tournament and feel pleased with how it went. There were many moments of wonderful drama: from the exciting attacking games, to the number of goals (before this weekend’s final two matches, more than in any tournament in 16 years) as well as Luis Suárez’s extraordinary bite.
The tournament’s organisation also went smoother than many feared. There were no strikes or mass protests, as in the lead-up to the event. Brazil also opened itself to the world, and the world mostly loved what it saw. All this is cause for celebration. Indeed, 60 per cent of Brazilians now say they were proud to host the games versus just 45 per cent before the tournament began. With this under Brazil’s belt, the 2016 Rio Olympics should be a walk in the park.
Yet there were many unfortunate aspects as well. Foremost is the way Fifa hijacked a nation. The extent to which it can override national rules, such as a ban on beer sales in football stadiums, is absurd. Brazil also showed it could deliver spanking new stadiums and infrastructure on time, but at four times budgeted cost. Then there is the national team’s dispiriting collapse, which popped the illusion that Brazil is still the home ofjogo bonito, the beautiful game. Much the same can be said of another lingering illusion: that the boom times Brazil has grown accustomed to over the past decade will continue.
The conventional wisdom is that the World Cup will have no effect on Ms Rousseff’s chances in the election in three months’ time. History shows no correlation between winning or losing the tournament, and winning or losing the presidency. Nonetheless, during the tournament’s month-long “time out”, the economy continued to sag. Inflation rose above target, the current account deficit widened, consumer and business confidence fell, tax breaks to cosseted industries were extended, public accounts deteriorated, real wages slipped and growth forecasts fell. This year the economy is expected to grow just 1 per cent, the fourth year of sluggish growth. This is the lacklustre state of affairs that Brazilians return to now the entertainment is over. It is also Ms Rousseff’s biggest political threat.
She remains the favourite to win in October. Yet the opposition could still close the gap. Their calls for change could resonate with a population that, as last year’s mass street protests showed, is increasingly prepared to demand better government accountability and public services, with less corruption. Indeed, such civic engagement may prove to be the World Cup’s most hopeful legacy. Ironically it was a protest directed in part against the costs of the tournament that helped wake up the country and unite it. The next three months, therefore, could be as dramatic as the football itself.
This time, though, the contest will not be Brazil against another nation but within itself. So do not turn your attention away from the country just yet. The real drama is only beginning.
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Brazil's GDP grew by a trillion dollars since 2008, their unemployment came down from above 10% to 4% today and their currency is at same level as it was in 2008 which is 2.20. Whereas currencies of South Africa, India, Indonesia etc have plummeted, deficits increased and GDP plunged.
Debt in US, UK, Japan, EU has increased by gargantuan proportions with no discernible benefit except bailing the rich out. The debt bomb must explode (as it somewhat did in Portugal this week or Cyprus last year and Bulgarian bank runs last month) and will provide China a major entry point to buy whatever it does not already own worldwide.
While Brazil will remain stable and shall keep growing with billions being invested as FDI and whatever stability the Govt has provided reaping benefits for their population unlike the debt bombs of US, UK, Japan and EU!
Since 2008 Brazil grew its GDP, created millions of jobs and reduced poverty levels in an unprecedented manner, while the UK (its US cousin-economic system and other crony-capitalist countries) collapsed under the weight of a deeply corrupt financial system driving politics. Please do not forget these facts when babbling arrogantly about Brazil.