Category Archives: Economy

Where is the money?

Self explanatory table indicating the GDP of the 10 biggest local economies of the country and their share of the national GDP

Together, the economy of the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte represent almost 25% of the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product, even if their are home to only 12.6% of the Brazilian population. Despite the migration of the industries to smaller cities and to the Northeast, the money is still very concentrated.

Reproducing data from IBGE, the national statistics bureau, daily O Globo produced these cool infographics. The next one indicates the cities with higher GDP per capita: São Francisco do Conde, in Bahia (oil refinery), followed by Porto Real, in Rio (car industries), and Triunfo, in Rio Grande do Sul (petrochemical). Your next hometown, maybe?

Fordlandia, an American city in the middle of the Amazon

Photo from the archives of The Henry Ford Foundation/ Flickr

The story of Fordlandia, the now-abandoned pre-fabricated industrial town established by American mogul Henry Ford in the Amazon in the late 20s, is revealed by a new documentary directed by Marinho Andrade and Daniel Augusto. The 51-minute production is beginning to tour film festivals.

Ford invested a little fortune in the project on the banks of Tapajós river, close to Santarém, to secure a source of cultivated rubber for his car assembly lines in Michigan, US. The area was a concession of the Brazilian government. At the time, Fordlandia was one of the most modern cities in the North of the country, with a complete water, sewage and energy infrastructure.

Today, Fordlandia is a mere memory –  as the directors put it, it exposes the “ruins of the capitalist dream”. The documentary tries to understand the reasons behind its failure, which include a malaria outburst, the leaf blight that hit the saplings and a workers riot .

This video clip will give you a little taste of Fordlandia’s days of glory and decadence. It is narrated in English, with subtitles in Portuguese, but some interviews in Portuguese lack subtitles in English.

Also, Atlas Obscura has a really nice set of pictures.

Good news: hunger dramatically reduced in Brazil

Photo by Gabriel Rocha/ Flickr

The anti-poverty agency ActionAid released yesterday a report that alerts to the growing risks for the world food security, due to global warming, depleted natural resources and raising food prices. But the document also praises Brazil for being the best prepared to face these challenges among 28 developing nations examined by the organization. The country leads this ranking for the third time.

The report “On the brink: Who’s best prepared for a climate and hunger crisis?” evaluates that Brazil’s investment in small family agriculture and official programs such as Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), to minimize misery levels, paid off. The country reduced child malnutrition by 73% and child deaths by 45% between 2002 and 2008. But it still has to face the fact that 16 million Brazilians leave in extreme poverty (with a 70 reais/40 dollars  monthly budget).

According to the study:

Brazil is leader of the pack in the Hunger scorecard again this year. It has announced US$10 billion of support for smallholder farmers who have benefited from land reform committed in 2011. The government has also extended its genuinely women focused Bolsa Família social protection safety net to 12.4 million poor families and enshrined the right to food into its constitution Just as importantly, it has instated a robust policy of ensuring the country’s agriculture is climate ready, with a national plan dedicated to the agricultural sector.

On the other hand, ActionAid criticized the inequality in land distribution.

Around 3.5% of landowners hold 56% of arable land, while the poorest 40% own barely 1%. Similarly, large landowners obtain more than 43% of all agricultural credit, while farmers with fewerthan 100 ha (88% of the total number of all rural farms) captured only 30%.


What if Brazilian states were nations?

The Economist magazine asks this question in this week’s edition and reveals that:

  • São Paulo’s Gross Domestic Product and GDP per capita could be compared to Poland’s; while its population is similar (numerically) to Argentina’s
  • Rio’s GDP can be compared to Singapore’s, its GDP per capita, to Russia’s., and its population to Kazakstan.
  • Alagoas, the poorest state, according to the latest official statistics, has the GDP of Afghanistan, the GDP per capita of China and the population of Albania.
  • Rio Grande do Sul, generally considered a very rich state, has the GDP per person of…Gabon.

Check all the other states status in their infographic:


Brazilian economy on 60 minutes

Reputed American TV news magazine 60 minutes aired on Sunday a documentary about Brazil’s economical growth – in fact, a recycled version of a previous program, shown last December, when president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was still in power. It includes interviews with Lula, Eike Batista (the richest man in the country) and historian Eduardo Bueno. It is pretty balanced and a great summary for those among you that don’t follow closely Brazilian affairs. Unfortunately, the version made available by CBS network is full of ads.

You can also read a print version with similar contents: Brazil: the world’s next economic superpower?

130k kids under 14 are the heads of their families

Photo by Carolina Türck/Flickr

The number: according to IBGE, the Brazilian statistics bureau, 662 thousand teens between 15 and 19 and 132 thousand 10-14 year old kids are the main (or unique) bread winners for their families. Domestic and street child labor are increasing in the country – the number of children under 14 grew more than ten times in one decade. In the streets, the little workers interviewed by IBGE for the latest Census polish shoes, collect recyclables, “clean” car windshields and sell products, just like Luciana and Moisés. Around 60% of them still live with their families.

Weekly magazine Isto É just published a sad description of this reality. It tells the story of Luciana (13) and Moisés (8) who, carrying their baby brother Peterson, spend 11 hours a day trying to sell chewing gum on the streets of Largo 13, a low income commercial district of São Paulo. Each gum is sold for 0.10 real, a few dollar cents. It’s their only alternative. Both their father and maternal grandmother are in jail and their mother is unemployed (why she is not the one selling gum is a whole other debate). The two elder kids help the family bringing home 450 reais (287 dollars) a month. Luciana is still illiterate and might be expelled from school for no show. Their elder brother, Paulo, died three years ago, at 13, in a traffic accident, when he was returning home from work. “In the beginning I was ashamed of begging, but then it became a habit”, says Luciana to Isto É magazine. “Only, if I see some acquaintance on the street, i run fast to hide”.

You are interested in other social topics, try these posts:  5 million workers under age / Brazilian women today/  Healthier Brazilians /




BBC documentary about Brazilian slavery

Brazil received ten times more slaves than the US. This is their story, told in 2000 by the BBC, in the documentary “Brazil Inconvenient Story”. It displays all sorts of original documents, plus interviews with historians João José Reis, Cya Teixeira, Marilene Rosa da Silva, and anthropologist Peter Fry.

You might also want to follow the PBS channel documentary Black in Latin America, narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor. On the documentary website, check also for the timeline of Brazil’s history as a ‘rainbow nation.’

If you liked this post, try also Blacks that built Brazil and Darker middle class.

Tools to compare São Paulo to foreign metropolis

São Paulo has one of the best carbon footprints and great weather – but also the highest criminality and the worst entrepreneurial environment. This is how the Brazilian mega city is portrayed by Cities of Opportunity, a study just published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the biggest accountancy companies in the world. It compares the economic/social/cultural performance of 26 metropolis for 10 major indicators, from innovation to climate, from cost to livability. It is pretty useful for those moving or doing business in one of these urban centers, having to figure what opportunities and challenges they will have to face.

One of the coolest features of the project is Model your City. It allows you to pick the cities and 66 indicators of your choice to build a comparative chart. You can also download the whole document. It is pretty simple to read: the higher the number of points a city has for a certain indicator (between 1 and 26), the better.

São Paulo’s depiction is not exactly kind. In fact it is one of the bottom three, just above Johannesburg and Mumbai, with a little under half the points gathered by New York, that heads the list. Continue reading Tools to compare São Paulo to foreign metropolis

Creative sales people

Balsas, in Maranhão. Photo by Otávio Nogueira, alias deltafrut/Flickr
Balsas, in Maranhão. Photo by Otávio Nogueira, alias deltafrut/Flickr

No one is more creative than a Brazilian peddler or beach vendor. They sing, wear costumes, interpret characters, conceive unconventional ways of presenting their products. Anything goes to promote a sale.

Check how the ice cream vendor/singer of Cabo Frio, Rio state, uses his musicality to attract costumers. Continue reading Creative sales people

Cerrado – the other biodiversity wonder

Serra do Cipó, in Minas Gerais. Photo by Jay Woodworth/Flickr


Cerrado, the Brazilian equivalent of African savanna and Australian outback, is frequently despised. Its trees are small, dry, and the soil is acidic and poor, in contrast with the flamboyance of the Amazonian and the Atlantic rainforest. But don’t be fooled  by its discretion. It is home to one out of every 20 species of plants and animals in the planet, including ant eaters, macaws, armadillos, jaguars, guará wolves and gorgeous plants, such as bromeliads, cacti and buriti palm trees. In the Cerrado area that surrounds the country’s capital, Brasília, scientists identified 1,000 species of butterflies and 500 species of bees and wasps, plus 90 different termites.

Frequent droughts and natural fires are unable to destroy the cerrado‘s trees. Their thick barks and the huge roots help them keep the water and the nutrients for months, if needed. Continue reading Cerrado – the other biodiversity wonder