The article below looks at the economy of Brazil. The statistics do not look good. Real output fell last year by 3.8% and this year it is expected to fall by another 3.3%. Inflation this year is expected to be 9.0% and unemployment 11.2%, with the government deficit expected to be 10.4% of GDP.
The article considers Keynesian economics in the light of the case of Brazil, which is suffering from declining potential supply, but excess demand. It compares Brazil with the case of most developed countries in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Here countries have suffered from a lack of demand, made worse by austerity policies, and only helped by expansionary monetary policy. But the effect of the monetary policy has generally been weak, as much of the extra money has been used to purchase assets rather than funding a growth in aggregate demand.
Different policy prescriptions are proposed in the article. For developed countries struggling to grow, the solution would seem to be expansionary fiscal policy, made easy to fund by lower interest rates. For Brazil, by contrast, the solution proposed is one of austerity. Fiscal policy should be tightened. As the article states:
Spending restraint might well prove painful for some members of Brazilian society. But hyperinflation and default are hardly a walk in the park for those struggling to get by. Generally speaking, austerity has been a misguided policy approach in recent years. But Brazil is a special case. For now, anyway.
The tight fiscal policies could be accompanied by supply-side policies aimed at reducing bureaucracy and inefficiency.
Brazil and the new old normal: There is more than one kind of economic mess to be in The Economist, Free Exchange Economics (12/10/16)
- Explain what is meant by ‘crowding out’.
- What is meant by the ‘liquidity trap’? Why are many countries in the developed world currently in a liquidity trap?
- Why have central banks in the developed world found it difficult to stimulate growth with policies of quantitative easing?
- Under what circumstances would austerity policies be valuable in the developed world?
- Why is crowding out of fiscal policy unlikely to occur to any great extent in Europe, but is highly likely to occur in Brazil?
- What has happened to potential GDP in Brazil in the past couple of years?
- What is meant by the ‘terms of trade’? Why have Brazil’s terms of trade deteriorated?
- What sort of policies could the Brazilian government pursue to raise growth rates? Are these demand-side or supply-side policies?
- Should Brazil pursue austerity policies and, if so, what form should they take?
It doesn’t seem long ago that we were looking at the prospects of Brazil for hosting the Football World Cup. Now, we turn to the same economy, but this time for the Olympics. It is often the case that hosting big global sporting events can give a boost to the host nation, but is Brazil prepared for it? Did the World Cup bring the expected economic boosts? Some argue that the Olympics is just what Brazil needs, but others suggest it will only worsen the economic situation in the world’s seventh largest economy.
Brazil’s economic performance in the past year was not good. In fact, it was one of the worst performing nations of any major economy, with GDP falling by 3%. This is a very different country from the one that was awarded this biggest of sporting events. Despite these difficult times, Brazil’s government maintains that the country is ready and that the games will be ‘spectacular’.
Key to hosting a sporting event such as the Olympics is the infrastructure investment and as a key component of aggregate demand, this should be a stimulant for growth and job creation. However, with the economy still struggling, many are concerned that the infrastructure won’t be in place in time.
Other benefits from this should be the boost to growth driven by athletes and spectators coming from around the globe, buying tickets, memorabilia, accommodation, food and other items that tourists tend to buy. A multiplier effect should be seen and according to research has the potential to create significant benefits for the whole economy and not just the local regions where events take place. You can look at similar analysis in blogs written about Tokyo: 2020 Tokyo Olympics and London: The London Olympics legacy: a cost–benefit analysis and Does hosting the Olympics Games increase economic growth?
But, is this really likely to happen, especially given the somewhat lacklustre boost that the Brazil World Cup gave to the economy? The following articles consider this.
Rio 2016: Can Games bounce back from Brazil economic woes? BBC News, Bill Wilson (11/03/16)
Does hosting the Olympics actually pay off? It’s the economy, Binyamin Applebaum (5/08/14)
Rio Olympics no help to Brazil economy based on World Cup Bloomberg, Raymond Colitt (16/01/15)
The economic impact of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics Saxo Group, Trading Floor, Sverrir Sverrisson (27/08/12)
Special Interview: Cost–benefit analysis of hosting the World Cup, Olympics Al Arabiya, Ricardo Guerra (3/7/14)
- How might you carry out a cost–benefit analysis to decide whether to host a big sporting event?
- Are there any externalities that might result from hosting the Olympics? How easy is it to estimate their monetary value? Should this be taken into account by a country when making a decision?
- Why might there be a boost to aggregate demand prior to the Olympics?
- Why might there be a multiplier effect when a nation hosts the Olympics or another sporting event?
- Might there be benefits to Brazil’s neighbours from its hosting the Olympics?
The Brazilian economy is an emerging superpower (see A tale of two cities), but even its growth slowed in the second quarter of the year, although the economy still appears to be growing above capacity. In reaction to that latest economic data, the central bank slashed interest rates by 50 basis points to 12%. The Central Bank said:
‘Reviewing the international scenario, the monetary policy committee considers that there has been a substantial deterioration, backed up, for example, by large and widespread reductions to the growth forecasts of the main economic regions.’
Rates had previously been hiked up 5 times in the year to tackle rising inflation, which has been some way above its inflation target. Such tightening policies have become commonplace in many emerging economies to prevent overheating. However, following this reversal of policy, questions have been raised about the independence of the central bank, as some politicians have recently been calling for a cut in rates, including President Rousseff himself. As Tony Volpon at Nomura Securities said:
‘They gave in to political pressure. The costs will likely be much higher inflation and a deterioration of central bank credibility…It has damaged the inflation-targeting regime.’
Many believe the rate cut is premature and the last thing the economy needs given the inflationary pressures it’s been facing. Huge spending cuts have been announced to bring inflation back under control, together with the previous rate rises, so this cut in interest rates to stimulate growth is likely to put more pressure on costs and prices. Only time will tell exactly how effective or problematic this new direction of monetary policy will be.
Brazil’s growth slows despite resilient consumers Reuters, Brian Ellsworth and Brad Haynes (2/9/11)
Brail in surprise interest rate cut to 12% BBC News (1/9/11)
Rousseffl’s ‘Risky’ rate cut means boosting Brazil GDP outweighs inflation Bloomberg, Arnaldo Galvao and Alexander Ragir (2/9/11)
Brazil makes unexpected interest rate cut Financial Times, Samantha Pearson (1/9/11)
Brazil rate cut stirs inflation, political concerns Reuters (1/9/11)
- What is the relationship between the macroeconomic objectives of inflation and economic growth?
- Why are there concerns that the recent reduction in the interest rate may worsen inflation? Do you think that a decision has been made to sacrifice Brazil’s inflation-targeting regime to protect its economic growth?
- Why are there questions over the independence of the central bank and how will this affect its credibility? What are the arguments for central bank independence?
- Growth in Brazil, although lower this year, still remains very strong. Why has the Brazilian economy been able to continue its strong growth, despite worsening economic conditions worldwide?
- What type of inflation are emerging economies experiencing? Explain how continuous hikes in interest rates have aimed to bring it back under control.
- What is meant by overheating? How will the central bank’s past and current policies contribute towards it?
One of the key problems faced by all countries over the past three years has been a lack of consumer demand. Firms face demand from a number of sources and when the domestic economy is struggling and domestic demand is weak, a key source of demand will be from abroad. By this, we are of course referring to exports. However, it was not just one country that plunged into recession: the global economy was affected. So, when one country was suffering from a weak domestic market, it turned to its export market and hence to other countries for demand. However, with these economies also suffering from recession, the export market was unable to offer any significant help. In order to boost exports, governments have tried to make their export markets more competitive and one method is to cut the value of the currency. Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Columbia and Taiwan are just some of the countries using this strategy.
Following these interventions, the Brazilian finance minister has commented that a new trade war has begun. Speaking to a group of industrial leaders in Sao Paulo, Mr. Mantega said:
‘We’re in the midst of an international currency war. This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness.’
As more and more governments intervene in the currency market in a bid to boost exports, those refraining from intervening will suffer. Furthermore, interest rates throughout the developed world have remained low, as central banks continue their attempts to boost economics. However, this has led vast amounts of money to be transferred into countries, such as Brazil, where there is a better supply of high-yield assets. This has worsened the state of affairs in Brazil, as the Brazilian currency is now thought to be the most heavily over-valued currency in the world. This adversely affects Brazil’s export market and its trade balance. The following articles look at the lastest developments in this new ‘war’.
Currencty ‘war’ warning from Brazil’s finance minister BBC News (28/9/10)
Brazil warns of world currency war Telegraph (28/9/10)
Brazil warns of world currency ‘war’ Associated Press (28/9/10)
Brazil defends exporters in global currency battle Reuters (15/9/10)
Kan defends Japan’s intervention in the currency markets Associated Press (25/9/10)
US and China are still playing currency Kabuki Business Insider, Dian L. Chu (21/9/10)
How to stop a currency war The Economist (14/10/10)
What’s the currency war about? BBC News, Laurence Knight (23/10/10)
Exchange rate data
Exchange rate X-rates.com
Statistical Interactive Database – interest and exchange rates data Bank of England
Currencies BBC News
Currency converter Yahoo Finance
- Demand for a firm’s products comes from many sources. What are they? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- Why is a weak currency good for the export market?
- How will a country’s trade balance be affected by the value of its currency?
- Explain the process by which investors putting money into high-yield assets in countries like Brazil leads to currency appreciation.
- What are the options open to a government if it wants to devalue its currency? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
Throughout 2009/10, a new millionaire was created in Brazil every 10 minutes – not bad for a developing country! Despite the global recession, Brazil has managed growth of almost 5% and is set to overtake both the UK and France to become the world’s 5th largest economy. Brazil will hold the next World Cup and the Olympic games after London, bringing it further recognition as a global power. It has the third largest aircraft manufacturing industry in the world and is even doing its bit to tackle climate change, with 50% of its cars running on bio-fuels. It exports more meat than any other country and is looking to become an energy power. With falling unemployment, a buoyant economy, growing confidence, fantastic beaches and 6 millionaires created every hour, Brazil looks like the perfect place to live.
However, that is just one side of the story. Brazil is still a country with deep poverty – approximately 60 million people. The slums, or favelas, are home to 1 million people in Rio alone, where unemployment is high and drug wars common. There has been a concerted effort to reduce the drug trafficking business, but this has only created more unemployment. There is little sanitation, poor electricity and minimal chance of escape. Neighbourhoods need rebuilding, and despite high growth and arguably the most popular president in the world (Lula da Silva), there are calls for political, social, taxation and labour market reforms. This cycle of poverty and the equality gap needs addressing before the Brazilian economy can really be considered a global power.
Webcasts and podcasts
Will Brazil’s economy keep growing? BBC News, Matt Frei (27/5/10)
Brazil’s bid to be ‘world’s breadbasket’ BBC World News America, Paulo Cabral (26/5/10)
Tackling Brazil’s poverty BBC World News America, Gary Duffy (28/5/10)
Brazil’s development spurs economic quality hopes BBC World News America, Matt Frei (27/5/10)
Brazil’s air industry takes off BBC World News America, Paolo Cabral (24/5/10)
‘Our growth quality is better than China’ BBC World News America, Marcelo Neri (25/5/10)
Brazilian economy poised to overtake UK’s BBC News Today, Matt Frei (27/5/10)
Economic data Banco Central do Brasil
Brazil Economy EconomyWatch
Brazil CIA World Factbook
Brazil data World Bank
- What are the main causes of (a) inequality and (b) poverty in an economy? What is the difference between these concepts?
- How does the government subsidised housing programme aim to help low income households. Use a diagram to illustrate the effect.
- What policies can be used to reduce the equality gap?
- Are those living in the favelas in absolute poverty? How do we distinguish between absolute and relative poverty? Is it the same across the world?
- What are the adverse effects of fast growth in Brazil?