On the Eve of the Cup

Well, it is not quite June 11, the eve of World Cup 2014.

But as I am going to Brazil in the next few days, it is the eve of my participation.  I feel lucky that I have official game tickets bought at the official price.  I received a proposal just now from a lady in Sao Paulo offering me a Category 1 ticket to the semi-final in Belo Horizonte.  She was asking 8000 reais or about 10 times the official price.  Good luck! Anyhow, I am looking forward to 4 excellent games and maybe even a chance to get a ticket to a round of 16 or semi-final game at a decent price.  I will be spending most of the month of June in BH, my home town.  It is the place where I grew up, where I married, where my children were born and if I die there, I hope to be buried in Bonfim.  (I used to live next door.)

So, yes, I am optimistic about the Cup and think things will go quite well.  Of course, I expect the usual hassle in arriving and leaving the stadium, the pushing and shoving, the “rojoes” and the occasional fights and pick pockets.  There is nothing new under the sun.

It has been interesting to read all the negative material about the upcoming Cup.  There are some who would like the Cup to fail so that the Olympics can be snatched away from Rio.  Is Chicago ready to step in?  More so than Rio, but it will still be able to pull things off at least at a level somewhat better than the minor Pan American games.

I think the more important point that both the Cup and the Olympics bring to the fore is how people project the future.  In Brazil, as I have said many times, we oscillate between deep pessimism and extreme optimism and never really stop at a happy medium.  Right now, with the elections coming up, everything is partisan.  This adds an extra amount of extremism to the way people express themselves.  It is anti-Dilma/Lula and PT or anti opposition whether that be Aecio or Campos or Marina with still another group which I find the most dangerous and negative, i.e. anti politics where disillusion results in the cry for authoritarian solutions.  We have been down that path and we know that it does not lead to good things.

I have a friend who alleges that Brazil has entered a practically irreversible state of decline without ever having reached an apogee or high point.  He cites as examples nefarious effects of television with the popularity of the Big Brother series now in, what, its 15th year, the excessive focus on sex in sectors, the corruption and inefficiency of the Brazilian state.  Of course, sensible people have railed against TV and the decline of morals for ages but to little effect.  Still, I don’t think it means we are on the way to hell in hand basket.  Certainly, corruption is a major concern and has to be addressed with a better functioning legal system and policing.  I think it is heartening that, for the first time, high-level political leaders, even those of the party in power, are now sitting in jail.  This is a major change that needs to be recognized.  It does not solve the issue but it is progress.

Each election brings to the forefront new groups and new demands.  The rigid and antiquated political structure, especially the voting system, help perpetuate the status quo.  Unfortunately, the foxes (members of Congress) are in charge of the chicken house.  Things will only change slowly but the Internet, social media, and social movements are gradually putting a structure in place that lead to positive change.

Give us another 100 years of so.  That is not so long; maybe only 5 generations.  Paciencia!!!

 

Brasil: Ame-o ou Deixe-o

Minha formacao foi nos governos militares e sempre “lutei” contra.  Ia para os protestos, particpava de comicios, tomei gas na e chorei, mas fica claro que nunca peguei em armas ou coisa semelhante.  Nao tenho, e nem tinha, personalidade para isso.  No final decada de 60 e durante a decada de 70, era corrente, patrocinado pelos militares e seus aliados civis na sociedade e na imprensa, o lema citado acima.  Sempre destestei.  Eu, como “draft dodger” e foragido do militarismo da epoca Vietnam, tinha visto a mesma babaquice nos EUA.  Patriotismo sem pensamento.

Hoje tenho o problema, talvez algo semelhante, com o discurso tipo Jabor (veja meu blog do dia 29 de abril de 2014) e tambem da Holandesa, veja aqui no (16 de maio de 2014).

Jabor, que como cineasta, sempre foi um cara de contestacao, hoje pauta contra a situacao (ou seja PT).  Tudo bem, mas nao creio que justifica a simplificacao e bobagens que ele escreve e ganham respaldo.  Por exemplo, dizer que o Brasileiro eh babaca.  Na realidade existem pessoas babacas em toda parte, mas nem todo brasileiro e babaca.

Do outro lado, vem a Holandesa citando as maravilhas do processo de contagem de votos no Brasil, vangloriando com a rapidez.  So que ela esquece que ha duvidas com relacao a manipulacao dos resultados.  Brizola foi o primeiro, me parece, a questionar.

Enfim o que ela alega, basicamente, e que o brasileiro tem que livrar do complexo de vira lata (veja Nelson Rodrigues, figura contravertida no seu apoio aos militares e contestador no teatro e costumes).

O problema que vejo eh o movimento entre ufanismo e pessimo.  O Brasil fez grande progresso desde a estabilizacao monetaria que foi obra do FHC (e do Itamar, ai um cara que poderia ser mais valorizado) e com a continuidade do Lula que fez a reviravolta de conseguir com bons ventos, sorte e ideologia a incorporacao de gente marginalizado.  Na minha epoca, o salario minimo girava em torno de 50 a 70 dolares por mes.  Hoje esta entre 200 e 300.  Isto eh uma coisa fantastica.  O  aumento do consumo e o crescimento da classe media so foi possivel com a quebra da inflacao mais o aumento da renda.  So que o problema que enfrentamos hoje eh que o modelo implantado encontrou seu limite.  A industria esta encolhendo e nao ha salvacao so pelo setor primario.  O modelo exportador de commodities e semi acabados nao vai dar o resultado esperado.  Precisamos das reformas mas nao ha consenso politico em como e onde comecar.

Os positivos citados pela Holandesa (copiado de Antropos Consultoria) sao tipicos do capitalismo de uma grande economia mas sao totalmente insuficientes.  Claro que depois de decadas de inflacao o Brasil desenvolveu um sistema de capitalismo financeiro eficiente mas a questao eh eficiente para quem.  A resposta obvia eh para os banqueiros.  Vantagem…sei la.

O Jabor disse (entre outros simplismos) que o brasileiro eh mentiroso e preguicoso (nao gosta de trabalhar) e a Holandesa disse que o brasileiro ganha premio de solidariedade.  Cade as provas?  Todo nos temos a experiencia de um lado e do outro.  Em Minas a gente fala, que nao eh solidario nem no cancer.  Eu digo….espera ai….depende.

Enfim, nao eh: ame-o ou deixe-o, na minha opiniao, deve ser gostar, amar, conhecer, respeitar, comprender e questionar as pessoas e as situacoes em sua complexidade e procurar deixar o simplorio de lado.  Sei que eh dificil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escritora Holandesa achando virtudes do Brasil

Ai vai mais um post copiado de Facebook: 

Depois comento.

Escritora holandesa, falando sobre o Brasil. Texto bárbaro.

“Os brasileiros acham que o mundo todo presta, menos o Brasil, realmente parece que é um vício falar mal do Brasil. Todo lugar tem seus pontos positivos e negativos, mas no exterior eles maximizam os positivos, enquanto no Brasil se maximizam os negativos. Aqui na Holanda, os resultados das eleições demoram horrores porque não há nada automatizado. Só existe uma companhia telefônica e pasmem: Se você ligar reclamando do serviço, corre o risco de ter seu telefone temporariamente desconectado.

Nos Estados Unidos e na Europa, ninguém tem o hábito de enrolar o sanduíche em um guardanapo – ou de lavar as mãos antes de comer. Nas padarias, feiras e açougues europeus, os atendentes recebem o dinheiro e com mesma mão suja entregam o pão ou a carne.

Em Londres, existe um lugar famosíssimo que vende batatas fritas enroladas em folhas de jornal – e tem fila na porta.

Na Europa, não-fumante é minoria. Se pedir mesa de não-fumante, o garçom ri na sua cara, porque não existe. Fumam até em elevador.

Em Paris, os garçons são conhecidos por seu mau humor e grosseria e qualquer garçom de botequim no Brasil podia ir pra lá dar aulas de ‘Como conquistar o Cliente’.

Você sabe como as grandes potências fazem para destruir um povo? Impõem suas crenças e cultura. Se você parar para observar, em todo filme dos EUA a bandeira nacional aparece, e geralmente na hora em que estamos emotivos…

Vocês têm uma língua que, apesar de não se parecer quase nada com a língua portuguesa, é chamada de língua portuguesa, enquanto que as empresas de software a chamam de português brasileiro, porque não conseguem se comunicar com os seus usuários brasileiros através da língua Portuguesa. Os brasileiros são vitimas de vários crimes contra a pátria, crenças, cultura, língua, etc… Os brasileiros mais esclarecidos sabem que temos muitas razões para resgatar suas raízes culturais.

Os dados são da Antropos Consulting:
1. O Brasil é o país que tem tido maior sucesso no combate à AIDS e de outras doenças sexualmente transmissíveis, e vem sendo exemplo mundial.
2. O Brasil é o único país do hemisfério sul que está participando do Projeto Genoma.
3. Numa pesquisa envolvendo 50 cidades de diversos países, a cidade do Rio de Janeiro foi considerada a mais solidária.
4. Nas eleições de 2000, o sistema do Tribunal Regional Eleitoral (TRE) estava informatizado em todas as regiões do Brasil, com resultados em menos de 24 horas depois do início das apurações. O modelo chamou a atenção de uma das maiores potências mundiais: os Estados Unidos, onde a apuração dos votos teve que ser refeita várias vezes, atrasando o resultado e colocando em xeque a credibilidade do processo.
5. Mesmo sendo um país em desenvolvimento, os internautas brasileiros representam uma fatia de 40% do mercado na América Latina.
6. No Brasil, há 14 fábricas de veículos instaladas e outras 4 se instalando, enquanto alguns países vizinhos não possuem nenhuma.
7. Das crianças e adolescentes entre 7 a 14 anos, 97,3% estão estudando.
8. O mercado de telefones celulares do Brasil é o segundo do mundo, com 650 mil novas habilitações a cada mês.
9. Telefonia fixa, o país ocupa a quinta posição em número de linhas instaladas..
10. Das empresas brasileiras, 6.890 possuem certificado de qualidade ISO-9000, maior número entre os países em desenvolvimento. No México, são apenas 300 empresas e 265 na Argentina.
11. O Brasil é o segundo maior mercado de jatos e helicópteros executivos.

Por que vocês têm esse vício de só falar mal do Brasil?

1. Por que não se orgulham em dizer que o mercado editorial de livros é maior do que o da Itália, com mais de 50 mil títulos novos a cada ano?
2. Que têm o mais moderno sistema bancário do planeta?
3. Que suas AGÊNCIAS DE PUBLICIDADE ganham os melhores e maiores prêmios mundiais?
4. Por que não falam que são o país mais empreendedor do mundo e que mais de 70% dos brasileiros, pobres e ricos, dedicam considerável parte de seu tempo em trabalhos voluntários?
5. Por que não dizem que são hoje a terceira maior democracia do mundo?
6. Que apesar de todas as mazelas, o Congresso está punindo seus próprios membros, o que raramente ocorre em outros países ditos civilizados?
7. Por que não se lembram que o povo brasileiro é um povo hospitaleiro, que se esforça para falar a língua dos turistas, gesticula e não mede esforços para atendê-los bem? Por que não se orgulham de ser um povo que faz piada da própria desgraça e que enfrenta os desgostos sambando.

É! O Brasil é um país abençoado de fato. Bendito este povo, que possui a magia de unir todas as raças, de todos os credos. Bendito este povo, que sabe entender todos os sotaques. Bendito este povo, que oferece todos os tipos de climas para contentar toda gente. Bendita seja, querida pátria chamada BRASIL!”

 

 

Final Comments on Loira Inteligente

Picking up on Loira’s 12th point, she states that Dilma was designated Lula’s successor because he could not run for a third term.  Ok, that is the Constitution.  We all remember that FHC was able to push through his Constitutional amendment allowing a second term.  Be careful what you want because you might get it.  Neither Serra nor Alkmin proved worthy candidates against Lula.  This was in part due to neither having much popular appeal when compared to the working class hero or the “Man” as Obama described Lula.  Dilma was hand picked and vetted by the party.  Her guerrilla background convinced those unsure of her PT credentials that she actually came out of the PDT.  Once anointed, the party pretty much fell in line.  I imagine that Dirceu was chagrined. Dirceu was tainted in his over commitment to PT hegemony and his own personal goal of taking power, a project of course that led to the Mensalao and then to the Supreme Court condemnation of the Mensalao which came unexpectedly as the PT thought they had pretty much loaded the court in their favor.

Loira goes on to say in her 13th point that Dilma manages the government about as well as a lamp post.  Actually, Dilma is still held in high regard as a technocrat and indeed that is her style.  She has been successful in being able to personally distance herself from all of the corruption scandals and has supervised and managed the almost 40 Cabinet members who are not always competent or successful.  Yes, Dilma pays the price and she does not have quite the same Teflon coating that Lula had.  But the example that Loira uses is wrong.  Foreign capital  and foreign direct investment continue to flow into Brazil.  In 2013, only China and the US received more than Brazil’s 65 billion in foreign investment.  Further, the exchange rate even with unfavorable trade balances has still not exploded.  After getting as high as 2.40, the real closed today at around 2.25.  I once thought that it would be at 2.70 but it looks like it is not going to happen.  Inflation too remains under 7 percent.  Not great but more or less in control.  So the money has not quite dried up, at least as of yet, and Brazil remains precariously investment grade.

In point 14, the blonde claims that the street protests pointed out the need for greater infrastructure investment and that this could not come about because of the PPP (Private-Public Partnerships) which are little more than subsidies to Brazil’s major builders.  Money supposedly flowed from Brazil to Cuba, Africa and to national champions such as the meat industry (Friboi) and the renowned, and now infamous, Eike Batista.  Petrobras has been milked and the electric utilities have been told to take a hike.  Billions have been and continue to be poorly spent on the World Cup and on the Olympics.  The result has been the downward spiral of these stocks both in Brazil and abroad as well as the negative publicity surrounding these mega-events.  So is Loira correct?  She is at least partially. But Brazil will pull off the world cup and it will be a big party.  As for the Olympics, it is more prudent to wait and see.

Loira (items 15-17) talks about real estate, the popular My House, My Life (Minha Casa, Minha Vida) program with increased interest rates leading to increasing levels of late payments and possible foreclosures and thus she anticipates a general crisis with Brazil standing on the edge of the cliff with no place to go.  She again accuses Dilma of being the dumb lamppost for failing to see that high interest rates, high inflation and capital flight will lead to investment paralysis and then collapse.  While the real-estate market is slowing, this does not mean that deals are not being made.  They are.  Brazilians say that Sao Paulo cannot stop and the fact is that Brazil does not stop either.  So much economic activity is outside the formal sector and there is so much wealth even with major  capital outflows, that accumulation and concentration continue.  In this scenario, bolsa familia (the popular welfare program) is not that significant except as a lightning rod for the right wing, which claim it leads to indolence.

Number 18 is the biggie as it brings into question Dilma’s reelection and this is very interesting.  The newly or recently promoted class C, or middle class, might abandon her if they feel that their gains are at risk and their future of more consumption, more affordable health care, better housing, better infrastructure (public transportation).  These are indeed major issues.  The new middle class, the 40 some million that came out of poverty and lack of access, want to see the process continue.  Dilma promises it will.  Her opposition pretty much has to promise the same thing.  Aecio talks about corruption and good management but is unconvincing.  Campos and Marina come out of Dilma’s camp and really have no alternative project.  So if Dilma, supported by Lula, rests simply on her laurels and does not screw up too radically, she will be reelected.  Loira hates this and cries out against it.  But what is the alternative?  I see the next four years as difficult ones and that the defining election for Brazil is not this year but 2018.

At that point, hopefully Brazil will be out of the international limelight and can work as the Mineiros are wont to do – in silence – and make some decent progress starting with basic education, public health (read sanitation) and a possible collapse under its own weight of so much state intervention.

Loira is indeed intelligent as she claims. But her intelligence does not necessarily make the people stupid and I am confident that Brazil will improve by hook or crook or aos trancos e barrancos – as Darcy Ribeiro once said.

 

 

More Comments on Evils Listed by Loira Inteligente

Point 5 posted by the Intelligent Blond (See her thoughts in Portuguese in my April 18 blog) deals with electoral control through the Bolsa Familia or welfare program that actually started under Fernando Henrique Cardoso but has become a banner for Dilma, Lula and the PT.  Loira alleges that the program was extended significantly under the influence of Jose Dirceu (former Chief of Staff to Lula)  as a “bridal” used to control the votes of Bolsa Familia recipients.

I find this statement interesting.  So much so that in the 70’s I wrote a treatise on this very topic. Basically, I examined a SENAI (a mixed government – industrialist sponsored training program created in Getulio Vargas’ dictatorship) with the hypothesis that training SENAI was a means of controlling and co-opting the working class, especially the higher skilled so they would not contest military rule in the 70’s.  What I found was that the workers voted quite conscientiously in their best interest and favored the opposition MDB party at the time.  Granted the Bolsa Familia recipients are less informed than the SENAI grads but still they know enough to see that the PT in name, at least, is more favorable to their interests (secure food supply, educational access and modest health treatment) than say the Brazilian right.  The PSDB knows this but has lost the political initiative to the PT.  It is a good thing that people are voting and it is anti-democratic to say that people don’t know how to vote.  There are problems but it is a process and better than the alternatives of repression and no elections.

In her point 6, smart blonde talks about ENEM, the qualification exam for the universities in Brazil, and about quotas for minorities.  She goes so far as to say that these programs have their upside but she is upset by the proliferation of private colleges and schools of dubious quality staffed by professors who have been sufficiently trained.  Yes, this is a big problem and it is a problem of the market-driven educational system.  My critique is that education and the Ministry of Education have been completely adrift, torn by the demands of the traditional middle class for free university education and the need to improve basic or primary education.  Essentially, the administrations of the last 15 years or so have not been able to fight the entrenched bureaucratic university structure nor have they effectively used the resources supposedly set aside for basic instruction.  On international exam comparisons, Brazilians lag at all levels.  This is not to say that there are not elite and able instructors in the public universities.  There are many.  But the structure does not help them.  And the “democratization” of primary education has driven the best teachers out to the private sector.  Education should not be so politicized between the PT and the opposition.

Point 7 rehashes the old saw that Lula just got lucky with Chinese demand for commodities.  Of course, there is something to this argument but the way it should be made is by looking at Lula’s industrial policy (or lack thereof) plus the short-sighted, cosseted nature of Brazil’s so called captains of industry.  Saying that Lula dropped his pants too easily for the Chinese really gets us nowhere.

Number 8 extends the argument about the Chinese and adds the Koreans stating that they pressured Brazil to open up and take manufactured goods which resulted in Brazil losing competitiveness, except perhaps in the areas of semi finished industrial products such as pulp, resins or pig iron.  Brazil’s trade barriers have always sought to protect the “similar” national product.  The unintended and negative effect is that Brazilian industry has focused pretty much on making shoddy goods for an undemanding and unsophisticated national market.  With its tax burden, bureaucracy and lack of investment, Brazil has always been a weak competitor.  Even in the 90’s when Brazil’s auto makers were the top exporters, the cars were lower end models of Fiat, Ford and VW.  Brazil has never been able to make an advanced luxury vehicle even in the so-called globalized auto assembly business.  Mercedes, Audi and even GM have not been able to produce a top of the line product in Brazil.

Points 9 and 10 can be addressed together.  Smart blonde notes that in spite of corruption, Lula was easily reelected in 2006 because people could for the first time buy a car, a computer, a plane ticket and have meat on the table.  I ask what is wrong with that?  The obvious answer is that the model is not sustainable and we have reached the limit of consumption-driven growth.  Since the good old days of the commodities boom, Brazil has slipped back to 1 to 3 per annual GNP growth.  Not good for a developing country with aspirations.

Loira’s number 11 is a bit of a mishmash but continues the economic argument stating that the auto industry and the construction boom were driven by consumers and easy credit.  But then she goes on to say that the industrial work force has been forced to junk yard or transfer their labor to construction.  Here, I think she fails to understand the different skill sets involved in different industries and also underestimates some of the success of micro-entrepreneurs.  If industry is laying off skill labor, some of these individuals have become mechanics, tool builders, and owners of small firms that provide real products, perhaps nothing great or exceptional but good enough for the Brazilian market.  Think of the guy making signs or rain gutters.

Loira’s next points pick up on President Dilma and are more political in nature and I will discuss those in future comments.