Monday, 31 October 2011

Brazil: A nation saved by a game, again?

In the two years since my last visit, much has changed in Brazil.

Now proudly proclaiming itself the world's fifth largest economy, there is certainly plenty of evidence of growth and prosperity.

The potholes are disappearing, and large flat screen TVs, recently such a rarity, are now commonplace. Even the European car makers have ventured into the previously uncharted regions far away from Rio and Sao Paulo.

But it appears to end there.

Although government building continues apace, there are few signs of the crazy land-rush economics that left parts of Europe on the brink of collapse. And while consumer credit, and inflation, are rising, the population seem to be taking this new found prosperity in their collective stride.

What's so different here, then?

Well, it's not all been good news, because Brazil has struggled where it matters most: on the football field.

After an unconvincing Confederations Cup victory in 2009, the much anticipated 'homecoming' of Brazil's players of African heritage could not lift the first World Cup played on African soil in 2010.

Nor did their return to South American football fare any better, with an early exit from the 2011 Copa America.

Little wonder that the wild, spend, borrow, spend mentality, so characteristic of other booming economies, has not taken hold here. As so many pundits are quick to point out, financial growth is all about confidence.

And that confidence is under threat.

With Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup, defeat might still be unthinkable, but it is no longer as unlikely as it once seemed.

Fitting, then, that a game which held a nation together when times were hard, should now be tempering and moderating that same nation, as times get better.

Does all this mean that Brazil can look forward to steady, sustainable growth?

Best wait to see what happens during June/July 2014.