Bursting Bubble-Thinking About Brazil

000…Brazil is a country of the future. —-…Brazil will always remain a country of the future if average educational achievement stays at seven years of formal schooling per capita. Higher education enrolls only 2% of the population, but consumes a quarter of the total education budget (see Hunter and Sugiyama 2009). 000…Brazil is economically stable. —-…Brazil is still mainly a commodity exporter, and in the long run commodities will always be the most volatile type of export. 000…Brazilian policies...

Continue reading

Open to Competition

Positively, Brazil has become a lot more open over the past decade– in almost every way. My wife still recalls the limitations of a closed economy under military rule. She likes the example of yogurt: only one type of yogurt was available in the supermarket, and if you bought it and it was rotten, there was not a damn thing you could do about it. Back then, tariff and non-tariff barriers warded off international competition and made it easier for the Brazilian business elite to make money. But it cost the rest of Brazil dearly. Segments...

Continue reading

Three Days ago I inquired about the progress of my Ph.D. validation here in Brazil, for which I applied in August, 2010. All foreign degrees (with the exception of France) have to be “re-validated.” Three days ago, I learned that they’re sending the degree back to the start, because the UFRJ doesn’t have a political science department to validate the degree. After submitting my initial application and not being told a thing about possible obstacles, on two occasions I checked to make sure my “validation”...

Continue reading

Media Coverage, Transparency and Reform

It is no secret that media coverage is the primary motivator of probity in politics. Without the threat of being publicly exposed, public officials are more likely to engage in malfeasance; whether it be weakening key legislation, hiding incompetence, embezzlement, accepting bribes, or deviating from due-process. In Brazil as in other parts of the world, government transparency serves little purpose if the content of transparency is not scrutinized and publicized. “Just because it’s public doesn’t mean it’s...

Continue reading

Government Decides to Keep Archives Closed: Opacity to Prevail Under Dilma?

The Brazilian government has decided to keep its historical archives on the military dictatorship (1964-1985) closed, according to a report published today by ABRAJI. The move breaks with previous promises and effectively renders a conference I paid $100R to attend– International Seminary on Access to Information and Human rights –irrelevant. A boycott of the seminary (see banner photo) is now underway, with prominent NGOs Artigo 19 , Transparencia Brasil, and ABRAJI (Brazilian Association for Investigative Reporting) refusing to...

Continue reading

Brazil’s Conventionality, Continued–and Higher Education

Last post spoke about the insularity of large countries, of which one of the most obvious manifestations are their conventions. This convention issue is not without its slipperiness as a concept. I’ll venture forth the idea that a country tends to be conventional when greater value is placed on standard –homogeneous (traditional) formats– than diversity. Weddings in Brazil are a good example. They tend to be highly formulaic, from the bride’s dress, to the whisky poured at the after-party, and the chocolate “bonbons”...

Continue reading

Large, Insular Countries

It’s a peculiar thing about countries with large populations that they often tend to be insular, uninformed about what goes on in other parts of the world, and mildly paranoid, if not xenophobic. The U.S. provides a leading example: the intermittent periods of “isolationism” provide a testament to insularity. Proverbially clueless about the world outside their borders, Americans have also gained fame for their paranoia and xenophobia. But the prominence of these characteristics is tempered by the country’s historic openness, large...

Continue reading