Published at Brazil in Focus: Brazil needs a Tax Break

See the article, published on 12 April,  Brazil in Focus During a recent gathering of industrial leaders in Rio de Janeiro, Eliezer Batista da Silva mused that Brazil has the “taxes of Sweden and the services of Angola.” It’s an old saw, but it gained an extra bite in the mouth of Batista, a founder of the multinational mining conglomerate Vale and the father of Brazil’s richest man, energy mogul Eike Batista. While the elder Batista’s jab may sound like hyperbole, the comment fell on sympathetic ears at Rio’s Industrial...

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Narrowing or Widening the Fountainhead of Corruption?

One of the oldest tenets of corruption theory is that election campaign contributions constitute the fountainhead of corruption in government. To repay that three million dollar contribution of BankX, elected candidate X proposes a bill to lower taxes on bank profits. Simple stuff. Conventional thinking is that if you eliminate this patron-client relationship by financing campaigns with public taxpayer money, the result will be less corporate influence and corruption in government. But at what cost? Mexico’s system is completely publicly...

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Considering the Diversion of Public Monies in Brazil -A Cool US$35 Billion for Starters

US$35 billion of public monies stolen. A colossal affront to the cities and country they work for? Yes. Preventable? Not yet. The most significant news item on the diversion of public monies I have seen in some time appeared in yesterday’s Globo as the lead opinion piece: “The Indicators Show Billions Stolen.” The article cites grim figures: of 131 municipalities audited by the Comptroller General, 90 percent showed irregularities; and it is estimated that municipal officials and their accomplices steal 30% of federal and...

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Considering Impunity in the Public Service

Today’s Folha de Sao Paulo reported that the President’s Commission on Public Ethics has issued an ‘ethical censure’ to Erenice Guerra, Dilma Rousseff’s chief lieutenant during her tenure as Chief of Staff for President Lula da Silva. Guerra resigned in shame following revelations of corruption, influence peddling to benefit family relatives, and prevarication. Today, I changed Guerra’s English Wikipedia entry to reflect this new development.   Unfortunately, the only hope for true accountability is for Guerra to be brought to...

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Don’t Read your Book in Our Library

Libraries have always counted among my favorite places, but I got quite a shock when I visited a beautiful (functioning) colonial library in downtown Rio the other day, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (below). I entered the library and looked for an electricity outlet to plug in my computer. Unsure of whether the outlets I found worked, I approached the attendant. “We don’t have internet wireless,” she said in an unsteady English. I responded in Portuguese, “That’s okay, I’m just wondering if you...

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Happy but Dangerous

Brazilians are famous for being friendly, happy people. They are so happy, in fact, they ranked 9th of 144 countries on the 2009 Happiness Index. So how does one of the happiest countries in the world also rank as one of the most murderous? Globo just reported that official are going to try to “disarm” the population, a response to news of the country’s 50,113 recorded murders in 2008. In Canada, about 550 people are murdered a year in a country of 35 million people, roughly one-sixth Brazil’s population. In...

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Correction

A correction on my last post must be made. The Committee to Protect Journalists apparently did not reveal all the facts when they disseminated news on Brazilian officials censoring news on Google. They mis-communicated Brazilian requests to remove material as requests to remove news— which is not the case. As a result of the CPJ’s mistake, reports in major newspapers also got it wrong, and so did yours truly. As I reported in a past blog post, virtually half of Brazil’s interventions on Google were for the social networking...

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The Right to Information in Brazil– Censorship, Fines for Sharing Wi-Fi

Following up on several other related posts, two recent news items give us reason to wonder about freedom of information in Brazil. First, Brazil’s telecommunications regulator, ANATEL, confiscated the computer equipment of three young people and fined them $3000R (about $2000US) for sharing an internet signal among their three dwellings in an effort to save money. Second, news has surfaced that in the first half of last year, Brazil asked Google to remove more news articles from the internet than any other country in the world, a total...

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São Paulo Traffic: Collective Pathology or Poor Policy?

Just a quick note to express my utter amazement at traffic here in São Paulo. I’ve been here for a week and a half now, attending a workshop at the University of São Paulo (USP) and I have had enormous difficulties getting to and from the USP. For the eight kilometers I need to traverse, I take two buses at approximately $2US each (3R), and I don’t believe I’ve done the trip in under an hour and a quarter. When it started to rain one day, I jumped in a taxi. But the meter had run to 12 R (about 7 US) and we had only moved...

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The Price of Consumer Debt

Credit is a difficult issue in Latin America. Credit card APR interest regularly runs at 30-50 percent, upwards of five times what it is in North America. Bank loans are not a lot cheaper. Yet more than ever  Brazilian consumers are borrowing and financial institutions are encouraging them to do so. When I recently opened up an account at Itaú, Brazil’s biggest private sector bank, I was surprised to see that the checking account automatically included a 500R line of credit on the account (equal to about one month’s minimum wage)...

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