By Ricardo Amorim and EIC
Deep, significant and lasting changes don’t usually happen overnight. They take time and result from the joining of forces that mature and bring to the surface changes that went unnoticed before.
It is too early to be sure, but maybe Brazil is undergoing one such change, still silent and underground. Five seeds are being sown:
- 1. The culture of generalized impunity and acceptance of corruption is coming to an end. The very low risk of punishment and great potential for gain forged a culture in which corruption was, for a very long time, seen as “the way things are in Brazil”. Being corrupt was seen as standard, being honest seen as dumb. Severe risk f punishment to some of the most influential people in the country, including businessmen like Marcelo Odebrecht and politicians such as the leader of the governing political party in Senate, Delcidio do Amaral, as well as other potentially more powerful players, including former President Lula da Silva, raised the risk for would-be candidates to engage in corruption. Besides, the Supreme Federal Court decision to authorize arrests after condemnation on appeal “shut one of the windows for impunity in the Brazilian legal system” according to Judge Sérgio Moro. Finally, if enough pressure comes from the population, significant anti-corruption laws may be enacted.
- 2. Improvement in the level of Brazilian education in the last decades – the quality of Brazilian education is awful. This is why increase in access to middle school and universities by Brazilian students was very little noticed. Brazil obviously needs to improve – a lot – the quality of education. Less obvious, though, is the fact that despite the poor quality of education the average educational level improved considerably in the last two decades, simply because more than ten million Brazilians who did not go to school before started to attend. Brazil has a long way to go, no doubt, but a more educated people becomes more productive and less vulnerable to manipulation, and demands more from their leaders.
- 3. Expansion in access to the internet and to social networks – Brazilians must demand more from its government. It is easier to do that when the majority of Brazilians have access to the internet and to social networks, such as now, and can express what they think, can organize themselves and protest. The importance of this factor in the Arab Spring speaks for itself.
- 4. Change in the religious profile – in the last decades, and particularly among the low income bracket of the population, there was a considerable expansion of evangelical faith. Much attention has been given to the fact that several religious leaders and unscrupulous politicians took advantage of that in their own benefit. On the other hand, little attention was paid to the fact that the ethics of life and work of this social group tends to be different from the majority of Brazilians. The Protestant ethics of enshrining work as the only way to succeed in life, if generalized, may be a powerful factor to reverse the culture of state paternalism which I called Bolsa-Brasil a few years ago, and which is an important component of Brazilian problems. Besides, honesty seems to be more deeply rooted among fervent followers of Evangelic denominations.
- 5. Social and economic emergence of the new middle class – tens of millions of Brazilians who never had access to many products and services did not even expect to have such access. They did not just change consuming habits, but also changed expectations. They now expect to maintain what they achieved and to achieve even more along their lives. Right this moment the opposite is happening: many are going backwards, which generates dissatisfaction and puts a new pressure on political leaders, which did not happen before. Those who never tasted and never expected to have better conditions did not demand them; those who did have them for a while and are now losing them are demanding them back. As they had improved income and pattern of consumption many stopped being beneficiaries of government social programs to become the financers of such programs by paying very high taxes on income and consumption. This may be a pressure component to dismantle the current swollen, expensive and inefficient State model.
In order to develop, grow and produce trees that bear fruit, seeds must be watered and cared for. Changing Brazil for the better won’t happen easily, the path will be long and hard, but at least the seeds are already sown.
Ricardo Amorim is a host in Manhattan Connection on Globonews, CEO of RICAM Consultoria, the most influential Brazilian on LinkedIn, the only Brazilian on the Speakers Corner list of best and most important world lecturers and the most influential economist of Brazil according to Forbes Magazine.
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