The biggest challenge facing Brazil's next president will be coming to terms with the nation's soaring unemployment rate and its declining role in the global economy, according to ambassador Carlos Augusto Santos Neves.
Neves delivered a lecture titled "Brazil 2002 Presidential Elections: Political, Economic and Social Issues," at the Latin American and Iberian Institute Thursday. He outlined the obstacles facing Latin America and lamented what he called the "myth of development" that the nation's next leader must overcome.
"It's the belief that the country has that everything will be taken care of when we get rich, when we are developed, when we are like the United States," he said. "It's not going to happen. The next president will be better off if he accepts that and steers the country toward coping with the resources the country does have and finding ways for people to get along."
The ambassador said nations can participate in two forms of globalization - passive and active. He said passive moves include following guidelines established by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank when it comes to currency.
"Those are the basic rules that people must follow even to sit at the table," he said.
Neves added that a select few countries, including the United States, much of the European Union and China, actually reap the rewards of globalization by actively participating in a global marketplace as either producers or consumers.
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He said that Brazil, like much of Latin America, finds itself outside this inner circle despite dreams to the contrary during the past 10 years. He said that development has stalled throughout Latin America and noted that even Mexico, which should have benefited from considerable support from NAFTA, faced 20 percent job cuts during the past year because China lured in companies with lower wages and greater efficiency.
Brazil, the largest South American country, has a stable economy, but it has not grown during the past 10 to 12 years, Neves said.
"In addition to growing population, people leave the countryside and go to the city seeking jobs that just aren't there," he said.
He added that with two types of employment accessible in Brazil - informal with no benefits and formal with benefits - 65 percent of workers in the country are informally employed.
Soaring unemployment rates and jobs with extremely low pay fuel social and political problems, with people turning to lives of crime, Neves said. He said that the influence of Brazil's neighbors - including Colombia with its rampant drug problems, Venezuela's political instability and Argentina with its economic crisis - do not help the nation's effort to find economic stability.
The global economic slowdown has prompted similar problems internationally, he said, citing the controversy in France over the primary election of extreme right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
"In places like France and Germany, you are on the verge of seeing a shift in power thanks to workers who are not satisfied and suffering without jobs," he said.
But Neves stopped short of saying that support for these candidates would lead to their election because most people, despite their discontent, will opt for stability and continuity.
"People are just going to have to get used to life without these grand dreams of having more money," he said.