South America’s giant comes of age
By John Paul Rathbone
June 28, 2010.
If the rise of Brazil was cast as a childhood story rather than a dry economics tract, the fable might go something like this. Once upon a time, there was a skinny boy who was bullied at school. Every time there was a fight in the playground, he seemed to end up as the punchbag. The boy rarely complained, even though his sorry state did not match the glorious fate about which he often daydreamed. That just seemed to be the way things were.
One day, a new teacher arrived, bringing with him some new games for the classroom. These playthings distracted the big boys, and the fighting stopped. The skinny boy used the calm to do exercises, recommended by his canny stepmother, who also fed him a special soup to make him strong.
All good things come to end, however. The games broke, as they always do, and tempers flared again in the playground. This time, however, the big boys no longer bullied the skinny boy. He had become lean and fit, while they had grown fat and clumsy. Instead of pushing him around, they even seemed to look up to him. Standing in the school yard, blinking in the sun, the boy revelled in his new status. Would it last? He wanted to make sure it would.
The skinny boy is, of course, Brazil. His bullies are the financial markets of developed economies, the new games are the soothing palliative of the noughties credit boom, and the latest school-ground fight is the global financial crisis. His stepmother is China, the special soup he ate the commodity boom that has boosted Brazil’s economy, and his exercises represent the macroeconomic stabilisation policies Brazil put in place in the mid-1990s. The result, in this simple tale first told by Brazilian commentator Ricardo Amorim, is the new Brazil: a slightly gangly adolescent, standing tall amid the world community, not fully grown into its new stature but confident and eager to make its mark.
According to the text, Brazil’s antagonists when it was compared to a skinny boy were