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UFES 2007


On Magic Island' a virtuous cycle began with a ban on heavy industry.

            One of the sad truths of the developing world is that an urban population boom has so often been bad news. From Jakarta to Rio de Janeiro, more people have typically meant more ghettoes, more crime, and less economic life. That's one reason urbanites in big cities are moving to places like Florianópolis, an island city 700 kilometers south of São Paulo, where bigger doesn't always mean worse.

            Between 1970 and 2004, Florianópolis's population tripled. So did the number of shantytowns. But the local economy grew fivefold, and incomes grew in step. Opportunity seekers, urban and rural, white collar and blue, poured in. With a hundred or so beaches lining the "magic island," tourism is thriving. And while many Brazilian cities are struggling to graduate from smokestacks to services, Florianópolis is succeeding. Thanks in part to a federal rule that for decades barred heavy industry on the island, town stewards promoted cleaner public works, and wound up with a network of public and private universities that make this one of the most scholarly cities in Brazil.

            To tend to the demanding academic crowd, the city invested heavily in everything from roads to schools, and now Florianópolis ranks high on every development measure, from literacy (97 percent) to electrification (near 100 percent). By the late 1990s, private companies were flocking to the island, or emerging from a technology "incubator" at the federal university. (Among the innovations it hatched: the computerized voting machines that have made Brazilian elections fraud-free and efficient.) Local officials now say their aim is to be the Silicon Valley of Brazil, with beaches. Don't count them out.

(Margolis, Mac. Newsweek, 10/07/2006.)



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