Another Brazil

Brazil: National Context Geography Brazil occupies almost
one-half of the entire South America continent, and is the
fifth largest country in the world. It borders all Latin
American countries except Chile and Ecuador. The
9,170km coastline and the 50,000km navigable inland
waterways provide great potentials for water transportation
which has not been well developed. Brazil is topographically
relatively flat. 40% of the land is under the Amazon Rain
Forest. Most of the arable land is found in the South, but the
process of land development for agriculture is pushing into
the Central-West and the North as well. The climate is
mainly tropical and sub-tropical, and is particularly humid
and rainy in the Amazon region and along the coast.
Temperate climate is found in the south and on the higher
lands. The nation is free from earthquakes, hurricanes and
cyclones, but rainstorms, drought and frost occasionally
cause considerable damage. Demography and Social
Patterns Population is around 155 million and growing at
about 2% per year. It is concentrated in the southern states
of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, and Parana. Almost 60% of the
total population live on 20% of the land.(See Table 1) 80%
of the population is urban and 20% are rural dwellers. 55%
is under 20 years of age and less than 10% is over 60. The
average life expectancy is 63 years old. The majority of
Brazilians are of European or African descent. Besides the
original Portuguese settlers, other significant ethnic groups
include Africans, Germans, Italians, and Japanese. The
official language is Portuguese, but English is widely used in
the business community. The predominant religion is Roman
Catholicism. There is religious freedom, and religion is not a
source of social unrest. The general level of education
requires much improvement. About 75% of children above
ten years old are considered to be literate. Around 5% of
enrolled students go on to higher education. As a result,
most of the labor force are semiskilled or unskilled. There is
a shortage of managerial, supervisory, and technical
personnel. Living Standards The gross domestic
product(GDP) per capita in 1993 was about US$3,000 per
annum. There exists a wide income gap, with \'1% of
population stinking rich, 20% stinking poor\'. 10 million
families are roofless, while the 12 million homeless peasants
seek shelters in peasant squatters in the countryside where
land is so unequally distributed. Substantial funding are
needed for public housing, health care, schools, and
infrastructure. Other major social problems include violent
crime and corruption. Resources Brazil is rich in natural
resources. It has some of the largest iron ore deposits in the
world and is now one of the biggest gold producers. Other
metals and minerals are also mined on an increasing
scale.(See Table 2) The extensive river system provides
great hydroelectric potential, as evident in the Itaipu dam
project. Since the oil crisis in the 70s, Brazil embarked upon
the ProAlcohol program for alcohol fuel manufacture from
sugar cane to reduce the country\'s reliance on foreign oil. As
for agriculture, Brazil is a major exporter of soybeans and
orange juice in addition to the traditional coffee and cocoa.
The fishing potential along the coastline is significant but has
not been fully exploited.(See Table 3) The natural scenery
and favorable climate also foster a prosperous tourist
industry. Political Climate and Forces Brazil remained a
Portuguese colony for more than 300 years until it became a
republic(Federative Republic of Brazil)in 1889. The latest
Constitution was promulgated in 1988, and it is still under
review. Brazil is composed of 27 states and the Federal
District of Brasilia, the capital city. The states are divided
into municipalities, which are further divided into districts.
The federal government consists of three branches: the
executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The executive
branch is headed by the President under whom are several
executive departments and independent regulatory agencies.
The appointed heads of the executive departments form the
Cabinet. The legislative branch, the Congress is made up of
the elected Senate and the House of Representatives. The
judicial branch consists of a system of federal, state, and
local courts throughout the country, headed by the Supreme
Court. There are many political parties, but ideologies are
not well developed as a democratic system returned only in
1985. Parties normally represent specific economic groups
and interests within the country. After the industrialization
resulting in fierce inflation and foreign debt, Brazil went
through a period of military autocratic regime through 1964
to 1989, until the first popularly elected president since
1960, Fernado Collor de Mello. Although the chance of the
military having a coup is slim, they still remain a strong
political force. President Collor had significant support and
vowed on reform on the much needed economic policy. He
planned to lower tariffs, control inflation, promote