Opinion, by Nicholas Storey
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil gets an undeservedly bad international press in certain respects. This, undoubtedly, deters certain international tourists and it certainly deters some international investors.
Maybe the strength of the deterrent can be judged from the fact that investment returns in the UK are at a rate of around 0.5 percent per annum but people will not seize the opportunity to invest in Brazil (just buy a Brazilian company off the shelf, open a bank account, send the money through the Banco Central do Brazil, and invest it at around one percent per month, compound).
Part of the negativity against Brazil springs from the reports of violent crime and alleged corruption and part of it springs from the self-perpetuating notion that Brazil is an ‘emerging’ third world state which lacks any real socio-economic infrastructure and order. There is much here to examine.
The first thing that I turn to is borne out of personal experience of socio-economic infrastructure here in a small town of sixty thousand people in the State of Rio de Janeiro (swelling to up to two hundred and fifty thousand people during certain holiday periods). I admit that my real experience is limited to this one town in one state but it is a town and a state more or less chosen at random from them all and if it is not representative of other places, no doubt, there will be protests!
First of all, (and thank God), I have never seen or experienced any kind of violence here or even heard of any from the many people that I know in the town. Not all of Brazil falls within the bounds of the favelas or Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, violent crime in Brazil seems to be led by need or greed rather than mere pleasure: the torture and murder of children for apparent pleasure as increasingly reported in the West smacks of a civilization on the precipice.
About the alleged corruption in Brazil, I know nothing as I am not in a position to do so. However, the exposure of certain British Members of Parliament subsidizing their personal lifestyles out of the Parliamentary ‘expense’ accounts (as recently revealed in a flurry of adverse publicity), stinks and may well be just the tip of the iceberg there.
Secondly, there is no free primary health care. Wrong. There is a health center that is open and staffed ‘twenty four seven’ for minor emergency and simple treatments, manned by receptionists, a doctor and a nurse. The qualified staff may or not be there all the time but whenever I have needed to go there, they have been there and there is seldom anything much of a queue (line). My father tells me that there is always a waiting period in the UK now and that for an ordinary appointment to see a doctor, patients have to wait two weeks: by then, the condition could well have proved fatal or spontaneously cleared up!
There is even a public hospital which will treat most conditions; again free. I have never been there. I have heard varying accounts of it but I have never seen any reports of patients being admitted only to catch some dirt-borne infection that seems to be a regular report of British National Health Service hospitals.
The dustbin men (garbage men) come every second day. Now they come in some parts of the UK every second week.
This point is a knock-out: there are publicly-funded local day centres for ‘special children’, which is the Brazilian term for those now labeled in the West as mentally or physically ‘challenged’ and also crèches for pre-school-age children.
These places also accept voluntary donations of food and drink and money but the fact of the matter is that, maybe to the world’s surprise, they exist at all. Having visited these centers I can say that they are well-equipped, properly staffed and organized and even lay on transport, for which there is a small monthly charge for ‘bus fuel.
The roads and street lighting are gradually being improved and even ornamental street furniture and trees being brought in. None of this sounds beyond the line that divides the amenities of the unenlightened West from what is set to become a leading world economy and properly put to rest for all time General de Gaulle’s notorious and nasty quip that ‘Brazil is a joke’.