Compare pensions and infrastructure. The former are absurdly generous. The average Brazilian can look forward to a pension of 70% of final pay at 54. Despite being a young country, Brazil spends as big a share of national income on pensions as southern Europe, where the proportion of old people is three times as big. By contrast, despite the country’s continental dimensions and lousy transport links, its spending on infrastructure is as skimpy as a string bikini. It spends just 1.5% of GDP on infrastructure, compared with a global average of 3.8%, even though its stock of infrastructure is valued at just 16% of GDP, compared with 71% in other big economies. Rotten infrastructure loads unnecessary costs on businesses. In Mato Grosso a soyabean farmer spends 25% of the value of his product getting it to a port; the proportion in Iowa is 9%.These problems have accumulated over generations. But Ms Rousseff has been unwilling or unable to tackle them, and has created new problems by interfering far more than the pragmatic Lula. She has scared investors away from infrastructure projects and undermined Brazil’s hard-won reputation for macroeconomic rectitude by publicly chivvying the Central Bank chief into slashing interest rates. As a result, rates are now having to rise more than they otherwise might to curb persistent inflation. Rather than admit to missing its fiscal targets, the government has resorted to creative accounting. Gross public debt has climbed to 60-70% of GDP, depending on the definition—and the markets do not trust Ms Rousseff.
We warned earlier that President Dilma Rousseff would have to break with her county’s history to build on the success of her predecessor if she wanted to keep Brazil from falling behind in the way it always seems to. Thus far, she has been anything but a visionary new leader.As the Economist notes, it’s not too late for her to change course, but from here on out it will be a steeper uphill climb.[Image of Brazilian flag from Shutterstock]