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A Research of Whether Brazil is a Developed Or a Developing Country

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In this project I have collected, analysed and evaluated evidence to help me to decide whether Brazil is a developed country or a developing country.

Introduction to Brazil

Brazil is the largest and most influential country in South America with a population of about 176 million, which is greater than the combined total for the whole of the rest of the continent. Brazil takes up almost half of South America.

The 6,448km long Amazon River runs through the North of Brazil and is the second largest in the world, and the Amazon Basin is the largest River Basin the world. The River and over a thousand tributaries drain an area of 6,150,000km” and carry one fifth of the world’s fresh water out to sea. In the North East, Brazil has arid deserts with rolling grasslands in the South. The Amazonian Rainforest covers more than one third of Brazil and its exploitation has become a major environmental worry.

Brazil borders the Atlantic Ocean down the eastern side with the following countries bordering the North and West: – French Guiana; Suriname; Guyana; Venezuela; Columbia; Peru; Bolivia; Paraguay; Argentina; and Uruguay. Brazil lies between 5 North and 30 South of the Equator. So, it is possible to stand with one leg in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere! The Equator, therefore, runs through the extreme North of Brazil with Macap and the Mouths of the Amazon on its line.

Brazil’s correct title is “The Federal Republic of Brazil” and its 26 states are administered from its capital, Bras, which was purpose built and now has a population of between 1 and 1.9 million people. However, S Paulo has 17 million inhabitants. (See population map). The highest point in Brazil is Pico da Neblina which is 3014m (9,888 ft) above sea level. Brazil’s main language is Portuguese and its main religion is Catholic Christianity. Brazilian society is a vibrant, diverse mix of cultures.

Brazil’s share of the Amazon basin, occupying half of the country, has a model equatorial climate. The 150-200cm (59-79 inches) of rain are spread throughout the year, although some periods are rather wetter than others according to the region. (See rainfall map) Temperatures are high, with almost no seasonal variation, but scarcely ever rise above 38 (100).

The Brazilian plateau, which occupies most of the rest of the country, has far greater temperature ranges. Rain falls mainly between October and April. However, the Northeast, the least productive region of Brazil, is very dry and in past years has been suffering from severe drought, which compounded its problems. (See map on rainfall) The southern states have hot summers and cool winters, when frost may occur.

The currency used on Brazil is the “Real”. 1 real = 100 centavos.

The average wage per person per year is about ,570.

The following evidence I have gathered describes how Brazil may have become a developed country.


Brazil has one of the world’s major economies and is now the ninth wealthiest country in the world. Economic reforms in the 1990’s have bought some stability to the country’s finances. Reforms have included privatisation and the opening up of its markets. During the 1960s and 1970s, GDP expanded by an average of 11% a year. At this time the country enjoyed massive industrial growth, but then the Boom and Bust pattern hit and Brazil went bust! It became the world’s greatest debtor.

The economy underwent major diversification and industrialisation, and today Brazil is a significant producer of cars and computers. In fact, Brazil’s car industry is acclaimed as being the success of the decade.

Economic reform, initiated in 1990, enabled Brazil to reschedule its debts, but a steep recession followed in 1990-1992. The launching of the new currency, the re, in 1994 was the fifth attempt at monetary stabilisation since 1986. It contributed to the dramatic reduction of inflation from around 50% a month in 1994 to around 80% a year in 1995 and less than 20% a year in 1996. Economic growth of 5.7% in 1994 was the highest since 1986. This boosted regional confidence and facilitated the launch of MERCOSUR, the common market with neighbouring Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In 1995, a fractious Congress blocked constitutional reforms of the tax and social security system, but finally agreed to end state monopolies in such sectors as telecommunications and oil, thereby reviving the government’s privatisation programme.

Rio de Janeiro is a major city on the East Coast, and although not the biggest, was once the capital city of Brazil. It was the area where the earlier Portuguese settlers (who have always claimed that they discovered it) landed and immediately began cultivating the rich soil. At this stage, it was all tropical forest in the area, but over many centuries it has been cleared and it is now Brazil’s political and economic heartland.

Many people enjoy the white sandy beaches of Copacabana, which is overlooked by Sugarloaf Mountain.

Many centuries of colonisation, conflict and slavery, and massive immigration from Europe have left Brazil a Country full of many different races and cultures.

Lying mid-way between Salvador in the North and Porto Alegre in the South, and occupying only 7.7 per cent of Brazils total area, Rio De Janeiro supports over 30 per cent of its population. The annual carnival in Rio takes place over fives days where parades, balls, street dancing and samba and bossa nova music fill the streets. Brazil is also revered for its football prowess, having won the world cup 5 times.

Vast sugar cane plantations mean that alcohol production is huge, and when oil became scarce and expensive in the early 1970’s it caused many to use industrial alcohol as a fuel for the vehicle’s they then began building.


Brazil is a democratic federal republic with 26 regional parliaments and a national congress.

Brazil became independent of Portugal in 1822 giving the country the opportunity to develop to its best potential, and current borders were established.

Women in Brazil have had the vote since 1934 and in 1993, Brazilians voted to retain directly elected presidents. In 1997 the constitution was changed to allow a president to run for re-election.

Reformists want provisions to curb tax evasion, and were successful in 1995 in ending state monopolies and allowing foreign investment in telecommunications, oil, mining and shipping. Many also want to see changes in the electoral system in order to curb the increasing involvement of small parties in government.

In October 2002, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, won the elections and became president. A former shoeshine boy he will head Brazil’s first left-wing government for more than 40 years. At his inauguration in January 2003, Lula promised to make major political and economical reforms and pledged to eradicate hunger. He also pledged to tackle corruption and Brazil’s economic woes, improve education and create 10 million jobs. He plans to rid Brazil of its reputation for the biggest gap between rich and poor in the world. He did warn that this might take him longer than his initial 4-year term.

Plans to develop nuclear weapons have now been abandoned by the military.


Local industry is well developed, making Brazil dominant in the region. Major industries include, Agriculture, Mining, Iron and Steel, Motor vehicles, Oil and Mineral refining, Chemicals, Wood pulp and paper, Machinery, Food processing, Consumer goods, Textiles, Rubber processing and Fertilisers. Brazil is one of the world’s most important steel producers, and it has large deposits of gold, silver and iron.

Agriculture and Products

Brazil has a huge, successful agricultural base and produces the world’s largest quantities of coffee and Soya beans. It also has immense natural resources. It also produces Cereals, Cassava, Sugar, Oranges, Cocoa, Rice, Cotton, Tobacco, Bananas, Rubber, Timber, Iron ore, Bauxite, Manganese, Crude oil and Natural Gas, Coal, Chromium, Nickel, Tin, Zinc, Gold, Silver, Diamonds, Phosphates, Salt, Quartz crystal, Beryllium, Graphite, Titanium, Tungsten and Asbestos.


Total products exported are valued at $58.2 billion.

Brazil has previously built its wealth on the exports of coffee, but more recently on sugar exportation and that of it’s other many natural resources.

Brazil is now one of the largest sugar and orange juice exporters. Other products exported are Sugar, Machinery, Animal feed stuffs, Coffee, Cocoa, Iron ore, Motor vehicles, Soya beans and oil, Oranges, Iron and Steel, Chemicals and non-ferrous metals.


Under the military, Brazil commissioned several power stations from former West Germany. Energy from these has been more expensive than expected, but the construction of the Angra-2 nuclear station was approved in 1996. Hydropower has been more successful, accounting for 90% of electricity generation. An agreement to build a 2,200km (1,370 miles) pipeline from the Bolivian gas fields to Brazil’s industrial south was signed in 1996 and put out to private tender. Ethanol is being made from sugar in an attempt to reduce petrol imports. Within the agricultural sector, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and the third largest producer of maize (corn).

The total amount of electricity generated is 251bn kW/h. of this 93% is generated by hydroelectric power and 6% is thermal. The total electricity capacity is 56.21 million kW.

In the South, the forces of the Paran and Paraguay Rivers have been harnessed to form the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Itaip Dam.

Regional divide

Brazil can be divided into 5 regions (see regional map) North, Northeast, Centre West, Southeast and South.

The North has several resource sites, from which the following materials are mined:

  • Gold
  • Bauxite
  • Lead
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Iron
  • Nickel
  • Diamonds
  • Common Salt (Sodium Chloride)
  • Oil

But the north does not have any industries. This is because of the enormous Amazon Rainforest and the inability to build upon it.

In the Centre West, there is a similar amount of resources, which also includes zinc, limestone and quartz. As in the North, the Centre West does not have any main industries.

Down in the South there are not as many resources as in the North and Centre West, but there are many industries.

Moving back up into the South East there are many resources such as Iron, Nickel, Oil, Gold, Quartz etc. and also quite a few industries which include Textiles/Clothing, Iron and Steel sites and a shipbuilding site.

Finally, in the Northeast of Brazil there are many resource sites and industrial sites. These include Bauxite, limestone, sea salt and oil refineries, mechanical engineering and textiles and clothing.


A vast road network is being built to link the main centres of Brazil, and five river systems are being harnessed for a total of 8,000km (5,000 miles) of waterways. The antiquated railways are increasingly unreliable. S Paulo’s metro is being extended to cope with the city’s rapidly expanding population.


Brazil is the largest exporter of TV programmes. South America’s biggest media market is home to thousands of radio stations and hundreds of T.V channels. The constitution guarantees a free press and vigorous media debate about controversial political and social matters is common. Media ownership is highly concentrated. “Globo” and “Abril” dominate the market and have interests in T.V and radio networks newspapers and pay T.V operations.


Education follows the French system with a bachillerato (baccalaur) at the end of secondary schooling


Brazil has targeted eco-tourism as a major growth area. The government is encouraging foreign investment in tourist facilities in Amazonia.


There is a free health service available.

This chapter includes evidence to suggest that Brazil may not yet be a developed country, but may still be developing.


The reduction of the fiscal deficit is a key objective. The government aims to dramatically reduce overstaffing at all levels of government, reduce social security payments and address the problem of the high real level of interest rates.

The 1988 constitution, detailing promises for a better future, has proved to be unworkable in practice. The state cannot afford its social security, health and pension commitments. The proliferation of local governments, designed to check federal power, has led to a duplication of functions and is very expensive.

Former President Collor de Mello’s 1992 impeachment for fraud underlines the depth of the problem of corruption in Brazil. Many are now demanding an end to parliamentary immunity: under the current system, elected officials cannot be prosecuted unless they have been suspended from office by a two-thirds vote.

The military, in power between 1964 and 1985, was responsible for human rights abuses, particularly against Amazon Indians. Its economic mismanagement left Brazil with a legacy of huge debts and inefficient state industries.

Regional Wealth

The government is facing increasing pressure to redress what some say is one of the world’s most unfair distributions of wealth. Much of the country’s arable land is controlled by a handful of wealthy families, a situation which the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) seeks to redress by demanding land redistribution. It uses direct protest action and land occupation in its quest.


Social conditions are harsh in the big cities of Rio de Janeiro and S Paulo, where a third of the population lives in favelas or slums. In the 1970’s a major drive was initiated to move settlers to the Amazon region. This caused considerable damage to vast areas of the rainforest. The high rate of destruction of the Amazon by loggers and cattle ranchers remains controversial today. However, these government sponsored migration programmes have now been halted.

Many people work in fields for little pay, while a few rich landowners benefit from the huge profits.

The ownership of consumer goods is not high. Out of 1,000 people:

278 own a T.V,

83 own a VCR,

13 own a PC.

A lack of money, health and education forces over 500,000 girls into prostitution. Many street children are murdered by vigilante groups, who believe they are ‘cleaning the streets.’ 90% of these murders go unpunished.

Amerindians suffer prejudice from most other peoples in Brazil. Since 1900, 87 Amerindian groups have become extinct as a result of disease, starvation or the forceful taking of their land by miners, settlers and loggers. The Amerindian population today is estimated at just 220,000. Migrants from the poor Northeast suffer considerable discrimination in Brazil’s larger cities.


Brazil’s Aids programme has become a model for other developing countries, having succeeded in stabilising the rate of HIV infection and cutting the number of Aids-related deaths. However, it is a controversial programme since it involves bypassing the big drugs firms to produce generic copycat Aids medicines. There may be as many as 2,000 street children who are HIV positive.

The major causes of death are Heart diseases, Cancers, Accidents and Violence. There are 681 patients per doctor. Only 2.8% of the GNP (Gross National Produce) is spent of health.

The public health system is limited. Less than 20% of hospitals are state-run and private care is very expensive. The World Bank has criticised the under-financing of preventive health care. On average, only 15% of the health budget is allocated to child health, immunisation and other preventive programmes. Reported malaria cases tripled between 1980 and 1990; 90% are in Amazonia, mainly in settler towns. Leprosy and parasitic skin infections are also becoming more common, again often affecting settlers.

Unfortunately, the building of the Itaip Dam caused the lake it created to drown a set of waterfalls and this created a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

The forest contains many plants that provide the basis for many valuable products, the most important ones being those for medicines. The bark of chinchona supplies the quinine to treat malaria, for example. Other plants supply substances used in the fight against cancer. Brazil nuts too are of-course famous all over the world.

The constant stripping and attacking of these natural resources is doing much harm.


Brazil has a history of boom and bust, with its attempts at development hampered in the past by high inflation and one of the biggest foreign debts. It has had to be bailed out in times of crisis. The total value of Brazil’s debt is a staggering $250bn! ()

Chaotic finances of the states threatens national economic stability. Foreign investment is deterred by corruption, the fragility of economic reforms and preferences given to national companies in the sale of state companies. Congressional opposition delays urgent tax and social security reforms and privatisations. Savings and investment rates are about half those of leading East Asian competitors.

Despite enormous natural and economic resources, Brazil still has 32 million of its people living below the poverty line, and has not begun to tackle the problem of homelessness and street children in Rio, S Paulo and other large cities. An estimated one to five million families remain landless, while nearly 80% of farmland is owned by 10% of farmers.

Brazil’s large wealth disparities have been growing during the last decade. Relatively low levels of unemployment conceal large-scale underemployment, and the UN classifies over 50% of the population as suffering poverty. The large numbers of poor rural migrants who move to the cities live in the favelas, or shantytowns. Favelas are now also appearing in the countryside. The wealthy like to drive European cars, holiday in Paris or ski in Switzerland, where most of them keep their money to avoid scrutiny and interference in their accounts by the government.

Brazil experienced an energy crisis in 2001. It is a country very dependent on water to fire it’s hydro-electric power stations, so when they had droughts so bad that the reservoirs were drained dry, they had a major catastrophe on their hands. At that time, hydroelectric plants and reservoirs produced over 90% of the country’s electricity supply, and the dry weather and insecure infrastructure issues caused major shortages. In 2002, they introduced some energy rationing, even declaring public holidays in an attempt to keep the demand for power by the large industries down. This in turn has led to a more immediate need for an alternative fuel source, and to not keep “all one’s eggs in one basket” so to speak. They are currently importing oil from Venezuela and Argentina. Many large foreign firms have placed serious bids for the rights to drill and excavate for oil in the rich off-shire reserves 6,560 feet below the waters’ surface off Brazil’s Atlantic Coast. BP Amoco, for example, won a bid for an area located 186 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River. A second, third and fourth round of bids was even more successful, with large investments being made in Brazils oil reserves.


Brazil’s main aid donors are the USA and the EU. The World Bank provided $2 billion in 1996 for environmental, basic sanitation, road building and anti-poverty projects. As well as official aid, much comes from NGOs, (non-Governmental Organisations) mainly for environmental and housing projects.


Not all children in Brazil are registered. Of those that are; 90% receive Primary education, 19% receive Secondary education and only 12% receive Tertiary education. The adult literacy rate is 84.9% of all registered people compared with 99% in the UK.

State schools enjoyed a good reputation until the 1950s, but have declined since then. Most middle-class parents now send their children to private schools. The wealthy send theirs to Switzerland or France. Millions of the poor receive little education – especially those living in the Northeast and Amazonia, and the urban poor. Brazil’s three million street children have no schooling at all. Public degree courses work on credits, as in the USA. Of Brazil’s 95 universities, 55 are administered by the state. Sao Paulo University is the most prestigious.


In Brazil, only 49 out of 1,000 people own a car and only 75 out of 1,000 people own telephones.


Although there is now no official censorship, TV and radio operating licences are awarded as political favours, and state advertising is so extensive that it cannot fail to influence editorial policy. Media ownership is also highly concentrated, 3 main companies own 293 daily newspapers. There are 19 state owned TV stations and 218 independent stations. There 2000 independent radio stations, but only 1 state owned.


Federal agencies charged with protecting the Amazon are insufficiently funded, understaffed and accused of corruption.

The Amazon rainforest contains an estimated 90% of the entire world’s plants and animals and is the most complex ecosystem known. However, the demands of agriculture are leading to its destruction at a rate of 4 square km (1.5 square miles) per hour, or 35,000 square km (13,510 square miles) per year. As a result of such massive clearances, usually for conversion to cattle pasture, vital genetic diversity is being lost.

Brazil faces other environmental problems. Opencast bauxite mining is polluting rivers and threatening the livelihoods of indigenous Amerindians. In the cities, widespread industrial pollution and untreated sewage are major problems.


The total population in Prison is 87,053. There is no death penalty. There are 2 murders and 3 rapes per 100,000 people.

Urban life in Brazil can be violent. The incidence of armed robbery and drugs-related crime is rising. Human rights abuses by the police are frequently reported. Death squads, uncontrolled by the government, target street children in particular, especially in Rio, S Paulo and Recife. Since 1985, the rate of street child murders has been rising. However, international condemnation of the crimes has led to action in some areas.

In the countryside, violent land disputes are common. Landless workers are repeatedly displaced and indigenous peoples driven from land to which the government has, in theory, guaranteed their rights.


Brazil’s border with Argentina and Paraguay, boasts a natural wonder of the world, the massive Iguazu Falls. This is a remarkable sight much bigger than the Victoria Falls in Africa or North America’s Niagara Falls. Yet, the rest of the world barely knows of its existence. If marketed correctly, this could be a major tourist attraction. Brazil needs to extend this tourist resource and do more with it.

Its 2,000 km (1,240 miles) of Atlantic beaches, the folklore and music of the north-east coast, and the annual Mardi Gras carnival in Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s major attractions. However, the increasingly affluent and international audience now controls the carnival. The largely Afro-Brazilian residents of Rio’s favelas, or shanty towns, can often no longer afford to take part in the parades that originate in their culture.

However, Brazilians show little interest in Eco-tourism, preferring to visit Amazonia for the duty-free shopping zone in Manaus.

Brazil is still a relatively cheap destination for European and American tourists. Despite this, visitor numbers are declining, falling from 0.5% to 0.1% of the world market since 1970. Many visitors have been put off by the negative publicity generated by the conditions in the shantytowns and by Brazil’s past human rights record.

Housing shortages in Brazil mean that about 25 million people live in sprawling shantytowns, called favelas that surround the cities. Most of the homes are built by the families themselves, sometimes from waste materials but more often from wood, bricks and cement bought from builder’s merchants. For the population who live in the favelas, 70% have no running water, 60% have no toilets or drains and 52% have no waste collection.


On analysing the evidence found, I have drawn the following conclusions.

I think that Brazil is still a developing country despite its enormous agricultural/resource exports and its current attempts to repay its immense $250bn debt.

There is such a massive divide between the rich and the poor, with the poor being in the majority that no developed country would have allowed this to remain for such a long time.

A developed country would not have accrued such a high debt and would have used its natural resources to its advantage. There needs to be an equal distribution of the country’s wealth.

I feel that in order to address some of Brazil’s problems, there needs to be a major re-allocation of land so that the very poor have a fighting chance of earning a decent living from working the land and selling the produce. There needs to be a massive campaign to re-educate the whole population of Brazil, which should address the need world-wide to stop destroying the rainforest, and all it’s natural plants.

I think Brazil is no where near being a completely developed country. I believe that it’s only just started developing.

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