Very useful tool on the economist website, where you can see the change in house prices over the last few decades.
Brazil recently overtook the UK to become the 6th largest economy in the world; growing by 2.7% last year while the UK economy contracted by 0.8%. Brazil is part of the well known group of countries known as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which are expected to become the future super powers of the world (it is predicted they will overtake the G7 countries by 2027). Brazil is also currently the largest economy in the South American region which is finally starting to sort their economies out. It also surprisingly had the 8th largest number of billionaires in the world last year, far more than any of its neighbours could boast.
Brazil overtaking the UK in GDP.
Brazil weathered the financial storms of the world recession and was one of the first emerging economies to spark a recovery in 2010. In fact, when investors were unsure of where to place their money after the crisis, Brazil’s economy became the in vogue choice, with millions of capital poured into the country. An economy supported by ever rising commodity prices and generating a new emerging middle class can also boast the hosting of two big international events in the near future – The World Cup in 2014 and The Olympics in 2016. Brazil is in fact starting to look like a present world power rather than the “could-be nation” tag that still hangs around its neck.
Brazil logo for the world cup they are hosting in 2014
This is a big step forward from Brazil’s recent past, where dictatorships ruled, inflation remained at a constant high and poverty was widespread. Now a period of political stability with democratically elected governments has seen the country realise its true potential and emerge as a true global power. A decade ago, Brazil was wrapped up in Argentina’s default and the widespread debt of South America, leading to its credit status to be labelled at “junk” level. But ten years on and Brazils bonds have now been upgraded and are attracting investors. This has been boosted if anything by the Euro crisis, as investors scared of a Greek default are looking to find safer markets for their money. Where would be safer than a top rated emerging economy, as the average debt of an emerging country is now lower than that of a developed country.
But dangers lie ahead for Brazil. Growth last year of 2.7% when compared to previous rates of around 4-8% showed an economy slowing down, with projections for 2012 at a disappointing 3.5%. There have many excuses put forward; the euro crisis has slowed down demand for Brazilian exports, falling commodity prices (which fuel Brazil’s economy) and a strong currency that doesn’t help an export lead country. But despite these factors damaging their economy, Brazil has still got to share the blame for slow growth.
Economic Growth for Brazil between 2000 and 2015
Brazil remains an uncompetitive country, ranking 53rd in the World Economic Forum index (behind Malta) and heavily losing out in its own back yard to China (despite themselves experiencing increased labour costs). A current account deficit at 3% of GDP means Brazil might also have to rely on foreign finance to pay for future projects (like the World Cup and Olympics) and with a euro default still possible and the USA looking to tighten its budget, these funds may become harder to attain. Real interest rates also remain the highest of all emerging nations at around 4%, which deters investors and makes loans for smaller firms near impossible. An article on the economist http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/01/emerging-economies found that by looking at the monetary and fiscal policies of emerging countries, Brazil had little room to improve growth through stimulus. One main factor for this is a debt to GDP ratio of 65% and budget deficits of 3% of GDP, meaning Brazil has a lot of debt for a developing nation and are currently just adding to it when growth should be helping to cut the debt
Shows how Brazil doesn’t have much room in its fiscal or monetary policy to induce growth
Brazil’s biggest problem however is their benefits system. Brazil has a younger population than any of the G7 member countries, yet spends an incredible 13% of GDP on pensions, more than any of those countries barring Italy (whose share of old people is three times that of Brazil). It has an unenviable ratio of 35 pensioners to every 100 workers (a worse ratio than that of the USA). Looking into the pension schemes, Brazil is incredibly generous as well, replacing 75% of average income. There are even options of early retirement with lower yet still bountiful pensions, leading to Brazils retirement age to be on average 54 for men and 52 for women and a tenth of 45 year olds already on their pension. This compares very unfavourably with child benefit schemes, where every family with a child receives 115 reais, whereas a family with a member over 65 would receive almost five times as much. This leads to almost a third of children living under the poverty line in Brazil but rarely any over-65 year olds. The Brazilian government is already trying to push through a bill to cap benefits at private sector levels, but this is only the start and Brazil will need radical changes if it doesn’t want to bankrupt the future of the nation.
Shows Brazil’s spending on GDP compared to amount of old people in the country
If Brazil could free up this money, then maybe it could increase investment in the infrastructure and education from its poultry 20% of GDP. New airports and roads are needed as well as more high paying jobs, not a nation of pensioners collecting unaffordable benefits. The inequality rife in Brazil will also needed to be fixed, as even though progress has been made, Brazil still had a Gini rating of 0.6 in 2009 (where 0= Total equality and 1=total inequality). New progressive taxes and better methods at stopping tax evasion (predicted to cost the government 2.5% of GDP) could help improve equality and lead to a nation that can truly call itself a developed country. A free-trade agreement with the rest of South America would also benefit Brazil massively, as their biggest customers remain in this region and could create the sort of benefits that German exports achieved when joining the EU. But that would require tearing down the barriers of trade that have been a part of the Brazilian economy for years and keep inefficient companies afloat through subsidies.
The map shows Brazil to have a Gini rating of between 0.55 and 0.59
Brazil have achieved much in the last decade, where a stable government and strong growth have lead its economy up the rankings to 6th in the world (with aspirations for 5th place) but without strong reforms we could see the country’s economy slow down, with growth last year already well behind the rest of the BRIC countries. The problem is Brazil tends to only make the big reforms when times are tight and the need for change is urgent. Brazil will need to buck the trend and push through reforms now while they can still take effect, otherwise the economy could slow down when growth is urgently needed to become a true world power.
Looking at constant growth for 2012 and 2012, Brazil has lagged behind its fellow BRIC members – Russia, India and China
Brazilian reforms like Brazilian nuts are tough to crack, but they are a must if Brazil is to realise their potential.
A city of billionaires?
Turkey is currently one of the leading nations in Europe. It ranks 15th in the world for GDP (using purchase power parity calculations) and the capital – Istanbul – contained 28 billionaires in 2010, the fourth largest amount for any city (behind only New York, Moscow and London). More impressive was their resistance to the financial crisis; when many banks in Europe and America had to be bailed out, not one Turkish bank went under (showing much better management by their banks). This lead to Turkey being one of only a few countries to actually be upgraded by the dreaded rating agencies during the last few years. Growth has also been impressive and during 2010/11, Turkey grew at world high rates of 7-9%. On top of this, the government has down well to not overspend, with their budget deficit under 2% of GDP (well below their neighbours) and their debt to GDP ratio at a modest 40%.
A graph showing GDP growth over the last two decades, found at http://curiousmalthus.com/2012/03/16/productivity-where-is-the-turkish-economy-headed/
So why is Turkey doing so well? One reason is that to an extent they have befitted from not joining the euro. The Lira (Turkish currency) was a strong currency at the start of the crisis and Turkey were able to adjust their monetary policy during the crisis to suit their needs, unlike their neighbours Greece who were stuck with EU policy that favoured centralized countries like Germany and France. If they had joined, Turkey would have had to partake in bailing out its neighbours (a drain on its booming economy) and seen its bond prices dragged down with the rest of Europe. Instead, Turkey was seen as a safe haven for investors and Istanbul is one of the financial capitals of the world. Turkey also gets the benefit of free trade with the EU despite not having full membership, one of the biggest gains from being in the EU but obtained without having to adhere to EU regulation.
Turkey’s desire to join the euro has decreased over the years.
Another reason is their geographical qualities. Firstly they are the main link between Europe and the Middle East/North Africa and vice versa. Exports to these regions have increased rapidly over the last few years as new markets are opening up, this is helping to offset decline in demand from Europe, with trade to Europe down from 56% to 47%. Secondly, Turkey has a large population which remains relatively young; this is a big asset and provides Turkey with a large labour supply for production. This makes the Turkish population highly wanted across Europe, with a lot of workers moving to Germany to take advantage of the renowned production capabilities the country possesses.
This shows UAE and Iraq are big customers for Turkey due to their economies growing, and this will only increase in the future.
Moreover, Turkey has become much more productive over the last decade. Productivity growth has averaged over 10% and has coincided with the privatisation of government owned firms (a tactic that has long produced more efficient firms). Structural changes in banking and telecommunication sectors as well as new technology open to the public have helped modernise the economy and allowed workers to gain new skills that have assisted Turkey in competing in the world market.
Shows Turkey’s productivity growth in the last two decades, rising high before crashing slightly during the recession. This was found at http://curiousmalthus.com/2012/03/16/productivity-where-is-the-turkish-economy-headed/
Finally, Turkey is benefiting from a stable government. A democratic government has given Turkey stability and respectability in the world market as investors aren’t scared off by government intervention that is notorious in communist states. The private market has been allowed to grow freely and as an Islamic state, is used as a role model for countries in the Middle East to follow. The years of military intervention were replaced with democratically elected officials, helping rid the country of the mass corruption that once held it back (though this is far from wiped out).
Turkish prime minister with Barack Obama.
However, all is not well. Human rights violations are persistently a problem within Turkey, as the EU and UN remain critical of “unfair” laws and claims of torture inside the state. These sorts of issues have long been detrimental to Turkey’s future and were the mains snagging point for their entry to the EU. Current controversies include the imprisoning of at least 100 journalists (larger than any other country) for example for charges like treason after covering press conferences of pro-Kurdish parties. Additionally, the now near extinct idea of gaining entry to the EU has slowed down reforms and FDI; as the optimism of gaining entry to the EU helped give momentum to the country and stop military intervention, but as the dream has died out so has the hope for a more liberal state.
Furthermore, Turkey has a poor current account deficit of 10%. This means they are currently importing much more than they are exporting, and their 10% deficit is easily the worst of all the emerging countries in the world. This means for Turkey to continue to grow they must rely on foreign financing, which could be more tricky now with Europe at a standstill and America less inclined to risk money. The Lira also remains tricky to predict, a standard problem for small currencies trying to compete in the world market. As with Iceland, Turkey were able to deprecate their currency when they needed to, but both currencies are now feeling the effect of fluctuations in the market (Oil price increases etc) and could do with the stability of a currency like the euro.
Showing Turkey’s current account deficit.
Turkey also remains vulnerable to the rest of Europe’s failings. As this article explains excellently; http://curiousmalthus.com/2011/12/01/how-is-turkey-immune-to-the-debt-crisis-in-europe-exactly/ Turkey are “Europe’s biggest lenders and their biggest customers”.
Overall, Turkey has been one of the success stories of the last decade, growing into a much stronger economy with a stable government. But a new model is needed if Turkey are to continue to grow, one not reliant on foreign investment but on exporting to the new growing regions of the Middle East/North Africa. Turkey could become key to linking Europe and these regions, but it will have to cut out some questionable policies (human right laws and central bank policies) if they are to be trusted by the leaders of these markets.
Some really good insight in this article. Good if you have read the books, but not a must.
The main points from the UK budget were:
Some of the explanations behind these points:
The tragedy of the commons is a concept that believes individuals will act on their own self-interests and eventually exhaust shared resources. The individual without regulation will consume more than society deems efficient, even if it is not in their own long-term interests. A classic example would be a lake where anyone is allowed to fish; individuals would deplete the lake and gain all the benefits (lots of fish) and none of the costs (no more fish in the lake). Ways around this problem are to either assign ownership of the lake to the individuals (maybe as a club) so that they now have long term benefits from restraining their fishing or the government could place taxes or quotas on the fish, thereby increasing the costs of catching more fish or simply forcing the individuals to stop fishing at a certain amount.
But a modern-day version of this problem could be the internet. Everyday billions of people are using the internet to learn vast amounts of knowledge that in any other walk of life would have a price, but with the internet is only a click of a button away. The saying “Knowledge is power” is not really applicable with the internet, as information is available to anyone, but does this reduce the value of the knowledge?
The internet (as a universal resource) is killing off many traditional suppliers of knowledge; Newspapers, Magazines, Books. They have either been forced out of business or into the online world itself, where fierce competition means trying to place a price is out of the question. It has been argued this has reduced the value of information, as there is no incentive to produce quality reports/articles/statistics when you can’t make any money from it. This is how it has come to be seen as a tragedy of commons; Users have no incentive to pay for knowledge and overuse free knowledge that can be found online, this has the effect of decreasing the standard of quality of information and users lose out in the long-term. This could easily be applicable to Music, as users download free music, artists make decreasing returns on their music and so fewer artists make music.
The methods to fixing a tragedy of the commons (as mentioned above) are much harder to apply to the internet. Giving ownership to users over knowledge on the internet is nigh on impossible, as they could just find the information somewhere else. The other method of government intervention is already being started, but mass protests from sites and users could de-rail this, as well as the fact that control over the internet has many logistic problems as information travels between countries and is incredibly hard to tract.
But does this paint the full picture? I think not. The internet has become such a revolutionary tool by being available to everyone. It is in its very essence to be accessible by the billions and has improved innovation immeasurably. Sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitter have all helped share information at faster speeds to more areas of the world than any other device. Products and businesses are now being started online to gain access to the world population, and have become some of the most successful of their kind in the world (Google, Facebook). The internet has even renewed everyday services with more efficient methods like for example online Banking and online shopping.
The idea of the internet being a tragedy of the commons also has some holes in it. Knowledge may not have a price anymore online, but that doesn’t mean companies can’t make money. Sites as mentioned above (excluding Wikipedia) make billions from advertising nowadays, as users are bombarded with new products they can buy or new service they could try out. It also dismisses the idea that knowledge doesn’t have to be about power or making money, some individuals may just want to teach the world something new. There is also dispute over the internet being a renewable resource, as that would count it out of the tragedy of the commons problem.
The internet may have some problems over knowledge, as the jungle of information can make finding relevant data difficult and it does decrease the value of information. But the idea of the internet being controlled seems both impossible and unwanted. It has connected society now and severing those bonds would be harder than people think.
Though I have to say, I miss the days when a friend could ask a dumb question and not have everyone get out their iphone.