Economic Turmoil and the Future of Brazil

For many years, Brazil has been an emerging economic hub, attracting investors from all over the world. The Brazilian economy saw an 368% increase in Gross Domestic Product growth from 2003 to 2011. In addition, Brazil took in almost half of Foreign Direct Investment flowing into South America during 2015. This doesn’t come as a surprise since it reigns as one of the major emerging national economies. However, Brazil has seen a recent economic downturn with increasing unemployment and a contracting GDP. In fact, the Brazilian government cut 2017 GDP expectations from 1.6% to 1% growth. Having been one the most lucrative foreign investments for governments to individual investors, what happened to the so-called “Country of the Future” and can Brazil regain its momentum?

Back in 2015, recession hit Brazil hard and the country is still struggling to get back on track. According to the CIA World Factbook, the economy contracted 32% from its peak in 2011 and unemployment reached a new high at 12.6% in 2016. Being based mostly on services, agriculture and oil, Brazil’s economy has a direct correlation with global demand. With global recession looming, Brazil is feeling the effects of a slow world economy.

Brazil is a top tourist destination offering beautiful beaches, a diverse culture and exciting festivals. However, with the world economy slowing down, people are less likely to travel abroad. Since the majority of the country’s GDP derives from the service industry, Brazil will not be able to rebound any time soon unless there is a major boost in consumer confidence.

The demand for Brazilian exports was slashed when its largest trading partner, China, entered into an economic slowdown of their own. The decrease in exports caused massive layoffs throughout the nation. The notorious economic downward spiral began by wary consumer spending as unemployment rose. Companies that tried to gain capital by borrowing in U.S. dollars found it difficult to pay back those loans as the Brazilian Real crashed 25% in the span of a year in 2015.

One of the major hits came from low oil prices and the corruption of Petrobras, a large oil company and Brazil’s largest source of investment. Brazil is major producer of oil, exporting $11.8 billion worth in 2015, according to the Observatory for Economic Complexity. OPEC delivered a major blow when the cartel decided not to cut oil production, causing oil futures prices to plunge. In order to cope with heavy losses, Petrobras was forced to sell off assets and halt future research and expansion plans.

As if things weren’t going poorly, Petrobras was also caught in a scandal with former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and other high office executives. From 2004 to 2012, the company had spent over $2 billion on bribes to politicians whom would allow the company to charge inflated prices for construction contracts. Now that the scandal has unfolded, Petrobras executives face jail time and the company as a whole is forced to pay billions in fines.

So what does the future hold for Brazil?

Although at the moment the future looks dim, there are still signs of hope Brazil can turn itself around. The Real has seemed to stabilize in 2016 and heads into 2017 with an upward trend. Moreover, experts’ GDP projections for 2018 through 2020 show promising figures that Brazil can restore pre-recession level growth.

Even more promising, U.S. companies are still showing faith in Brazil’s future. American Airlines plans to invest $100 million in an aircraft maintenance center in Sao Paulo. Brazilian Investment Partnership Minister Wellington Moreira Franco and many countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France and Japan agree there are still reasons to invest in Brazil. This should be seen as a sign of confidence that the Brazilian market will grow soundly with the support of both national and international investment.