I've been terribly remiss at dealing with this topic, in no small part because, while Brazil prepares to head to the polls again, I continue to try to finish a dissertation. However, with the campaign having really picked up steam once Brazil exited the World Cup, now seems as good a time as any to dive into the debates and discussions on the impending election.
-The PSDB under FHC pushed privatization to extremes, trying to privatize everything (and succeeding with just about everything except Brazil's public university system and Petrobras; on both, the Brazilian people drew the line, and FHC had to step back a bit). While some say this did improve services, it also raised prices (when a French company bought out Brazil's public phone system, for example, phone prices in Brazil immediately went up 30%, even as they dropped 30% in France); what is more, as Lula demonstrated, investing in state-run companies and improving efficiency are not mutually exclusive terms, and when both are executed, can make an even stronger company than privatization could, all while offering greater benefits to your own citizens.-In addition to adhering strongly to neoliberalism, FHC kept his economic relations connected almost strictly to the European Union and the United States, meaning Brazil's economy was by and large dependent on the fluxes of the American and European markets (no small irony, given that, in the 1970s, FHC was a leading theorist in dependency theory). While Lula did not shed the mercantilist policies of his predecessor, he did extend them to all of the world. Trade with Africa; deals with Arab countries in the Middle East; agreements with China; partnerships with India; collaborations with the United States - all were fair game, and Lula fostered these agreements in all parts of the world. This was beneficial both economically and politically; on the economic front, it diversified Brazil's trade, making it less susceptible to one country's or region's economic decline and strengthening its own economy (indeed, it was one of the last countries to enter the 2008 global recession, entering into recession in June 2009 and emerging from it just one quarter later.) Politically, Brazil was able to strengthen its role as a global player, working with everybody but dependent on nobody. Thus, Brazil enjoyed a level of both political and economic autonomy it had never witnessed before. The old joke used to be "Brazil - the country of tomorrow, forever." Yet Lula seems to have guided it very close to being the country of tomorrow today.-Thirdly, there has been Lula's emphasis on state programs. A sort of flip-side to neoliberalism, Lula proposed a greater state presence and higher government spending on programs like Zero Hunger and the Bolsa Familia, which provided money to poor families for food or for their children to attend school longer. These programs have by all accounts been massively successful, and thanks in no small part to them, more people are joining Brazil's middle class than had ever taken place before. These policies ran directly counter to FHC's emphasis on "trickle-down" economics, something that Serra also emphasizes. While there are still enormous gaps between the wealthiest and the poorest in Brazil, the middle seems to be growing, and has done so through increased state spending (something the U.S. could learn from), and not from privatization and hopes for a trickle-down effect.