Lula should focus more on Brazil – 05/26/2023 – Rodrigo Zeidan
Presidents have big egos. So far, nothing more. The problem is when the ego interferes in running the country. Lula seems to be falling into this trap. She seems to be wanting international prominence instead of trying to get the country out of the middle-income trap.
The only possible influence of Brazil would come from the fact that it is part of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). What began in 2001 as a term created by economist Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs to describe a set of countries that should be the engine of world growth has been institutionalized in various directions (the term initially was BRIC, as it did not contained South Africa, which joined the group in 2010).
The New Development Bank, chaired by Dilma Rousseff since March of this year, began as the Bank of the Brics. Since 2009, these countries meet at an important annual event (the next one takes place in August, in South Africa), and there are several initiatives, many of them led by China, as centers of exclusive studies on the subject.
But the Brics do not exist, at least not in a cohesive form. Today the group is little more than a mechanism for China (and, to some extent, India) to exert its influence directly, without going through the US or the OECD.
When the term was coined, the BRICs were one-fifth of the world’s GDP, divided into 7.5% for China, 4.5% for India, 3.5% for Brazil and Russia each, and 1% for South Africa. It was expected that the bloc would reach 40% of world GDP by 2030. And that will probably happen, but only thanks to China and India.
Today, China alone has the same weight in the world economy as all the Brics in 2001. India? Just over 9%. But Brazil and Russia are only 2.5% each, approximately, while South Africa is only 0.6%. In other words, the Brics are divided between the hares and the tortoises, in which case the tortoises will not win the race.
China and India are the countries that really matter most in the Brics. And any agreement between “developing countries” only exists if China agrees. It is too arrogant for someone to think that Brazil has what to do in resolving Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Brazil, in this story, will be a puppet of Chinese interests. Which may not be all bad, since being allied with the great Kingdom of the Center has its benefits, even more so in the current process of decoupling between the economies of China and the West.
Lula seems to be wanting to end his term by recovering his post as “The Guy”, an extremely official title granted by American presidents to colleagues who enjoy unanimous approval among their peers. But Brazil is full of problems, and Lula, as an excellent articulator, should concentrate more on the country he governs than on showing himself to his colleagues in the world.
The more time he spends massaging his ego in international meetings, the less available he is to take his measures in Congress. The president has already made seven international trips. But quality matters more than quantity.
By rolling up his sleeves to work, improving the country, Lula can leave an important legacy. The chances of delivering Brazil better are much greater than having a relevant role in stopping Russian violence. Do you want to be “The Guy” again? Hard work. In the country. There are no shortcuts.
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