As we begin the “golden decade” (as the next 10 years have been called, at least in Rio de Janeiro), full of such events as the Military Games, Rock in Rio, the World Cup, the Olympics and others that are sure to come, I wonder how well Brazil is protecting itself (the Buy Brazil Act aside) against the onslaught of foreign companies which have all surely been slipped their permanent green cards. Sure, there’s tycoons such as Eike Batista at the forefront, but can he do enough (and more importantly, will he, since he seems to be quite cozy with China)?
To express my point, I feel the need to bring up a real example of my fears, which happens to have taken place in Jamaica. The Jamaican dairy industry was going very well, even 10 years after the country’s anti-IMF government ended up needing a loan from the IMF in the late-70’s. With the loan, of course, eventually came terms and conditions. In the early-90’s, however, the IMF required that Jamaica lower its tariffs on imported (and heavily subsidized) dairy products, particularly that of powdered milk. Of course, doing so would completely ruin the national dairy industry but as the government saw no alternative, they accepted the terms of the IMF. What resulted was that Jamaicans, already strapped for cash, preferred to purchase the cheaper powdered milk instead of supporting their own people and industry, though at a higher price.
What does the above example have to do with Brazil? Well, providing foreign solutions for everyday products and services creates reliability on them, which in turn takes business away from national companies. One argument could be made, from the point of view of the multinationals, that they are merely filling a void left in the market. Another argument can be made that work is being given to Brazilians in the kinds of companies in the picture at the top of this post. While both might have some truth to them, I still don’t see the current situation in Brazil as a positive one, even in the face of a booming economy.
The logos above weren’t randomly thrown together, I selected them myself and all, save the bottom three, reflect foreign companies that operate in Brazil (the bottom three are either scheduled or rumored to begin operations in Brazil in the future). In my experience living in Brazil twice, I saw time and time again, Brazilians choosing the “chique” companies over the national ones and it almost seemed that the marketing power of the multinationals could somehow improve the taste of the food and the look and feel of other products. In some cases, yes, Brazil needs to build up its own industries but before that, a line needs to be drawn, one that shows what Brazil is doing on its own and what Brazil could be doing on its own.
I just hope that the “golden decade” will not follow long-established patterns of foreigners fattening their pockets on the riches of others. The problem is companies with unlimited funds can easily divide and conquer. With economics, the promise of status or even friends and the ability to enter the home and more, many people are left rather defenseless to their tactics. Even in the face of what I would deem soft war techniques, I would hope the Brazilian people will learn to say “no” more often. Perhaps the rise of Brazil will lead to looking inwards to the talents and qualities that Brazil already has.
Originally written for Street Smart Brazil