Opinion

David Rohde

Prosperity without power

David Rohde
May 22, 2013 19:46 UTC

A woman walking near the headquarters (L) of the Federal Security Service, in central Moscow, May 14, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

In Moscow, they are “non-Soviet Russians.” In New Delhi, they are a “political Goliath” that may soon awake. In Beijing and São Paolo, they are lawyers and other professionals who complain about glacial government bureaucracies and endemic graft.

Prosperity is spreading in many emerging market nations, but political change is not.

Economic liberalization has sparked vast economic changes in the BRIC nations – China, India, Russia and Brazil. A middle class that was once made up of government servants is now dominated by private-sector employees.

At the same time, government institutions that once provided the basics of life – education, healthcare and employment – are crumbling. Frustrated members of the middle class are demanding change, but traditional power holders, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to India’s large political parties, remain entrenched.

The BRIC laggard

David Rohde
Sep 28, 2012 13:40 UTC

SAO PAULO – For decades, Denis Dias’s parents could never break into Brazil’s middle class. They started a bakery and a pizzeria in the 1970s and 1980s, but the country’s economic instability and hyper-inflation consumed their businesses and their hopes. His father ended up owning a newsstand. His mother worked as a maid. And Denis attended dilapidated state-run schools.

Over the last 10 years, Denis and at least 35 million other Brazilians have achieved their parents’ dream. Denis is a corporate lawyer at a Brazilian energy company and a new member of Brazil’s middle class, now 100 million people strong. Denis, his company and his nation have ridden the exports of iron ore, soy, oil and other natural resources to prosperity.

But Brazilians ranging from Dias to business leaders to government officials say Brazil must develop a more sophisticated economy and effective government if it hopes to continue its rise. While attention has focused on political turmoil in India, China and Russia, Brazil has quietly emerged as the economic laggard of the BRIC countries.

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