While South America has moved to the centre left, the centre right is dominant in the European Union’s bigger countries. Elected centre left governments now rule only four out of the European Union’s 27 member states.
Britain and Europe are experiencing its worst economic and social crisis for the last 80 years, high levels of unemployment and slow economic growth. In contrast, Brazil shows strong economic growth, albeit reduced in 2011 due to fears of inflation. Unemployment is at a record low, while in the UK and the rest of Europe it is dismally high. Brazil is expected to become the world’s fifth largest economy, while sadly, due to ideological defeatism, both Britain and the rest of Europe accepts economic and political decline.
Since President Lula’s administration, there has been a reduction in income inequalities due to programmes to transfer incomes to the poorest families. Britain under the Coalition has discouraged social housing, which could generate jobs, as well as providing low cost housing for many families. At the same time, Brazil’s Government has embarked on a huge housing programme financed by state-owned banks aimed at low-income families. The Government also implemented “Project Hunger” to combat hunger in Brazil, which has ended malnutrition for millions of people.
President Lula introduced policies intended to end the economic and social discrimination against the Afro-Brazilian population, and adopted affirmative action for public sector jobs, and university places. President Dilma has continued with the progressive legacy of her predecessor. She has launched a big programme to eliminate the extreme absolute poverty suffered by 16 million Brazilians. Under President Lula, poverty was radically reduced in Brazil, and the middle class greatly expanded. Brazil was the last country to be affected by the 2008 global financial crisis, and the first country to exit it. Brazil’s banks are well capitalised and tightly regulated by the Central bank, unlike the British and European banks.
In foreign policy, Brazil opposed the Iraq War, and is non-interventionist in the current Libyan war. Brazil enjoys good relations with the United States and with the more radical governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba. Brazil is now a leading member of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the G20, which after 2008 became the main global economic and financial forum, eclipsing the older G7.
However, still more has to be done to resolve the considerable issues of human rights abuses (a UN report has pointed out serious human rights abuses in Brazil’s prisons), indigenous peoples’ rights, and the deforestation of the Amazon. The Brazilian Government needs to take tougher action to curb violence against environmentalists, and agrarian reform activists. With its moderate social democratic approach under President Dilma Rousseff Brazil is on the right track, and can provide an encouraging inspiration to Britain.