Brazil is perhaps the farthest I have had to travel in my philanthropic pursuits. My wife and I were in Brazil for close to 10 days for something that can be termed as a working vacation. The term ‘working vacation’ being an oxymoron here. Interestingly, I found the country of Brazil in itself as a bit of an oxymoron. I will tell you the reasons for this observation as we go ahead. 

Brazil is one of the largest countries on our planet. Not just this, it’s one of the largest land masses where many generations of people from different races have lived and coexisted brilliantly. The people of Brazil have worked together for the prosperity of a nation that is leading the South American states as a pioneer in technology, heavy industries and more.

From the historic perspective, Brazil has achieved a lot on the global stage with its strong economy and exports sector. But then we have to also agree that the country is yet to achieve its true potential as a leader in various other aspects. Over the past many years Brazil has consistently occupied the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The most recent one being the uncontrolled fires in the Amazon, which are a result of outdated agricultural practices and short-sighted local politics. But even amongst all these challenges, it was heartening to see that the common Brazilian continues to strive hard to earn a decent living and raise his/her standard of living. 

Historically speaking, Australia too has many things in common with Brazil. The dominant population in the country too came from another nation and settled down amongst the natives. But countless elections and changes later, the country believes in taking all its citizens along in its development journey. Special laws and provisions have been created to safeguard the rights and privileges of native communities. Such actions have to a great extent empowered them to join the mainstream and contribute to the country’s progress as a beacon for democratic principles.

When the same scenarios are juxtaposed on Brazil, I feel that it needs to do more in taking everyone along. In a world where the concept of borders and countries is becoming more and more irrelevant, everything from educational reform to city planning to job creation should be done for the benefit of anyone and everyone. Inclusive growth spearheaded by the ones in power can help Brazilian citizens prosper without being marginalised to favelas or city slums that carry with them social stigma as well as lesser chances to leave one’s identity behind and join the mainstream. Stronger law enforcement can help bring down rampant drug abuse and peddling in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Inaction in these aspects has resulted in stark ground realities like homelessness, violence, crime and eventually lawlessness resulting from gang wars and mafia rule. It is in this context I feel that Brazil is a badly managed Australia that needs to up its game in creating more opportunities for its people.

Agreed that its a large country with a diverse population spread across millions of square kilometres, but we need to also keep in mind success stories like India and China, that have reformed and overhauled their entire economies to take millions of people out of poverty. The challenges posed by diversity and the size of a country can in fact be tackled if the leadership is focussed on building a nation that can fully encash its social capital. This also got me thinking if smaller countries like Taiwan, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Norway etc. are better managed because of their size. Is small really beautiful?

Even though the welcome extended to me by my Rotarian friends was unforgettable, it did cause me pain to see the rampant inequalities present in the local society. My short stay in Brazil has made my resolve stronger to act against inequality and work towards raising the living standards of the ones around us. It is in this regard that I am looking into newer and bigger ideas that can cause pathbreaking changes at scale. I will keep you posted on the same in the coming weeks.