Monday, May 19, 2014

World Cup a Setback for Brazil

Brazil saw the upcoming major sports event as a focal point to build a dozen new stadiums and new infrastructure, but the process has gone so badly that it has become an embarrassment for government at all levels from national to local. People already suspected much of Brazil’s government of corruption, but now they are sure of it. Billions of dollars for stadium construction paid for work that wasn’t done, forcing expensive rework when the gaps were discovered. This corruption appears to have led directly to the construction deaths that have become a focal point of protests against the event. Planned improvements in transportation have been scrapped or delayed. With only days remaining, there are reasons to doubt whether the World Cup will come off looking like a success, even on television.

It is a setback for Brazil. The country has done well in recent decades when it has focused on economic self-sufficiency. It had looked like it had the best chance to break through to a European-like middle-class economy among the “large emerging economies.” Hosting the World Cup was supposed to be a chance to show off its progress, but it was also a departure from its economic strategy and now may be seen as, at best, an extravagant misstep that it will take time to recover from. People on the street know this and dozens of officeholders have already been removed from office because of official wrongdoing or other problems related to the preparations. If there is a positive note in all this, it is that the high-profile problems have changed the political conversation and may force politicians to become more practical in their planning.