GW Brazil Initiative Study Abroad in Brasilia / by Mark Langevin

Brazil Initiative Study Abroad

Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University

Dear readers:

I’m in Brasilia with my Study Abroad group of Masters students from the Elliott School of International Affairs. We spent a week in Rio de Janeiro studying energy and equality as well as other pending development issues. We are now in Brasilia finishing up this course and focusing on the political economy of Brazilian economic and social development as well as the ongoing political crisis.

While we understand that Brazil made great progress in equitable growth during the first decade of the 21st century, but the current crisis raises questions about the sustainability of this model. Can Brazil grow and redistribute income in the future?

Around the world, the global economic downturn has threatened those who have struggled to leave extreme poverty behind, including millions of Brazilians.  The steep economic decline in Brazil and the political paralysis of Brasilia also threatens to push millions of Brazilians back into poverty and shrink the opportunities of young workers, entrepreneurs, and those who deliver essential public services. There is no question that the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal represents a watershed moment in Brazilian history, but it also reflects the wasted opportunities during the last decade’s economic boom and the difficult challenges ahead as Brazil attempts to move ahead with political reforms that increasing accountability and decrease governmental and corporate malfeasance.

My students have come to understand the tremendous potential of Brazil and discussed what it might take to pull the nation out of the complex economic and political crisis. What we need now is more learning, more exchanges between our students and faculty with Brazilian counterparts, and a collective effort to understand how the global political economy poses obstacles and opportunities for young professionals everywhere.