Bahia Continues to Fuel Brazil’s Boom
While Americans fret about India and China, the country that is really making waves is Brazil. Once subjected to outrageous spikes in inflation as well as devastating poverty, Brazil has turned a corner with its spectacular economic growth. The boom is affecting regions that had long been economic backwaters. One state experiencing rapid growth is Bahia, along with its namesake capital, Salvador da Bahia. Once a poor laggard compared to the industrial regions surrounding Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Porto Alegre, Bahia has rates of growth that would leave most U.S. states envious. Agricultural commodities, new seaport facilities, and the promise of offshore oil--not to mention sugarcane ethanol--have led economic growth to reach an annual rate of 7.5 percent. As Matthew Cowley of the Wall Street Journal explains, growing exports and programs like Bolsa Familia, a largely successful social welfare program, have spurred Bahia’s economy to perform as well as the entire country taken as a whole. Not everything is perfect in Bahia (as Daniela Mercury, Brazil’s leading music star, demonstrates with her advocacy). Poverty is still rampant in isolated areas, environmental stewardship is a concern with farming’s rise in the cerrado, and export-driven economies are subject to risk when the exporting nation’s currency is too strong. But as I repeat over and over again, Brazil is a political and economic force to be reckoned with. If a rising tide truly raises all boats, many of us had better start studying Portuguese and jump on board--the future is in Latin America’s largest economy. Photo: a view Salvador da Bahia from the port, February 2010 (click to expand).