Brazil is one of the world’s largest and most populous countries, with over 200 million people. It is considered an emerging economy and regional power. Since the early 2000s, Brazil has experienced rapid economic growth and worked to reduce poverty and inequality. However, Brazil still faces developmental challenges including crime, corruption, and inadequate infrastructure.
On the other hand, the 22 Arab countries have highly diverse economic, political and social realities. Some like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are high-income countries, while others like Yemen and Sudan suffer from conflict and poverty. The common challenges facing the region are high youth unemployment, significant gender inequalities, and heavy reliance on oil exports. There is a renewed policy focus on economic diversification, improving education and healthcare, boosting the role of the private sector and empowering women.
This article will analyze and compare key aspects of development in Brazil and the Arab countries including: economic growth and structure, social development indicators, governance and institutions, regional integration efforts, innovation, infrastructure development, public service delivery, environmental sustainability, and external partnerships. It will highlight relative strengths and weaknesses in both regions’ development trajectories and reflect on potential lessons and opportunities for cooperation between Brazil and the Arab world.
Economic Growth and Structure
Brazil’s Economic Growth Story
Brazil has made remarkable economic and social progress in the past two decades. After facing hyperinflation and economic stagnation in the 1980s and 90s, Brazil initiated major macroeconomic stabilization efforts including adopting inflation targeting, floating the exchange rate, and fiscal reforms. This paved the way for economic growth averaging 3.5% between 2000-2012. The economy proved resilient, recovering quickly from the 2008 global financial crisis. Economic growth led to rising household incomes and swelling consumer demand.
However, Brazil’s growth slowed to just 1% on average during 2011-2017, impacted by falling commodity prices, domestic political turmoil and loss of consumer confidence. The country fell into a deep recession in 2015-16 with GDP contracting nearly 7%. Unemployment touched a record 13%. The Temer government cut public spending and initiated austerity reforms to tackle high deficits. Brazil returned to growth of 1% in 2017 but recovery remains fragile. The new Bolsonaro government faces challenges of persistent unemployment, rising public debt and need for further economic reforms.
Key Drivers of Brazil’s Economic Growth
- Macroeconomic stability after hyperinflation crisis – Adopting inflation targeting, floating exchange rate and fiscal discipline
- Commodities boom – Export revenues rose sharply as global commodities demand surged, especially from China
- Expanding domestic consumption – Growing middle class, rising incomes and credit access boosted consumer spending
- Social welfare schemes – Cash transfer programs like Bolsa Familia lifted millions out of poverty
- Investments in infrastructure and domestic industry – Programs like PAC poured billions into ports, roads, energy projects
- Discovery of deep sea oil reserves – Offshore oil and gas discoveries promised to make Brazil a major global producer
However, Brazil failed to capitalize on the boom years to enact deeper structural reforms. It continues to struggle with low productivity, high costs, inadequate infrastructure and human capital deficiencies. Bureaucratic red tape also undermines the business climate. Brazil ranked 109th in World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business rankings.
Key Economic Indicators
|GDP per capita (USD)||3,955||10,992||9,821|
|GDP (USD billions)||644||2,143||2,055|
|Fiscal balance (% of GDP)||-3.3%||-2.5%||-7.8%|
|Public debt (% of GDP)||55.5%||54.2%||84.0%|
Brazil’s economy is the world’s 9th largest, representing 2.9% of global GDP. The services sector contributes 74% of GDP, industry 20% and agriculture 6%. Key sectors include finance, manufacturing, mining, steel, petroleum, cement, chemicals, textiles, and biofuels. Major exports are transport equipment, soybeans, iron ore, oil, coffee, autos while key imports are machinery, electrical equipment, auto parts and chemicals.
Brazil has a fairly advanced financial system. However, access to credit remains expensive and out of reach for many individuals and SMEs. The Sao Paolo stock exchange is Latin America’s largest. But capital markets remain underdeveloped compared to other major economies. Infrastructure gaps, complicated regulations and high taxes constrain overall competitiveness.
Arab Countries’ Economic Conditions
Arab economies range from resource-rich high-income Gulf states to conflict-torn poor states like Yemen and Sudan. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman – stand out for their energy wealth, economic muscle and relatively better standards of living. On average, GCC per capita income was $24,454 in 2017 compared to just $3,639 in other Arab countries. But many Arab states suffered severely from the mid-2010s oil price crash given heavy hydrocarbon dependence. Conflicts and instability have destroyed economies, industries and infrastructure in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan.
Economic Growth and Structure in Key Arab States:
Saudi Arabia: The largest Arab economy saw robust 5% average growth during 2000-2013 due to record oil revenues. High oil income allowed massive public investment in infrastructure, housing, education and healthcare expansions. The non-oil private sector also grew, buoyed by low interest rates and rising consumer confidence. However, oil dependence made it vulnerable to commodity cycle downturns. Growth slowed to under 2% by 2017 as oil revenues shrank. Unemployment rose to 12% by 2018. Reforms aimed at diversifying the oil-reliant economy are picking up pace.
UAE: The UAE has the Arab world’s second largest economy thanks to its oil wealth, trade and services hub status, and astute economic policies. Dubai especially carved a niche as the region’s tourism, financial services, logistics and media hub. While some sectors like real estate and finance were hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, the UAE remained an island of stability attracting capital and talent from across the region. Average GDP growth stayed above 3% annually during 2010-2017. But volatility in oil revenues remains a key challenge.
Egypt: Egypt has the largest non-oil economy in the MENA region with a diverse industrial base and fast-growing service sector. After the 2011 Revolution, political instability and security issues severely impacted growth, tourism revenues and foreign investment. The economy averaged just 2% annual growth between 2011-2014. However, the authorities implemented major macroeconomic reforms including devaluing the currency. Growth recovered crossing 5% in 2018/19, the highest in a decade. But unemployment stayed high at 10% while inflation rose to 23% in 2017.
Arab Economies: Key Development Challenges
- Over-dependence on oil – Hydrocarbon revenues comprise over 50% of GDP and 75% of export earnings for most Arab oil exporters. This makes them vulnerable to global energy price shifts.
- Weak private sector – The state dominates economic activity in many Arab countries. Private firms especially SMEs face significant hurdles, hampering job creation.
- Unemployment – The Arab region has the highest youth unemployment globally, averaging 30% in 2018 due to skill mismatches and slow job creation.
- Inequality – Wealth distribution is highly unequal between rich and poor households and across different regions/governors.
- Corruption – Most Arab states score poorly on corruption rankings, undermining fair business environments.
- Regional conflicts – Wars and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya have devastated economies and destroyed infrastructure.
- Water scarcity – The MENA region has the world’s lowest per capita freshwater availability, posing challenges for agriculture and living standards.
Brazil’s Social Development Experience
Brazil achieved strong human development progress between 2000-2015. According to the UN Human Development Index measuring health, education and living standards, Brazil’s HDI value improved by over 21% from 0.665 in 2000 to 0.754 in 2015, lifting millions out of poverty. Key social gains included:
Poverty Reduction – Brazil halved extreme poverty from 9.7% of the population in 2003 to 4.3% by 2016 through fast economic growth and redistributive policies. Income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient also fell from 0.583 in 2001 to 0.515 in 2014.
Improved Education Access – Federal programs like Bolsa Escola provided cash transfers to low-income households conditional on children attending school. Educational attainment rose fast with secondary enrollments more than doubling from 40% in 2000 to 85% by 2013.
Better Health Outcomes – Universal public healthcare system (SUS) expanded access and reduced healthcare disparities. Infant mortality fell by over 65% from 28 per 1,000 births in 2000 to 10 in 2015. Life expectancy hit 75 years, up from 62 years in 1980.
Enhanced Social Assistance – Brazil adopted a rights-based approach towards its citizens. Innovative social welfare programs like Bolsa Familia, Beneficio de Prestacao Continuada provided direct cash transfers to millions of poor and vulnerable households. Today over 46 million Brazilians benefit from such programs.
However, Brazil continues to suffer from high crime and violence. The homicide rate hit 31.6 per 100,000 in 2016, one of the world’s highest and disproportionately affecting poor black youth. Drug trafficking-related violence is rampant in urban slums. Corruption scandals like Lava Jato have also undermined public faith in institutions. Discrimination against marginalized groups including indigenous communities remains deeply entrenched.
Key Social Development Indicators
|Population below poverty line||22%||11%||8%|
|Income inequality (Gini index)||0.583||0.519||0.515|
|Infant mortality rate||28||17||14|
|Life expectancy at birth||69.5||73.5||75.4|
|Mean years of schooling||5.8||7.2||8.6|
|Improved water access||88%||96%||98%|
|Improved sanitation access||75%||82%||85%|
Social Development in the Arab World
The Arab region comprises over 400 million people straddling North Africa, the Levant and the Gulf. Social development levels vary widely across the oil-rich Gulf states and the conflict-ridden poorer nations. However, some common challenges are high youth unemployment, skill gaps, gender gaps, refugree crises and rapid urbanization pressures.
The UN’s Arab Human Development Report 2016 painted a worrying picture of deep development challenges across the region – economic, political, social and cultural. Key findings included:
- High inequality – The top 10% of Arabs held 55-75% of total wealth. Inequality is embedded between countries, within countries and between men and women.
- High Youth unemployment – Youth jobless rates averaged 25-30%, the highest globally, fueled by skills mismatches, slow job creation and barriers facing women.
- Deteriorating security – Ongoing conflicts have displaced millions across Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Terrorism and violence has risen post Arab Spring.
- Gender inequality – Despite progress, Arab women only hold 25% of high-skilled jobs and just 20% of parliament seats. Gender gaps are among the world’s largest.
- Poor healthcare – Average health spending across the region is only 5% of GDP. Regional disease burdens include rising obesity and diabetes.
- Refugee crisis – Ongoing conflicts resulted in 25 million displaced Arabs by end 2016, over half being children. This has stressed public services.
- Water scarcity – The region has just 1.2% of global water resources but 6% of the world’s population. Agriculture consumes 85% of the scarce water.
Key recent social reforms include increased spending on healthcare, education, social safety nets and youth entrepreneurship programs. More Arab women are entering the workforce, supported by employment quotas in some countries. Private sector-led job creation is improving. But social development requires even bolder reforms to deepen gender inclusion, upgrade skills and education quality, and promote knowledge-intensive industries.
Governance and Institutions
Governance Challenges in Brazil
Brazil returned to democracy in 1985 after 2 decades of military rule. Successive governments invested heavily in social programs targeting the poor and expanded citizens’ rights. Democratic institutions were strengthened. However, Brazil still faces governance and institutional weaknesses including:
- Bureaucracy – Complex bureaucratic processes hamper effective policymaking and cause delays across sectors.
- Corruption – Historic corruption remains entrenched. Lava Jato scandal embroiled politicians and businesses in bribery schemes worth billions.
- Public sector inefficiency – Overlapping roles across federal, state and municipal agencies reduces accountability and efficiency.
- Crime and violence – Drug trafficking, police brutalities in favelas and high homicide rates weaken rule of law.
- Lack of collaboration – Antagonistic centre-state relations reduces consensus-building over key reforms in areas like pensions, taxation and social security.
- Infrastructure gaps – Historic under-investment has led to massive deficits in transport, water, sanitation, housing and energy infrastructure.
- Weak fiscal discipline – Public spending has grown faster than revenues, leading to persistent budget deficits especially at state government level.
Some governance innovations like participatory budgeting, single registries and targeted basic service delivery programs have shown positive results. Going forward, improving governance will require reforms to simplify bureaucracy, improve transparency, expand e-governance, reform public sector human resources management and enhance accountability across different tiers of government.
State of Governance in the Arab World
According to the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, Arab states score below global averages on indicators of voice and accountability, rule of law, regulatory quality and control of corruption. Challenges reflect both capacity and legitimacy issues.
Key Governance Challenges in Arab States:
- Democratic deficits – Most states are authoritarian regimes with limited civil liberties. Repression grew after 2011 Arab uprisings.
- Public sector inefficiencies – Bloated public sectors with overlapping mandates, overstaffing and bureaucratic decision-making.
- Corruption – Systemic corruption remains widespread from petty bribery to high-level cronyism. But few accountability mechanisms exist.
- Insecurity – Conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya caused state collapse and weakened law and order. Terrorism has risen.
- Justice system issues – Judiciaries lack independence. Slow and costly procedures limit access to justice.
- Youth exclusion – Youth are politically alienated and face economic barriers despite comprising 30% of the population.
- Gender discrimination – Patriarchal laws on marriage, mobility, assets and voting continue to discriminate against Arab women.
- Economic openness lacking – Regulations still deter foreign investment and limit private sector’s competitiveness.
State effectiveness varies considerably however across the diverse Arab states. The Gulf monarchies have built high state capacity and public service delivery institutions fueled by energy wealth. Tunisia’s public administration reforms post the 2011 revolution have improved citizen engagement and transparency. Going forward, a key priority is liberalizing Arab economies and societies by expanding opportunities for youth, women and entrepreneurs. Efficient e-government services can boost competiveness. Independent judiciaries, free media and accountability mechanisms are essential to fight corruption.
Brazil’s Regional Integration Experience
Brazil is a founding member of the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) established in 1960. It participated in LAFTA’s successor trade blocs – Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) and Mercosur.
Mercosur – formed in 1991 between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – is considered one of the world’s most successful customs unions. Intra-regional trade grew from $4 billion in 1990 to over $40 billion by 2014. The bloc expanded to include Venezuela in 2012. Brazil has signed several bilateral FTAs with other Latin American countries like Mexico deepening regional economic links. Various initiatives like the Initiative for Infrastructure Integration of South America (IIRSA) have sought to improve cross-border connectivity.
However, Brazil has traditionally been a reluctant partner focused narrowly on commercial interests rather than broader strategic integration. Its manufacturing sector remains protective of captive domestic markets. Brazil has higher trade barriers than Mexico and Chile who embraced globalization rapidly. Mercosur itself suffers from high internal trade costs due to member states erecting technical barriers and lengthy customs procedures. Non-tariff barriers to trade are widespread.
Brazil’s insular regionalism strategy is changing given China’s rise and the mega-trade deals like TPP and TTIP across Asia and Atlantic regions. It played an active role along with other Latin American states to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011. CELAC represents political unification across 33 countries in the region. Going forward, Brazil and Latin America needs a revival of the integration agenda to allow freer movement of goods, capital and labour. Reducing logistics costs through transport corridors and trade facilitation reforms are vital to enhance external competitiveness.
Arab Regional Integration
Attempts at Arab integration have been on since the mid-20th century driven by shared cultural and economic interests. Key regional groupings include:
- Arab League – Formed in 1945, it brings together 22 Arab states to foster closer ties on issues including economics, security and politics. But concrete actions have been limited due to conflicting national interests.
- Gulf Cooperation Council – Formed in 1981 between six Gulf monarchies. It has significantly integrated member states’ economies through customs union and common market. But bilateral political disputes sometimes hamper joint projects.
- Arab Maghreb Union – Formed in 1989 to promote greater Maghreb integration. But political tensions and protectionism by member states like Algeria undermined progress.
Intra-regional merchandise trade between Arab states remains limited at around 10% of total Arab trade. This is lower than levels seen in integrated regions like the EU. Barriers include restrictive rules of origin, inefficient trade logistics connecting Arab economies and lack of trade policy harmonization. Major pan-Arab infrastructure initiatives
Innovation and Technology
Brazil’s Innovation Capabilities
Brazil has built substantive research and technological capabilities across agriculture, aerospace, oil and gas, biomedicine and engineering sectors. Public investment in science, technology and innovation expanded significantly in the 2000s. R&D expenditures rose from 1% of GDP in 2000 to 1.2% by 2010 with an aim to reach 2% by 2022.
Key innovation strengths include:
- Strong university system – High-quality technology institutes like Unicamp and Pelotas Federal University that collaborate closely with industry in R&D.
- Competitive agri-research – State institution Embrapa is a global leader in tropical agriculture and biofuels research.
- Aerospace expertise – Brazil has Latin America’s largest aerospace sector. Aerospace exports totalled $6.4 billion in 2018 led by Embraer.
- Petroleum innovation – Petrobras’ expertise in deep sea drilling, enhanced oil recovery in salt layers and biofuels is globally recognized.
- Biotechnology advances – Brazil approved commercial cultivation of genetically engineered soybean in 2005, only the 3rd country globally to do so.
However, Brazil’s business expenditure on R&D is just 0.57% of GDP which is low compared to OECD levels of 1-3%. University-industry collaboration remains weaker compared to East Asian economies. Only 13% of firms introduced product or process innovations during 2008-14. Venture capital activity is still nascent. Intellectual property regime also remains weak.
Going forward, Brazil must boost private investments into innovative activities. But higher education quality and skill gaps need addressing. Easing stringent regulatory barriers will incentivize greater domestic R&D spending and technology licensing from abroad. Tax breaks for private R&D along with stronger IP protections can also help.
Innovation Capabilities in the Arab World
Despite high per capita income, innovation performance in Arab Gulf states lags behind advanced economies and East Asia. The Arab world overall accounted for just 1.1% of global R&D spending and 2% of researchers in 2013. No Arab university ranks among the world’s top 100 technology institutions. Key challenges include:
- Low R&D spending – Total Arab R&D expenditures averaged just 0.68% of GDP over 2007-17 compared to 2-3% in advanced countries. Private sector contribution is negligible.
- Human capital deficits – Low education quality hampers critical thinking and advanced skills development essential for innovation.
- Weak university-industry links – Collaboration remains minimal on research or commercializing innovations.
- Bureaucracy – Administrative hurdles and weak IP frameworks deter private investments into innovative activities.
- Reliance on oil revenues – Easy oil income discourages building competitive, innovative non-oil sectors.
However, some positive developments include the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) established in Saudi Arabia in 2009 aiming to foster top-notch scientific research. The Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi focuses on developing clean technologies. Dubai’s leadership has invested over $7 billion into developing an innovation and technology entrepreneurship ecosystem. But realizing innovation-led growth requires bolder reforms and long-term vision across the region.
Brazil’s Infrastructure Challenge
Brazil’s infrastructure woes are well-recognized as a binding constraint hampering national competitiveness and future growth prospects. Key issues include:
- Transport gaps – Brazil’s road network density at 0.2 km of paved road per square km of arable land is well below peers like China (1.7) and India (1.6). Just 12.4% of all cargo is transported via railways compared to over 45% in North America and Europe. Chronic congestion and delays cost billions annually.
- Water and sanitation access – Despite progress, 35% of Brazil’s household still lack adequate sanitation facilities while 12% lack clean water supply, especially in slum areas.
- Inadequate electricity supply – Brazil’s installed power capacity per capita is just 1.5 Mw relative to over 4 Mw in South Korea. Frequent blackouts disrupt economic activity.
- Housing deficit – Brazil needs to build at least 6 million new homes to meet its housing shortfall but actual construction is only 25% of the requirement.
- Poor digital access – Fixed broadband penetration is 16% and mobile broadband 45%, well below OECD levels of 30% and 95% respectively. This reduces internet access.
To close its infrastructure gap, Brazil launched an ambitious $667 billion PPI public-private partnership investment program for 2015-18 across highways, airports, ports, railways, oil and gas and sanitation projects. But execution has been slow given economic and political uncertainties. Addressing infrastructure bottlenecks will remain vital for improving Brazil’s global competitiveness over the next decade.
Arab World’s Infrastructure Dynamics
Infrastructure development has been a key policy priority across the Arab world over the past 2 decades as governments sought to improve living standards and enable economic diversification. The region has:
- World-class transport hubs – Airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Riyadh are globally connected providing efficient transit options. Etihad rail aims to link the Northern Emirates by train.
- Ultra-modern cities and infrastructure – Billion dollar projects like Masdar city in Abu Dhabi and mega infrastructure for events like the 2022 Qatar FIFA world cup.
- Increased access to water and electricity – The percentage of population with access to potable water and electricity increased from 85% and 90% in the 1990s to over 95% today urban coverage across most Arab states.
However, significant infrastructure divides persist between the rich oil states and poorer nations:
- Intra-regional infrastructure networks remain weak deterring Arab economic integration and trade flows.
- Ongoing conflicts have damaged critical infrastructure for water, sanitation, transport and energy in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.
- Poorer states like Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti suffer from massive infrastructure deficits across roads, ports, power grids, hospitals and housing. This hampers their growth prospects.
The Arab world needs over $100 billion in infrastructure investments annually according to the World Bank. Pooled financing mechanisms, private sector participation under robust PPP frameworks and technology leapfrogging in areas like renewable energy and digital services can help catalyze inclusive infrastructure development across the region.
Public Service Delivery
Public Services in Brazil
Brazil has near universal public provision across healthcare, education and social assistance achieved through constitutional rights and expansion of services since democratization in the mid-1980s. Public health and education spending doubled as a share of GDP over 2000-2015. But quality issues persist, undermining effective service delivery.
- Universal healthcare system (SUS) guarantees free coverage for all Brazilians. But underfunding and uneven management leads to long wait times and insufficient doctors and beds in public hospitals. 25% of population relies on private healthcare.
- Education access expanded rapidly but learning outcomes are poor. Just 7% of 15 year olds scored over Level 2 in PISA 2018 math tests. High inequality in learning outcomes reflects teacher absenteeism and skills gaps in disadvantaged municipalities.
- Social assistance coverage is extensive with programs like Bolsa Familia and BPC. However, targeting errors, corruption and fraud effects up to 30% of beneficiaries. Administration is hampered by complex bureaucracies.
- Public safety is a major concern given high urban crime and homicide rates. While police presence expanded, officers remain poorly trained and public mistrust in security services is widespread.
Addressing public service delivery in Brazil requires urgent reforms to improve financing, strengthen managerial capabilities and enhance accountability across multiple layers of service provision institutions. More e-governance solutions and engagement with private sector in appropriate areas can improve quality.
Arab States’ Public Service Landscape
Public services across Arab states were historically state-dominated with generous government employment and subsidies used to distribute oil resources and build legitimacy. But fiscal pressures are forcing reforms including:
- Healthcare is transitioning towards universal coverage. Private provision is growing given rising lifestyle diseases. But quality varies sharply within countries. Regionalaverage health spend is still only around 5% of GDP.
- Education access has increased sharply across the region with gender parity in school enrollments. But learning outcomes and vocational skilling remains weak.
- Fuel and food subsidies generally disproportionately benefit the rich. Reforms in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and GCC aimed at better targeting are yielding fiscal savings.
- Water and electricity remain highly subsidized. Reforms to rationalize tariffs, improve efficiency of state utilities and use desalination are ongoing.
- Public sector employment still accounts for over 70% of jobs in many Arab states. But youth prefer private sector jobs.
There is high public satisfaction with healthcare and education services in the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and UAE as per government surveys. However, poorer Arab states struggle to meet basic infrastructure and social service needs given low state capacity. Across the board, boosting public sector productivity and citizen-centric governance will be key going forward.
Brazil’s Green Growth Efforts
Brazil faces grave environmental challenges given its Amazon rainforests, massive agribusiness and large urban populations. Key issues include:
- Deforestation – Amazon clearance rates rose during 2000-08 driven by land conversion for cattle ranching and soybean farming. Strong enforcement of forest protection laws since 2008 helped lower deforestation by 70% but concerns remain.
- Water usage – Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals in Brazil leading to shortages in some regions. Sao Paolo’s 2014 drought underlined risks.
- Air and water pollution – Rapid urbanization and poor waste management has worsened both industrial pollution and sewage disposal especially across major cities and coastal areas.
However, Brazil has also emerged as a pioneer in green economic policies. It adopted strong biodiversity protection norms including requiring legal forest reserves on every property. Successful reforestation and forest carbon sequestration efforts earned global praise. Ethanol usage since the 1970s enabled Brazil to derive 45% of fuel needs from renewable sources. But achieving genuine green growth requires balancing environmental stewardship and conservation with rising agri-business, mining and infrastructure needs.
Arab World’s Sustainability Priorities
Arab states enjoy the advantages of a harsh desert climate, low population density and rich hydrocarbons endowment. But the unsustainable use of water and energy resources poses challenges:
- Overexploitation – Rapid economic growth led to excessive drawdown of groundwater reserves. Groundwater depletion is fastest in the world across GCC states, Jordan and Yemen.
- Energy intensity – Per capita energy consumption in Arab states is more than double the world average given fuel subsidies and energy-intensive industries like petrochemicals, aluminium and cement.
- Water usage – The agriculture sector consumes 85% of scarce water resources. Urban consumption is rising fast. Desalination provides 42% of potable water in GCC but has environmental costs.
- Climate exposure – Much of the region’s population and economic assets are concentrated along arid and environmentally fragile coasts. This increases climate vulnerability.
However, renewable energy adoption is growing fast as solar and wind costs plunge. Electricity consumption is also being rationalized. Water conservation efforts include reduced subsidies, irrigation efficiency and reuse of treated wastewater. Environment priorities going forward include:
- Expanding waste-to-energy and recycling to achieve circular economies
- Promoting energy efficient construction and green transport
- Adopting sustainable agricultural techniques like hydroponics and drought-tolerant crops
- Protecting coastal zones, marine ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots
- Mainstreaming ecological considerations in economic planning
Brazil’s Key Strategic Partnerships
- United States – Longstanding partner and second largest trade partner. But tensions on tariffs, climate change under Trump.
- China – Major market for Brazilian commodities. China is top source of foreign investment. But tensions exist on Brazil’s industry concerns.
- EU – Close political and cultural ties. EU is Brazil’s largest foreign investor and a key cooperation partner. Mercosur and EU seek a trade deal.
- Russia, India – Emerging partnerships seen in BRICS, IBSA groupings. Collaboration potential exists in areas like IT, biotech, space technologies and energy.
- Japan, S. Korea – Major investors in Brazil’s iron ore, steel, manufacturing and machinery sectors.
- Regional partners like Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Chile – Deepening trade and investment links especially with MERCOSUR partners though political differences on occasion.
Brazil’s strategic thinking has evolved from ‘South-South’ solidarity in earlier decades to pragmatic bilateral and minilateral partnerships leveraging complementarities. Going forward Brazil must proactively diversify its export markets beyond traditional partners and major commodities. It can leverage its geographic position to expand Latin America’s connectivity with Atlantic and Pacific regions.
Arab States’ External Partnerships
- Western powers like the US and former colonial powers UK, France, Italy and Spain have historically the closest economic and security partnerships in the Arab world. But ties have been realigning.
- China deepened engagement since 2000s driven by energy interests. It is now the largest trade partner for many Arab states. Major China-funded infrastructure projects are underway across the region.
- Russia expanded strategic cooperation across diplomatic, economic and defence realms as its global influence rose. Arms exports, energy deals and food security investments expanded.
- India has built extensive economic ties and deep cultural linkages with GCC countries where millions of Indians work. It relies on Gulf energy supplies and remittance incomes.
- Turkey has been a historic economic partner but is strengthening strategic cooperation across the wider region on back of its own rising influence.
- African and Asian partners are growing in importance for economic diversification efforts as the Arab world looks east and south.
The Arab world is gradually transitioning from Western-centric partnerships to a multi-aligned foreign policy that reflects changing global power dynamics. Deepening South-South collaboration is vital for Arab states’ own growth and for global southern solidarity.
Brazil and the Arab states achieved substantive developmental progress in the 21st century. Economic reforms, social welfare policies and investments in infrastructure and public services helped improve livelihoods for millions across both regions. However, Brazil must boost competitiveness and productivity to regain its growth momentum. For Arab states, increasing youth employability, promoting gender equality and reducing oil dependence remain critical for sustainable development.
Both Brazil and the Arab world would benefit from exchanging experiences, technical cooperation and joint-ventures across areas like tropical agriculture, renewable energy, vocational training and technology sharing. But ultimately they must build their human capital and institutions; promote knowledge; and empower communities to fully harness their rich potential. The two regions contain vibrant societies, abundant resources and dynamic entrepreneurs. With wise strategies and governance, their development trajectories can converge towards inclusive prosperity over the coming decades.
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