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Guide for living and working in Brazil
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1 - Political Status

Brazil is a Federal Republic with a multipartite regime.
The Congress has two Assemblies : the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
The country is divided into 23 states, a federal district and three territories.
This is all amalgamated into 5 regions.

The President, who is elected to a four year term of office, is M Fernando Cardoso.
The Vice President is M Marco Antonio de Oliveira Maciel.

The Senate is composed of 81 members (3 per state) elected for 8 years, a third or two thirds of whom are renewed every 4 years.
The Chamber of Deputies is made up of 506 members elected for a four year term of office by general election.

Each of the 27 states has its own government.
It is responsable for education, justice and wide economic issues.
The members are in office for a four year, non renewable period.
The towns in Brazil are managed by 4,972 Mayors, elected by general election.


Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500.
In 1822 Brazil became a sovereign state, from 1500 to 1822 it had been a Portuguese colony.
In 1889 Pedro II, son of Pedro I, proclaimed himself Emperor, under the name of John VI.
He was overthrown in a military uprising, and a Republic was created, the United States of Brazil.
Since then many events have disrupted the country and the political world has seen some difficult situations in relation to the organization of the constitution (dictatorships under Vargas from 1930 to 1945).
1956-1960 A social democratic President was elected, Juscelino Kubitscheck and his Vice President Joao Gaulart.
1946-1964 The Marshal Dutra was President.
1961-1963 An attempt to transform the presidential republic into a parliamentary republic.
1964 On 31st March a coup put the army in power.
1967 A new constitution was set up.
1968 The constitution was suspended.
1970 Era of big projects, like the Transamazonian.
1974 General Ernesto Geisel set up a government.
1978-85 15th October 78 General Figueiredo was elected President.
1989 17th December 89, M Fernando Color was elected President.
1992 M. Itamar Franco became President.
1995-1997 M Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected for a 4 year term of office on 31st October 94.
2 - Geographical situation

Brazil is part of Latin America. It covers 8,511,968 square kilometers, nearly half (48%) of the South American continent. It is about 16 times the size of France.
It is made up of the Amazonian plain, the tropical zone of the sierras, internal plateaus and south-eastern Brazil.

In the north of the country there is the enormous Amazon bassin.
The surrounding plain stretches for about 4 million square kilometers with a central plateau rising in the south of the great river.

The highest summit in Brazil is the Pico da Nibla with an altitude of 3,014 m, it is situated in the north near the Venezuelan border.

The water from the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes meet and form the Amazon, which is 6577 kms long, and has the biggest volume of water after the Nile in Egypt.

The Mavilhanas is the biggest archipelego in the world, 90 kms long and 15 kms wide, with 350,018 inhabitants. It is made up of 400 islands, lakes, rivers and canals (called igapos and igarapes).

Brazil is the fifth biggest country in the world, after the URSS, Canada, China and the USA. It has shared borders with all the countries in South America, except for Ecuador and Chile.

3 - Economy

Brazil today is rated the eighth economy in the world.

Main economic indicators


economic growth (%)


inflation (%)


public balance/GDP (%)


unemployment (%)


exports (billions $)


imports (billions $)


balance of trade (billions $)


current balance (billions $)


external debt (billions $)


The internal economic results are better than foreseen after the monetary crisis in January 1999 : inflationary pressure was contained, the country did not sink into recession, in fact the economy showed signs of revival (the growth forecast for the GDP in 2000 is +4%) and the budgetary objectives have been adhered to.
In spite of the devaluation of the Real, Brazil recorded a slight growth and the fact that the capacity of the agricultural sector has been able to substitute for the declining industrial sector partially explains this result, the solidity of the financial system has equally been determining.

The potential of the internal market continues to attract foreign investors and the country has the advantage of being backed by the international financial community.
After the energy sector, the mines and telecommunications, it is the turn of the banks to be privatized.
Rio de Janeiro is benefiting most from the privatizations.
The foreign investment which accompanies the privatizing contributes to the revival of the economy.

Evolution of direct foreign investment (in millions of dollars) :

1991 : 89 ...........1992 : 1 924 ........ 1993 : 801 ........ 1994 : 2 035 ......... 1995 : 3 475 .......... 1996 : 9 123
1997 : 18 601 .......... 1998 : 22 500

The debt ratio is reaching excessive levels (the debt represents 400% of the profits from exports and nearly two thirds of these profits are absorbed by it).
The enormity of the liquidation of the debt means that the need for external financing remains very great. In 1999 the IDB loaned Brazil 250 million dollars to improve the poorest districts in the big towns.


A little over 10 years ago Brazilian trade was protected by extremely high customs duties.
When he was elected, President Fernando Collor started opening up the borders.
Customs duties dropped and the Brazilian automobile production rose to 1,500,000 vehicles in 1994. Most Brazilian towns opened shops offering imported goods.

Ricardo Carneiro, a Brazilian economist, affirms that the choice to import is within the line of neo-liberal enterpreneurial policy in the major Latin-American countries, and that the choice is to be competitive or disappear.

From 1995 on, the government of President Fernando Henrique Cardos determined to modernize and facilitate the system of public service concessions.
Among other things the distinction between Brazilian companies with foreign capital and Brazilian companies with national capital was withdrawn.
Very few foreign capital restrictions still exist (nuclear energy, commercial airlines, the press, television and radio stations).

Foreign investments play a considerable role in strengthening the cycle of expansion.
1.1 million people are employed by the 1,200 foreign companies that are set up in Brazil.

Mercosul, Mercosur and Mercosud are the three names given to the South American economic and commercial grouping which reunites Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.
It was set up to strengthen the economies and encourage their growth.
Mercosur opens up a large export market for Brazil, Brazil alone earns 45% of the Latin American GDPand 31% of Argentina's exports go to Brazil.
The economic crisis has caused a considerable slowing down of the integration process, commercial barriers and other conflicts have emerged.
Market competitivity has grown spectacularly.
But these problems should not overshadow the achievements : trade expanded from 5 billion dollars in 1990 to 20 billion in 1997.

Brazil still has to find a social and economic balance.
Reforms of the social and taxation systems are necessary.
The austerity measures which were taken at the beginning of 1999 to avoid runaway inflation were painful, but financial stability was secured and without that stability there is no way that progress could be made socially and inequalities reduced.

Unfortunately the social situation remains very preoccupying, (unemployment is on average around 8% but in the San Paolo area reaches 18%, and the social security system is nearly non-existent for the unemployed) the enormous dispartities between the rich and poor have created a rapid rise in the rate of violence, both in the large towns undermined by drug dealing and in certain areas of the countryside where the claims of the landless peasants are brutally suppressed.
On top of that it is well known that the police force is corrupt.

4 - Agriculture

The agricultural sector represents about 11% of the GNP (25% of the working population).
It is an important activity, prime materials make up more than half of the country's exports.
Brazil exploits nearly 366,000 square kilometers of arable land (twice as much as France).
The 9% growth registered by the agricultural sector in 1999 goes a long way to explain why Brazil did not suffer from a recession.

The main crops are maize (32.178 million tons in 1999), sugar cane (333.314 million tons -the leading world production) and rice (11.779 million tons). 400,000 people are directly employed in orange growing (19.399 million tons) and fruit juice production.

Soya (2nd biggest producing country in the world) and coffee are essential crops for the country, grown for primarily for export. Brazil is the leading coffee producing country, growing a third of the world production.

Stock raising in Brazil is done on a bigger scale than in France (2.7 times more per capita).
In 1999, there were 163.47 million head of cattle and exports are rapidly increasing with the 'mad cow' crisis in Europe.

As for forestry, the biggest tropical forest in the world yielded nearly 198 million cubic meters of timber in 1998.

5 - Industry

Brazil has a wealth of natural resources with a diversified related economy.
The currently expanding sectors are telecommunications, energy (petrol, gas and electricity), computer sciences, foodstuffs, the ports and the iron and steel processing industries.

Mining (per millions of tons, gold and silver per ton, diamonds per thousands of carats)



















The attribution of new licences for petrol exploitation attracted numerous candidates, both local (Petrobras) and foreign (Shell, Exxon, Texaco).

Brazilian industry cannot be compared to one of an under-developed country, there are important manufacturing sectors such as transport and machinery, which represent 22% of the industrial added value.

Brazil is the 9th biggest car manufacturer in the world.
The monetary devaluation has added to the competivity of the production, several important companies have announced their decision to increase their production in Brazil : Fiat, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Renault and Nissan.

The national aeronautical construction company Embraer registered a record turnover in 1999, due largely to the devaluation, and so did the major breweries (making Brazil now the 3rd biggest beer producing country).

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