“More Equality, More Democracy: The Case of Brazil”


Occasional Paper, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program, International Forum for Democratic Studies

By Maria Clara R.M. do Prado, Columnist, Valor Econômico (São Paulo)
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, Spring 2014

Executive Summary

Brazil has long been one of the most unequal countries in the world. In 1989, its Gini coefficient stood at 0.636, the second-worst in the world, ahead only of Sierra Leone. Over the past 15 years, however, the country has made impressive strides toward greater equality. Among the factors behind this success have been public programs aimed at eliminating extreme poverty and allowing the poor to afford middle-class patterns of consumption. After enduring tough economic times, with inflation skyrocketing to unimaginable levels in the 1990s, Brazil was finally able to have a valued currency—the real—in 1994, thus paving the way for development and for policies that would bring a vast number of people out of poverty in the first decade of the 2000s. Despite the recent and substantial decline in inequality, however—the country’s Gini coefficient reached 0.530 in 2012—Brazil still has a long way to go in expanding equal opportunity and promoting democratic inclusion.
Photo by Claudia Jaguaribe

About the Author:

Ms. Maria Clara R. M. do Prado is a seasoned journalist, editor, and foreign correspondent covering social, economic, and financial issues across Brazil. She currently serves as a columnist for Brazil’s major economic newspaper, Valor Econômico. In 1994, she was invited to work as communications coordinator for the economic team that drafted Brazil’s Real Plan, the stabilization project responsible for putting an end to hyperinflation. She is the author of A Real História do Real (2005, in Portuguese), a book about the formulation and implementation of the Real Plan. For her sound reporting on monetary stabilization plans, the Board of Brazilian Economists named her “Economic Journalist of the Year” in 2006. During her Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship, she explored how distributive economic policies have led to the emergence of a “new” middle class in Brazil and investigated how this development may foster a more inclusive democracy.

Watch video from Maria Clara R.M. do Prado’s fellowship presentation on “More Equality, More Democracy: The Case of Brazil,” held at NED on June 26, 2014.