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13. September 2017

The Origins of the Governance Crisis in Brazil 1988 – present

Dr. Jonathan Di John, SOAS, University of London

Latin America’s largest nation is facing a deepening political and economic crisis threatening the young presidency of Michel Temer. Several corruption scandals implicating high level government officials, the impeachment of Temer’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff in 2016, and a downward spiral of economic growth have resulted in a major leadership crisis and provoked the largest mass protests in a generation. Given these crises have occurred in the wake of a boom of economic growth, the rise of several ‘national champion’ firms, stable macro-economic management and a dramatic reduction in poverty and income inequality in the 2000s, highlight the fragility in the governance and growth in middle-income countries.

This talk will give a historical analysis of the origins of contemporary governance crisis in Brazil, examining the contradictions and trade-offs that were embedded in Brazil’s transition to and consolidation of democracy. Economic advancement of the very poor went hand in hand with the enrichment of a small wealthy elite and consequent ‘squeeze’ of the middle class, which was central to the massive discontent and social unrest of recent years. It will also address how corruption scandals and political patronage were not just failures of governance but were important tools of political competition. Further, a future outlook of how the crisis might play out for the consolidation of rule of law will be provided.

Dr. Jonathan Di John is Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at SOAS, University of London and has also taught at the London School of Economics (LSE), TRIUM Executive MBA Program (jointly run by London School of Economics, New York University Stern Business School and HEC School of Management in Paris), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Development Academy. He was also a principal researcher at the Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics. His main areas of expertise are development economics, institutional economics and the political economy of growth and development in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Brazil, and Colombia. Among his latest publications is his book From Windfall to Curse? Oil and Industrialization in Venezuela, 1920 to the Present. Dr. Di John has done consultancy work for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). His most recent work for the World Bank focused on Social Service Delivery in Violent Contexts.