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Studying Brazil’s Economy Firsthand

Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2014

This summer, nine HWS students took part in an immersive course in Brazil, "The Brazilian Economy" (ECON 225). Led by Assistant Professor of Economics Felipe Rezende, the program took place in São Paulo from May 19 to June 9. Alexandre Furtado '15, Andrew Hopkins '16, Fajri Jackson '15, Matthew Johnson '15, Katlain Meyer '17, Sima Rana '15, Robert Serenbetz '14, Aaron Sobell '15 and Victoria Thomas '15 studied some of the major economic and social problems of contemporary Brazil while also experiencing the country's culture.

"I decided to attend the program because of my interest in economics and because Brazil is one of the countries that I've always wanted to visit," explains Thomas. "Studying in Brazil gave me a taste of the abroad experience."

The course built substantially on Rezende's current research, which is funded by the Ford Foundation.

This project is investigating the structure of the Brazilian financial system and its regulatory framework, highlighting the country's recent changes in order to identify the - old and new - sources of stability and instability. It also aims to provide policy recommendations for reforming Brazil's financial architecture in order to increase systemic stability as well as the ability to provide funding for development and innovation by the public financial system and by private finance.

"We had a very productive and enjoyable week," says Rezende. "We had two distinguished speakers talk about the Brazilian economy and we completed seven major company visits. Our host institution did a fantastic job and our students explored some of the major economic and social problems of contemporary Brazil."

Students had the opportunity to study firsthand the recent performance of the Brazilian economy, its investment needs and the boom in the housing market, the role of Brazil's financial system in economic development, and the implications for financial instability. They considered the necessity of redesigning the regulatory structure to meet Brazil's objectives of achieving financial stability and to provide finance for development.

Sergio Amaral discussed with students the challenges facing Brazil's growth. A career diplomat, he served in Paris, France; Bonn and Geneva, Switzerland; and twice in Washington, D.C., and was Ambassador to London and Paris. He also served as assistant professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia and was alternate governor to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, having been elected to chair the G 24 for international financial issues. As chief debt negotiator for Brazil before the Bank Advisory Committee and the Paris Club, Amaral concluded in 1988 a set of debt restructuring agreements in the overall amount of $80 billion.

Rubens Ricupero, a Brazilian academic, economist, bureaucrat and diplomat also spoke with the students during the program. He served as the fifth Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development from 1995 to 2004.

Among the companies the HWS group visited were: Itau Unibanco, Brazil's largest private bank; Grupo Petropolis, a Brazilian brewery company; Vale, a Brazilian multinational diversified metals and mining corporation and one of the largest logistics operators in Brazil (as well as the third-largest mining company in the world); Petrobras, one of the largest energy companies in the world and a world leader in development of advanced technology from deep-water and ultra-deep water oil production; Odebrecht, a conglomerate consisting of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals; Natura, a manufacturer and marketer of beauty, household and personal care products; and BMF&Bovespa, one of the largest exchanges in the world in terms of market value.

In addition to their academic pursuits, the group toured the city and enjoyed an authentic Brazilian steak house for lunches. During the afternoon, students had capoeira, which combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music and samba classes. They also appeared on a major television network during a late night program.

The photo above features the abroad group gathering for a photo with HWS Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata.

 


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