VIP Guest from Brazil Speaks before UVU Students

Presentation of Dignitary from Brazil at UVU

On November 19th, international relations students at Utah Valley University had the opportunity to listen to a representative from the rapidly growing nation of Brazil. Joao Alberto Graca— Special Advisor to the Minister of Labor and Employment of Brazil and a member of the Brazilian Committee of Investment Funds—spoke optimistically about Brazil’s future.


João Alberto Graça, Special Advisor to the Minister of Labor and Employment of Brazil at UVU (L)

During his visit to Utah Mr. Graca focuses his efforts on promotion of trade and economic relationships between Brazil and State off Utah. Guest from Brazil cited promising statistics such as a Brazilian GDP of $2.4 trillion—which accounts for nearly half of Latin American economic activity—and stable, consistent growth around 11.1%. Brazil has a consumer market of 201 million people, which according to Graca, is projected to grow to become the 5th largest consumer market by 2020. Graca spent the first quarter of his visit discussing these facts in a prepared presentation before opening up a discussion with the students.

 Then people in the audience asked Graca a range of questions involving domestic issues in his country as well as international situations involving Brazil. When one of the students asked “what is the biggest internal problem, and what is the biggest international problem facing Brazil?” Graca responded in two parts—first stating that the greatest internal problem was government corruption. He went on to speak briefly about federal corruption in Brazil and the problems it is causing, and then referred to the many misconceptions about Brazil globally as the greatest international problem. Our fellow student Edward Spreen asked about the treatment of handicapped people in Brazil, and what the government does to help them. Mr. Graca responded by listing several programs aimed at helping educate handicapped individuals. He also brought up a specific case he had knowledge of—in which a deaf student who was not given a translator sued the school district and won.


UVU students during presentation of the VIP-guest from Brazil.

 I left the event with a greater understanding of the amount of untapped potential Brazil and its emerging economy possess. Joan Graca radiated an excitement for Brazil’s future and seemed confident that it would continue to expand and grow exponentially for years to come.

Visit of dignitary from Brazil was arranged by the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU led by Dr. Rusty Butler. UVU students appreciate efforts of Dr. Butler and his team to bring to UVU many VIPs and especially envoys of different nations accredited to the United Nations and the United States.

 Jamie Nielsen, President, Foreign Affairs Club at UVU

Guest From Brazil

The presentation given by Joao Graca, an advisor to the Ministry of Labor and Employment for the Brazilian Federal government in Brasilia, was very informative on the economic standpoint of Brazil. Joao said that Brazil has $25 billion available, $20 billion of which are available for investment and infrastructure. This was a very interesting fact, because while there are parts of the country that are wealthy (as is the case with all countries), there are also a large quantity of impoverished places in Brazil called Favelas. Favelas are essentially shanti towns, where everyone lives out of cardboard, and whatever else they can find, to make up their homes. Joao also said that in order to make way for the 2016 Olympics many favelas are being torn down to make way for more improvements, which begs the questions, if there’s $20 billion available for infrastructure, where is that going? Improving the favelas is a very large task, but they’ve been around for quite a while, and the only thing that seems to be having an effect on them is the preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Joao also said that Brazil is the 7th largest economy in the world, which is both surprising, and not surprising at the same time. Brazil is much larger than we give it credit for; it’s almost the same size as the continental United States! So when we were told it was the 7th largest economy it made sense, only because we constantly underestimate its size. Brazil’s access to other countries also makes it easier to have many trades with other countries, because it touches almost every country in South America with the exception of one or two countries. The middle class also makes the economic situation of Brazil very promising. With more than 50% of the population in the middle class it makes it very easy for entrepreneurs to thrive, paying more taxes, and ultimately increasing the economic standing of Brazil. When Joao said that Brazil is expected to be the 5th largest economy by 2020 that’s a very reasonable assumption, because their trade paths are ride on their borders, they have an incredible amount of money, and the majority of their citizens are middle class. Joao said the only thing lacking from this booming economy is education. He said without education the middle class can’t move up, because, as he put it, if you give a man a fish he’ll expect more, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll be fed for the rest of his life. I think that this is very true, and the Brazilian government should turn its focus more towards education than GDP, because it appears as if they care about right now is money, and while that will help them in the short term, education will be their long term success.

Alex Nowjack, UVU Student

Joao Graca Analysis

 I asked Mr. Graca the question Brazil being number 1 in Latin America with the highest GDP, can we project Brazil to be a 1st world country in the near future. Mr. Graca responded that money is not everything. Brazil needs to reform their education system and many need to be provided with education. This hit me, because if Brazil is making a lot of money, where is this money going? Wouldn’t they us the money from the revenue the country is generating and invest in the education system. If I believed fixing one problem would advance me as a civilization, then I invest or do anything in my power to fix and provide a solution to that problem. Another question I asked was about Russia putting a stop to U.S. and European imports and now turning to Latin America to import from. I continued asking if this will affect US and Brazil’s relationship by accepting these imports from Russia. Mr. Graca said no. There is a saying, the businessman never says no to money.

Mr. Graca went on to saying more people enter Brazil, than those who leave. This is due to Brazil’s ever-growing economy and jobs being provided for many. Also a lot of people from Ghana have fled to Brazil asking for an Asylum. Graca didn’t say anything about the aspect of the grant of status, but that these people now have jobs in construction and helping the growth of Brazil in the construction industry. Also, he mentioned the great amount of people flowing to Brazil for jobs is monitoring the companies in giving these people slave jobs. Graca believes this is wrong and should not be happening. The people who go to Brazil should be given jobs in where they can expand and progress the economy of Brazil.

In conclusion, another point Graca made was Argentina affecting Brazil’s progress. I know the countries that surround Brazil affect Brazil. Graca did mention Argentina’s economy isn’t doing so well, and has slowed down the economy for Brazil due to its relationship it has. This is essential to know your surroundings in the international spectrum, because some countries that are going through an economic crisis can be detrimental to its neighbors.

Darren Fafai, UVU student with focus on International Relations