August 2016 was quite a month for Brazil. In many respects the ‘Carnival Games’ were a genuine sporting success, although perhaps unsurprisingly the economic impact appears to have been at best negligible. Then, just 10 days after the final fireworks in Rio, Brazil’s Senate voted in favour of impeaching President Dilma Rousseff, an inevitable denouement to the latest string of controversies to tarnish Brazil’s political reputation. The manner in which Operação Lava Jato expanded from a money laundering investigation into a vast exposé of unprecedented corruption is nothing short of spectacular. As if being overtaken by Russia and China on the Government sub-index wasn’t bad enough, SP30 2017 also sees the world’s 5th largest country fall to 29th on the Enterprise sub-index, notably overtaken by Greece. Brazil’s vibrant cultural scene and rich history continue to ensure that it at least partially holds its own, as recognised by UNESCO’s awarding of world heritage status to Rio de Janeiro in December.
Brazil’s strengths remain its glorious amalgamation of cultures and identities, and its vast expanses of terrains and changeable climates. Having survived the glare of the world’s eyes around the Olympic Games, the South American giant retains significant soft power assets, not least its young, restless population and its prominent role on the international stage.
Decades of indignation and frustration with political corruption and an inefficient public sector hit boiling point with Rousseff’s impeachment, while her successor Michel Temer is himself widely accused of corruption. The economic boom of the BRICS era has well and truly imploded, and citizens are rightly angry. The risk of this disenchanted public sinking into apathy is increasingly real.
Successive decline in the Soft Power 30 rankings suggest it may soon be time for Brazil to stop taking its global weight and excellent brand recognition for granted. While it continues to be for many the country of sun, football, samba and carnival, it is imperative that the government take decisive action in its relentless battle with corruption and reduce the well-known operational costs of doing business in Brazil.