The world’s fifth largest nation treads water in 2018, holding at 29 with Argentina hot on its heels. Samba and Carnival continue to inspire globally, but their potency appears to be waning as Brazil fell five places in this year’s Culture sub-index. Economic difficulties and white elephants may be to blame: a once-famous Rio nightclub is now emblazoned with graffiti reading “the Olympics, for who?” But Brazil’s problems run deeper. President Michel Temer remains the subject of corruption allegations in a series of scandals that look set to rumble on. Slight improvements in some sub-indices ensured that Brazil arrested the slide, but political disillusionment and economic struggles continue to hinder progress for the country of the Seleção.
Performance in this year’s FIFA World Cup notwithstanding, the diverse and celebrated Brazilian culture remains widely recognised as the central pillar of Brazil’s soft power. After hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil’s sporting legend and Carnival spirit ensure Brazil continues to make a mark on the international stage, despite a slide down the Culture sub-index this year. A strong score in the Engagement sub-index is another asset and a solid platform from which to build on.
Despite marginal improvements in the Government and Enterprise sub-indices, corruption and a struggling economy remain significant hurdles to overcome. President Michel Temer continues to be dogged by the fallout from Operação Lava Jato and has struggled to deal with food and fuel shortages in São Paulo. Consumer confidence may be climbing, but Brazil has a long way to go before it regains the trust of investors. The Education sub-index remains a weak link in Brazil’s overall score, while digital capacity is still low.
After a year-on-year decline in The Soft Power 30 rankings, Brazil arrested its slide this year. With its South American neighbour Argentina entering the index, Brazil will want to make quick and lasting progress. Ruthless elimination of structural corruption is a necessity. Investment in the education sector and improving its digital capacity will help Brazil to build on its existing strengths while the war on corruption is waged.