To what extent does the case of Boko Haram confirm Fearon and Laitin’s argument? Please explain. (Cayla B)

Nigeria contains two major ethnic groups: Christians, who are located in the south and Muslims, who are located in the north. Over the years, tension within these groups have had a large impact on the economic, political and social aspects of Nigeria. Boko Haram is an Islamist Extremist group based in Northern Nigeria. The group’s name literally translated to “People committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad (O’Neill, 774). It originally began as a peaceful group. However, as time has went on, frustrations with the government and the economy, have sparked animosity. This anger has primarily been projected upon the Christian community. Boko Haram has increased its fight against the state, by staging attacks against government-run organizations such as schools and police headquarters. Boko members have destroyed “an estimated 1,100 schools this year”(Jazeera). As well as performed “scores of attacks on schools and universities in an insurgency that has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009” (Jazeera).

In “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War”, James Fearon and David Laitin discuss different causes that seem to spark Civil War. They do not believe that “Ethnic and Religious Composition” have a large effect on whether or not there will be a Civil War. Fearon and Laitin consider other elements of a country’s composition as having a stronger influence on Civil War. Some of these aspects include: economic growth and an administratively competent government. Fearon and Laitin argue that “government and non-government organizations should develop programs that improve legal accountability within developing world militaries and police, and make aid to governments (Fearon, 88).”

Fearon and Laitin’s argument includes several possible explanations for the breakout of Civil War. They argue that there are multiple reasons for Civil War and some of the main reasons include a country’s economic and political situation. Boko Haram’s actions, which they claim to base off of their religious beliefs, affect economic, political and social facets of Nigeria.  Although Boko Haram identifies as a religious group, they make a much larger external impact. Therefore, Boko Haram does confirm the case of Fearon and Laitin’s argument that there are many aspects within a country that are responsible for contributing to a Civil War outbreak.


Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.


Jazeera, Al. 2015. “Boko Haram destroyed more than 1,000 schools this year, UN says”


O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.



I propose that the case of Boko Haram confirms Fearon and Laitin’s argument that political conflict can not be explained by merely pointing to ethnic/religious conflicts due to a number of more significant factors. State weakness, instability, and chronic poverty are better predictors of civil conflict than indicators of ethnic or religious diversity. The civil wars and insurgencies of the 20th century were the end results of decolonization that left fragile states with limited administrative control (Fearon 88). Indeed, this was true in the case of Nigeria where regional differences between the north and the south under colonial law resulted in a highly decentralized state (O’Neil 734). Since Nigeria’s independence, the country has witnessed a number of regime changes that have contributed to the country’s instability.

According to Fearon, countries “deriving at least one-third of export revenues from fossil fuels is estimated to more than double a country’s odds [of civil war]” (Fearon 85). This follows in the case of Nigeria because crude Petroleum oils make up over 79% of Nigeria’s exports (The Atlas of Economic Complexity). “Unfortunately much of the oil that is produced within Nigeria is stolen by militias like Boko. “Corrupt national and local politicians steal or squander the lion’s share of revenues from the oil that is not stolen” (O’Neil 776). Insufficient government control of natural resources and corruption have greatly contributed to the political conflict. This proves that Boko Haram is as financially motivated as it is politically motivated. Not only this, the fact that Boko controls much of the economy (local fishing and rice industries) near Lake Chad makes joining the militant group attractive to young men.

Dependence on the military has also been constant throughout the Nigeria’s history. “This avenue has been particularly important for the ethnic Muslims of northern Nigeria, who have been educationally and economically disadvantaged compared with southern Nigerians” (O’Neil 753). Regional inequalities in wealth as well as chronic national poverty have contributed to the high level of political conflict in Nigeria. “Per capita income (measured as thousands of 1985 U.S. dollars and lagged one year) is strongly significantin both a statistical and a substantive sense: $1,000 less in per capita income is associated with 41% greater annual odds of civil war onset, on average” (Fearon 83). Nigeria’s GDP per Capita ranks 179th in the world at just $2,800, which helps explain why there is such a high level of civil conflict.

To sum it up, the case of Boko Haram follows Fearon and Laitin’s logic. Ethnic/religious differences do contribute to some of the countries problems but Fearon understands that there are other factors at work here. Nigeria’s weak central government marked by its inability to control oil production could be the most significant reason for the rise of political conflict. Multiple regime changes have left the state in an unstable condition that have laid the foundations for internal conflict. Lastly chronic poverty has pushes young men, especially in the north, to join Boko for financial reasons.


Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.

O’Neil, Patrick S. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th ed. W W Norton and Company, Inc, 2015. Print. (727-777)

Center for International Development; Harvard University; The Atlas of Economic Complexity

How the Case of Boko Haram Confirms Fearon and Laitin

The case of Boko Haram directly mirrors many of the factors James Fearon and David Laitin outline about their theories about civil war and conditions for insurgencies. By Fearon and Laitin’s standards, Boko Haram is certainly a “small, lightly armed band practicing guerrilla warfare from rural base areas” (Fearon and Laitin 1). They outline conditions that today we can see in Nigeria that foster the development of Boko Haram. Poverty, a large population, and instability all contribute to Boko Haram’s rise as a radical terrorist group. Boko Haram reins its influence on the Northern states of Nigeria, where the terrain is familiar to them and they have targeted both civilians and the army. They have been able to target the military and government structures because of the lack of stability in those institutions. As Fearon and Laitin contend, “insurgents are better able to survive and prosper if the government and military they oppose are relatively weak—badly financed, organizationally inept, corrupt, politically divided and poorly informed about the goings-on at the local level” (Fearon and Laitin 4). This is the case in Nigeria, where the population is the largest on the continent, and the country falls victim to the so-called “resource curse,” where it has a wealth of oil but lack of civilian profit. These factors have led to government corruption and misrule, leaving gaps in security for Boko Haram to attack. Not to mention civilian unrest and mistrust of the government allows for easier recruiting for the radical group.

A main point that Fearon and Laitin assert in their analysis of insurgencies is that we cannot attribute ethic differences as the sole reason why groups like Boko Haram arise and survive. Boko Haram is an extremist group so radical it often attacks other Muslims, “and even mosques” (O’Neil 774). As Farouk Chothia states, Boko Haram “regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president” (Chothia). These facts show that religious labels give no indication to the “sides” in this ongoing conflict. The complexities of the different sects of religions cannot be a simplistic explanation for the rise of groups like Boko Haram. Fearon, Laitin, and O’Neil will all admit ethic tensions surely play a role in these conflicts, though “grievances and ethic differences are too common to help distinguish the countries and years that see civil wars” (Fearon and Laitin 6). Fearon and Laitin will assert that political ideals, economic factors, terrain, funding practices, and environment all add complexities to these conflicts that cannot be overlooked.

Overall, Fearon and Laitin give insights that are reflected in countries like Nigeria that are unfortunate recipes for domestic conflict. Poverty, population size, and instability are probable indicators of conditions that foster insurgencies, whereas ethnic and religious differences are too simplistic a reason to supplement a civil war.


Works Cited:

Chothia, Farouk. “Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC News4, 4 May 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.

O’Neil, Patrick S. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th ed. W W Norton and Company, Inc, 2015. Print.


To what extent does the case of Boko Haram confirm Fearon and Laitin’s argument?

The case of Boko Haram confirms Fearon’s argument that ethnic/religious divisions do not entirely account for civil conflict because of other economic and governmental factors which favor the organization’s insurgency. These conducive factors are the economic variables promoting the insurgency’s financial backing and the compulsion of youth populations. However, Fearon does not dismiss ethnic and religious tensions entirely. Nigeria embodies a nation where a majority of the territory has developed asymmetrically in terms of political involvement, economic prosperity, and access to education (Lamble). This geographic disparity between north and south has also been exacerbated by muslim/christian differences. However following Fearon’s research, the religious divide in Nigeria only motivates Boko, but does not act as the only explanation for their prominence (Fearon 87).

When looking at the root causes of civil conflict, Fearon found that measures of “objective grievance fare worse as predictors than economic variables” (Fearon 87). For Boko, the financing of their operations takes significant financial backing. Boko’s location near Lake Chad allows the organization to control the local fishing, rice, and pepper businesses along the Yobe river (Lamble). In this case, economic opportunity has allowed the “viability for insurgency” (Fearon 87). Boko is not present in areas where there is only desert (Lamble).

Even though Mohammed Yousef’s original motivation revolved around Islamic fundamentalism and associating Nigerian misrule with western influences, in order to gain more supporters the organization has co-opted youths by providing economic assistance (Lable). This movement to recruit young members confirms Fearon’s reason for insurgency by understanding lower per capita incomes and local knowledge (Fearon 90). Boko can easily recruit adolescent men when the “economic alternatives are worse” and the government remains unable to increase the economic growth of the northern region (Fearon 90). Since conflict has halted agriculture production and few job opportunities remain, many parents force their sons to join Boko out of economic necessity (Lable). Otherwise, northern citizens must face displacement and migration towards the southern region (Lable).

These rationales for Boko’s insurgency tie back to the Nigerian government’s insufficient legal and economic accountability for the northern region. According to Fearon, “weak central governments render insurgency more feasible and attractive due to weak local policing or inept and corrupt counterinsurgency practices” (Fearon 87). Hopefully Buhari’s strong hand and personal incentives to protect his northern homeland will quell Boko’s presence and spur more balanced development between the north and south.


Lamble, Lucy. Counting the Cost of the Boko Haram Crisis – Podcast. The Guardian: Global Development.

Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.


Explanation for Political Violence

O’Neill defines political violence as “politically motivated violence outside of state control” (O’Neill 210). He provides three different explanations for political violence: institutional, ideational, and individual. Institutional emphasizes the impact of concrete organizations and trends that give rise to political violence. O’Neill argues that institutions “contain values or norms that implicitly or explicitly encourage political violence, or that they constrain human activity, thus provoking political violence” (O’Neill 211). The people are inherently upset with the current political system because they are being oppressed. As a result, they turn to revolutions, that are commonly violent, and terrorism in order to change the political system to their favor. Ideational, however, focuses more on the rationale behind the political violence, questioning why it takes place. O’Neill argues that ideas may in fact be institutionalized, such as a political organization or religion (O’Neill 211). He goes further and states, “Political violence is more likely to be associated with attitudes that are radical or reactionary, since each attitude views the current institutional order as bankrupt and beyond reform” (O’Neill). Here, O’Neill states that ideational and institutional can be linked in explaining political violence due to the fact that the people’s attitudes are caused by the institution at hand. I agree with the notion that institutional is the best explanation for political violence because the institution is “the root source for violence, a necessary condition for violent actions to take place, and a presumption that changes in the institutional structure would eliminate the motivation for this violence” (O’Neill). If the institution itself is abolished, then there will be no political violence as a result. The institution is the foundation of all political violence that occurs in society.

For Jamaica, political violence is part of their history. Since 1940, there have been moments of political violence with the presence of Group 69. The goal of Group 69 was the “cleansing of Western Kingston of JLP supporters and, in particular, Alexander Bustamante.” Bustamante was a key member of parliament in the region but was forced to flee due to the acts of violence against him, specifically from Group 69. Ralph Brown, the former mayor of Kingston, stated that the Group 69 were “defenders of the party” and wanted to end the oppression that was occurring in Jamaica. For 40 years, there was a violent war between the political parties (People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party) and terrorist groups, such as Group 69, for power. The Group assassinated various politicians for their reasoning. Their objective was to restore strength to Jamaica and reduce the presence of corruption in Jamaican politics. Recently, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar fired 26 members of government in an effort to prevent future periods of political violence. Jack Welch, CEO of GE, said, “Willingness to change is strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”

Institutional is the best explanation for political violence due to the fact that it is the “root source for violence” (O’Neill 211). In the case of Jamaica, the people were not satisfied with the standards of society and took up arms to change the system for the better.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

Explanations for Political Violence

O’Neil describes three possible explanations for political violence: Institutional, Ideational and Individual explanations.  Of these three explanations, the one that I find the most compelling is the institutional approach.

The institutional approach is based on “political institutions, such as states and regimes; economic institutions, such as capitalism or societal institutions, such as culture and religion.” (O’Neil pg. 211)  It is not that the other arguments of individual or ideational explanations are not valid, but rather that they are not the direct cause but rather the indirect reactions of an existing institution.  People’s violence and actions may be motivated by ideas or personal beliefs but are only able to realize that it is unfavorable to them when the institution has been in place.  People’s ideologies or individual beliefs being suppressed and their consequent actions only come to life if their is a political institution in place to suppress them in the first place.  O’Neil describes institutional explanations as being “a root source for violence, a necessary condition for violent action to take place, and a presumption that changes in the institutional structure would eliminate the motivation for this violence.” (O’Niel pg. 211)  People facing religious persecution are most likely facing this discrimination as a result of a regime that is suppressing their individual beliefs.  Therefore, they believe that the destruction of this institution will bring them change.  Individual beliefs may be a cause of what allows them to have the motivation to act but the ultimate goal is the elimination of an unsatisfactory institution.

When analyzing the causes of the Arab spring, O’Neil describes “civil society in much of the region is weak and fragmented, a result of states repression and low levels of development.”(O’Neil pg. 220)  The motivation behind the Arab spring was a push for democracy which is an institutional change.  The regime that was existent was not supportive of the ideals of the people.  Fortunately for Tunisia, the regime lacked the military force necessary to counter the actions of the people but people living under military rule in Egypt still vie for democracy.

As a more recent “Arab spring” occurs in Egypt, young citizens of the country are calling for a democratic rule.  Bassem Yousef, a satirical comedian believes that democracy is still living in the hearts of the people.  Sissi, the current president has become too powerful and continues to commit human rights violations.  Yousef states that “as the repressive nature of the Sissi regime has become more clear, Youssef appears to be championing the same young, pro-democracy advocates who helped launch the 2011 uprisings in various countries in the Arab world.” It is clear that it is the change in political institutions that have caused the Arab spring and the more recent uprising in Egypt.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

Explanations for Political Violence

Political violence, as defined by Patrick O’Neil is “violence outside of state control that is politically motivated”(O’Neil 211). He states that revolutions, wars, riots, strikes, and even more peaceful protests, fall under this term of ‘political violence.’ He then explains how scholars separate the causes of political violence into three separate categories: institutional, ideational, and individual. These categories do not always have the clearest boundaries and often cross over one another. However, I believe that the most convincing explanation for political violence is the institutional explanation. O’Neil states that “existing institutions encouraging violence or contracting human action creating a violent backlash” (O’Neil 212) is the reasoning behind the institutional explanation. Take the example of the country of Bangladesh. On January 22nd and 23rd, reports from both CNN and The Guardian were released stating that thirty people had died and over 7,000 were detained due to political violence. Both reports explain, that rallies by both the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the opposition party, and the Awami League, the party holding power, were suppose to occur on January 5th of 2015, a year after Bangladesh’s disputed elections. While the Awami League did not proceed, the BNP continued with their rally calling for reelection, claiming the election of 2014 “was a farce”. In addition, they were also protesting the government’s block of social media apps such as Viber that allowed them to put together these protests.

The example of Bangladesh helps to explain why the institutional explanation is the most convincing. The issues of the elections and the blocking of social media are both institutional problems that then lead to the people speaking out. As O’Neil states this explanation helps to determine the root source of the problem. This perspective helps us to understand why people felt the need to resort to violence. As O’Neil writes “it shows a necessary condition for violence to take place” (O’Neil 211). Without having a full understanding of the main issue, we cannot proceed to determine why opposing ideas exist or why individuals feel the need to then speak out against the government. The institutional explanation is the building block for both the ideational and individual explanations.

Work Cited:

Ahmed, Farid, and Tim Hume. “31 Dead, 7,000 Arrested in Bangladesh Political Unrest –” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Burke, Jason, and Saad Hammadi. “30 Dead as Bangladesh Political Violence Escalates.” The Guardian. N.p., 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

Outcomes of Brazil’s Rapid Economic Growth

While Brazil has seen incredible bouts of economic growth over the past half century, the transition between regimes (democratic and undemocratic) have subsequently caused Brazil to also experience devastating economic crises that are primarily caused by its statist policies (O’Neil, 654). Despite being described as capitalistic during the start of the Estado Novo, the economy was left in the hands of the state, who chose to pursue “import substitution industrial policies” that have limited imports and regulated wage and credit, while directly investing in various industries and controlling the currency (O’Neil, 653). These policies, while overseeing an impressive period of economic growth known as the “economic miracle”, caused the growth rate to come to a stunning halt in the mid 1970s as the economy began to collapse and domestic unrest grew (O’Neil, 633). Because of its economic turmoil, the military regime ruling Brazil faded away, gradually replaced with a democratic regime that has been sustaining itself since.

Since the transition to a democratic regime in Brazil in the late 1980s, Brazil has slowly seen the liberalization of its markets and has experienced improvements in its economy. Throughout this period of democratization, Brazil experienced multiple waves of growth and decline, with its declines suffering from hyperinflation (Sharma). Beginning in the early 2000s, however, Brazil’s handling of the economy successfully allowed for rapid growth and low inflation that managed to pull millions out of poverty and into the middle class (Roberts, et al). This growth also allowed for increased investment in education, healthcare, and other programs that affected over 11 million families living in poverty (Roberts, et al). This growth and state leadership also allowed Brazil to stay afloat during the 2008 financial crisis and managed to maintain growth of 4% throughout those economically tumultuous years (Sharma).

Despite a decade of impressive growth in the early 2000s, Brazil’s economy, as it is wont to do, began to stagnate as inflation rose markedly (O’Neil 655). Today, regardless of its prior period of such impressive growth, Brazil continues to suffer from “endemic poverty and persistently high levels of inequality” (O’Neil, 655). Much of this poverty, and many people’s subsequent squalor urban living conditions are attributed to the rapid growth in the 1960s – 1970s that caused an influx of people moving into “already overcrowded” cities, which exacerbated the concentration of poverty as the economy began to falter (O’Neil, 623-624). Additionally, its reliance on certain industries that helped spur their rapid growth in the early 2000s makes it increasingly subject to the “violent swings in commodity prices” that for so long helped sustain their growth (Sharma). Despite Brazil’s transition to democracy being a good thing that led to rapid growth that increased its middle class, its over-reliance on certain industries propagates its tendency to fall into economic crisis, furthering Brazil’s already-difficult struggle with poverty and inequality.

Works Cited:

  1. O’Neil, Patrick S. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th ed. W W Norton and Company, Inc, 2015. Print.
  2. “Bearish on Brazil.” Sharma, Ruchir, and Responses: “How Busted is Brazil? Growth After the Commodities Boom”. Debate by Shannon K. O’Neil; Ruchard Lapper; Larry Rohter; Ronaldo Lemos; and Ruchir Sharma. Foreign Affairs. July/August 2012. 4 Nov 2015. Web.
  3.  Roberts, James M., Mark Schreiber, and Derek Scissors. “Brazil: Restoring Economic Growth through Economic Freedom”. The Heritage Foundation. 20 Sept 2012. Web. 4 Nov 2015.

What are the achievements are shortcomings of Brazil’s rapid economic growth?

           Brazil’s economy is sporadic. The country has faced periods of rapid growth contrasted by abrupt economic downturns. This discord is primarily due to Brazil’s economic growth outpacing the development of democratically effective government in ensuring the longevity of such growth. Democracy was only recently consolidated in Brazil, and beforehand the country was subject to military rule. Such rule ultimately served to place most economic processes within the hands of the state (O’Neill, 632). Due to heavy state involvement in these processes, and consequently further exploitation of Brazil’s natural resources, “Military rule coincided with a period of sustained spectacular economic growth (1968-74)” (O’Neill, 633). This period of rapid economic growth, served to justify continued state involvement in these processes. Subsequently, upon the end of military rule due to an economic downturn that led to a surge in demand for democratic reform, such statist polices were not abandoned.

In the modern era, Brazil faces rampant inequality stemming from unemployment and lack of education. The current Brazilian government has sought to remedy the issue with reforms. However, although such programs as “Bolsa Familia” have been effective in combatting the issue, “the rise of the welfare state is crowding out private investment, which remains stagnant” (Lemos). Moreover, these reforms have served to increase growth on a superficial level and employers frequently resort to hiring unskilled workers due to underspending on the schools that these children attend (Sharma). These reforms also lead to increased statism and thus perpetuate the notion that increased government regulation is the sole route to combatting inequality. However, such state programs will inevitably lead to the sustained periods of hyper inflation that Brazil has faced in the past. Due to an inability to inhibit state spending, the continued benefits granted to citizens as well as consistent reliance on exporting commodities as the primary source of economic income, have only served to yet again bring Brazil to the brink of economic downturn. Consequently, due to this “Brazil’s unemployment rate is already surging, hitting a five-year high of 7.5 percent in July, largely because of settled or abandoned infrastructure projects” (Romero). Additionally, these reforms have failed to combat longstanding educational inequality. Even today, of the 8 percent of Brazilians who attend university, “two-thirds of those admitted typically come from the wealthiest 20 percent of the population” (O’Neill, 652). Lastly, among the growing middle-class present in Brazil, there has been astounding levels of job uncertainty. During the years Brazil was in an economic boom, “tens of millions of Brazilians escaped poverty and became known as “the new middle class.” Their ability to buy items like cars and flat-screen TVs for the first time further fueled economic growth” (Daily Mail). However, almost immediately after the boom all of this purchasing power seeming evaporated, and these new members to the working class found themselves unable to find jobs. This lack of stability within society due to the continued state presence within the economy exemplify how the Brazilian government is still politically underdeveloped.

Work Cited:

O’Neil, Patrick H. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th ed. S.l.: W W Norton, 2015.

(Lemos and Romero)

External Articles:

Brazil’s Economic Growth, Not Development

A nation abundant in natural resources, Brazil experienced rapid economic growth fueled majorly by high-price commodity sales after the turn of the 21st century. Much of the trade during that period was with raw-material hungry China, one of Brazil’s biggest trade partners. For the past couple of years, though, China’s consumption of and demand for raw materials has slumped; simultaneously, Brazilian economy has lost growth momentum. This can easily be traced back to the economic policies adopted by Brazil, or rather the lack thereof. Economic growth, however rapid, based on commodity sales, especially raw materials, is generally unsustainable (Ruchir, 2012).

Brazil’s rapid economic growth had some profound significance for the nation: it changed some unfavorable historical trends in Brazil for the better. By attaining high levels of economic growth, inflation – which has always tempered with Brazil’s economy – was kept in check at and around a mild 5%. Various welfare programs had an impact on a large portion of the poverty-ridden population, and helped Brazil better its GINI coefficient. Brazil’s GNI per capita was set on an increasing trajectory between the years 2003-2013, and rose to a highest amount in 2013. Also, Brazil’s huge foreign indebtedness was significantly reduced, and Brazil rose as a creditor in the international scene. This further consolidated Brazil’s spot on the higher-middle income categorization by the World Bank.

However, wealth is concentrated within the top strata of citizens in Brazil while a huge percentage of people live below or hover above the poverty line. Brazil hasn’t been able to tackle the social problems that haunt the nation – a big shortcoming of the ‘Real Plan’ economy. Due to a lack of effective frameworks, many policies implemented to tackle social disparity were ineffectual and slow-coming. Various welfare programs including Bolsa Familia, which is a monthly cash incentive for poor families to send their children to school and to get them vaccinated, are costly and seem wrongly placed because of its slow effects (O’Neil, 2012). Even though the motive is for social inclusion and equality, the government’s focus is wrongly placed on welfare programs that yield slow-paced results instead of on systemic reforms that lead to general social/economic development. Bolsa Familia, having helped 14 million people lead slightly better lives and lowering the GINI coefficient by 15% to 0.527, has had slow-growing impact on human development in Brazil (Deborah and Economico, 2013). However, more robust policies – for education, health, and poverty – and vigorous implementation would have correlated better with the rate of growth that Brazil experienced for over a decade.

Brazil attempted, over the same time period as the high economic growth, to devote resources to infrastructure projects, education, research and development, but it was an ineffective attempt because of the lack of an effective framework (Lemos, 2012). An example of ineffectual policy is Brazil’s “Science Without Borders” program with a budget of $1.65bn. It allows Brazilians to study STEM subjects in the USA or other nations but has two colossal drawbacks: one, the economically able citizens are generally the recipients; two, Brazil doesn’t recognize degrees obtained abroad without formal validation from Brazil’s Education Ministry (Lemos, 2012). These conditions disallow educated Brazilians with graduate/doctorate level degrees from returning back home to help their nation advance.

Despite Brazil’s rapid economic growth over a fruitful decade-long period, Brazil has done little to rise to the status of a developed nation. Despite efforts (which are weak and therefore seemingly futile), Brazil hasn’t uprooted problems that persist: neither social problems, nor economic. Brazil should, in my opinion, look towards ways to attain sustainable economic growth by shifting from exporting raw materials, and focusing more import substitution industralization. For this, the first step would be social development – through human capital development and infrastructural development.

  1. “Bearish on Brazil.” By Sharma, Ruchir, and Responses: “How Busted is Brazil? Growth After the Commodities Boom.” Debate by Shannon K. O’Neil; Richard Lapper; Larry Rohter; Ronaldo Lemos; and Ruchir Sharma. Foreign Affairs. July/August 2012.
  2. Haynes, Brad. “Brazil Protesters Keep Pressure on President Rousseff.” Reuters. August 16, 2015. Accessed November 1, 2015.
  3. Romero, Simon. “As a Boom Fades, Brazilians Wonder How It All Went Wrong.” The New York Times. September 10, 2015. Accessed November 1, 2015.
  4. Anderson, Ken. “Brazil Struggles to Reconcile Rapid Economic Growth with the Demands of a Growing Middle Class.” International Relations Online – Blog. August 23, 2013. Accessed November 1, 2015.
  5. Wetzel, Deborah, and Valor Econômico. “Bolsa Família: Brazil’s Quiet Revolution.” Bolsa Família: Brazil’s Quiet Revolution. November 4, 2013. Accessed November 1, 2015.