Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Brazilian prosperity can help build Northern Ireland economy

Symbol of hope: Christ the Redeemer statue over Rio de Janeiro
Symbol of hope: Christ the Redeemer statue over Rio de Janeiro

We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland – but the First and deputy First Ministers will no doubt be hoping that the massive economic growth recently enjoyed by the South American nation will rub off on us.

The differences between the two countries couldn't be starker.

Brazil, famed for its footballers, is now set to star on the global stage when it hosts the 2016 Olympics – but the sun has been shining on its economic fortunes over the last decade.

Our economy, on the other hand, is small, struggling and still highly dependent on the public sector.

Brazil is one of the most populous countries in the world, with an economy that had enjoyed growth of 7.5% in 2010.

It has a population of almost 200 million – the fifth largest in the world – and an area which could fit Northern Ireland in 615 times. Its vast natural resources offer great economic potential.

Brazil is a member of the Bric club – along with Russia, India and China – rapidly developing countries that could overtake the G7 as the world's leading economies by the middle of the century.

Despite its phenomenal growth, Brazil has not been immune from the global recession and still faces problems – in 2012 it had its slowest growth in three years, just 0.9%.

Consumer spending is down, household debt is up and the statue of Christ the Redeemer looks down on shanty towns that extend for miles across Rio de Janeiro.

But the focus for the latest tourists from Northern Ireland to flock to Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio will be on how mutual co-operation can help lift both countries to new heights.

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