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Comparing Brazil and India: Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Manmohan Singh

17 May 2014

By:- Gerry Rodgers

In the 1980s the Brazilian economy went through deep depression and high inflation. In 1993, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was appointed Finance Minister and succeeded in eliminating inflation and stabilizing the economy. Elected President in 1994, for the next 8 years he oversaw an economic programme promoting growth and development through liberalization, privatization and increasing openness to the global economy. His government aimed to offset some of the adverse side-effects of a market-driven development path through a variety of social programmes, some of them innovative such as cash transfers to poor households conditional on school attendance of children.

Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister in India at the same time as Cardoso was Finance Minister in Brazil, and he too introduced a series of major reforms aimed at promoting development through economic liberalization and greater openness to the global economy. Unlike Cardoso he did not become Prime Minister immediately (the position of Prime Minister being the nearest equivalent in India to President in Brazil), but when he did so in 2004 he too oversaw an economic programme which combined market-driven growth with complementary social programmes, some of them innovative such as MGNREGA.

The parallels are not exact, and the outcomes were also different, but in both countries there was a tension between achieving economic and social goals which reflected the nature of the development path. A more detailed comparison may be quite enlightening, especially in view of Brazil’s subsequent shift towards a greater integration of economic and social policies.

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