BRICS: B for Brazil

This is a back view of the colorful art piece located by Rosenthal Library. It really got me thinking about the economic role Brazil plays in the global market.

This is a back view of the colorful art piece located by Rosenthal Library. It really got me thinking about the economic role Brazil plays in the global market.

Rocinha, depicted here from an aerial view, is a favela in Brazil. I think that Queens College’s art piece, with its bright colors and structural form, accurately captures the cultural and energetic nature of the real favela. (After having taken Art History, I know how to appreciate the aesthetics, too!)

Rocinha, depicted here from an aerial view, is a favela in Brazil. I think that Queens College’s art piece, with its bright colors and structural form, accurately captures the cultural and energetic nature of the real favela. (After having taken Art History, I know how to appreciate the aesthetics, too!)

Walking around the Queens College campus this semester, you might have noticed a conspicuous change. I am not talking about the improved drainage system, most evident by the newly installed drain in front of Powerdermaker that successfully prevents flooding when it rains. (Although, it was about time!) Rather, I am referring to ‘Projeto Morrinho’, the art project on the stairs by the fountain next to the Rosenthal Library. At first I was rather annoyed by its inconvenient placement; I like sitting in that spot when it is nice outside. As I looked around and saw signs on the lampposts, I realized that this art project had something to do with the year of Brazil theme. It depicts a favela, which is a shanty town found in urban areas in Brazil.  Favellas came to being in the 1970s, when people began moving from their rural homes to the cities. This rural exodus was the major starting point in the developing urbanization of Brazil. In fact, Brazil has been playing an increasingly important role in the global economy as of late.

This map highlights the fact Brazil is relatively isolated geographically from the other BRICS countries. Impressively, it still maintains a relevant, important role in the global economy.

This map highlights the fact Brazil is relatively isolated geographically from the other BRICS countries. Impressively, it still maintains a relevant, important role in the global economy.

A clear indicator of Brazil’s significant role in the world economy is its inclusion in BRICS. The term BRICS, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, (and South Africa) was coined by Jim O’Neil in a report he wrote under Goldman Sachs in 2003. In this piece, he claimed that by 2050, these four economies  (South Africa was tacked on later) would be wealthier than the economic behemoths of today, namely the United States and Russia. A rather bold assertion at the time, his conclusion was based on the fact that changes in political, economic, and social policies have been conducive to tremendous economic growth in the respective countries. Together, they could function as a force in the global market, thereby shifting the current powers.

Each country in BRICS has a unique part in contributing to the world economy. Brazil is known for being the largest exporter of resources (To learn more about Brazil’s environment, check out Songyi’s blog!). In fact, Brazil has the largest national economy in Latin America. It is a mixed market, meaning that people can trade freely, but with some government regulation. By trading a wide range of goods and resources, including aircrafts, electrical equipment, ore, and coffee, Brazil has created a highly diversified economy that is ripe for growth. As a result, it has been able to expand its capital markets, reach the lowest level of unemployment that the country has seen in years, and achieve consistent trade

As was highly publicized during the government shutdown, America owes creditors more than $17 trillion dollars. This number rises every second-in fact, by the time I post this, this amount will be completely obsolete!

As was highly publicized during the government shutdown, America owes creditors more than $17 trillion dollars. This number rises every second-in fact, by the time I post this, this amount will be completely obsolete!

surpluses. In short, their financial situation is much healthier, both in the short and long run, than that of America, which is struggling with a high deficit (owing others money) and a contracting economic market (in terms of the variety of goods that are produced).

O’Neil’s prediction was made when a graph of the United States GDP was growing. However, now that the GDP is well below what it should be, O’Neil’s prediction for the growth of BRICS might not come into fruition. The financial crash of 2007 had a widespread impact on every nation’s local economy, and consequently, behavior in the global market.

O’Neil’s prediction was made when a graph of the United States GDP was growing. However, now that the GDP is well below what it should be, O’Neil’s prediction for the growth of BRICS might not come into fruition. The financial crash of 2007 had a widespread impact on every nation’s local economy, and consequently, behavior in the global market.

While O’Neil’s argument had merit, there were some flaws that must be addressed. One of the most critical oversights was the fact that O’Neil assumed that there was a limitless supply of resources, such as oil and coal. In fact, there is a finite amount, and a country’s decisions and consequent behavior is based on the fluctuations of a resource’s availability. Brazil might be doing well at the current moment, but if there were to be a sudden scarcity of water, their economy would surely reach a standstill. Perhaps it would even plummet into a recession, unable to cope with this sudden obstacle. Another hurdle that O’Neil neglected to consider was the aftermath of a potential economic tumble in a world power’s economy. I am referring, of course, to the financial crash of 2007. At the time that O’Neil wrote this piece, Brazil and the other three countries might have been poised to dominate the word economy. However, the impact of the crash manifested itself in every country, in varying degrees. Suddenly, it is clear that even someone who works for Goldman Sachs is not infallible in his economic acumen.

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This picture poignantly depicts the worries of the Brazilian people. While the rest of the world is excited for the World Cup, local citizens are concerned with their own well-being. They would rather their money be spent in a way that improved their way of life, rather than preparing to host a major sporting event.

In the year of 2013, Brazil does not exactly appear to be on the track that O’Neil predicted. Indeed, it is engaged in trade with other countries. However, there are inevitable bumps in the road when it comes to achieving a country’s potential. There is a great deal of government corruption in Brazil; politicians rarely go to jail, even when found guilty of egregious crimes such as kidnapping and slave labor. I learned in microeconomics that government can make markets better off when they interfere, such as by ensuring that businesses charge fair prices. However, using funds for illegal purposes or in inefficient ways causes a nation to regress, not progress. The corruption, and national sentiment of frustration, came to light when the government wanted to implement a fare hike on public transportation. While a $.10 increase is miniscule compared to the frequent fare hikes

The proposed increase of (only) $0.10 sparked immense outrage, leading to violence in the streets.

The proposed increase of (only) $0.10 sparked immense outrage, leading to violence in the streets.

instituted by the MTA, it infuriated Brazilians. They were fed up with the fact that they had paid burdensome taxes but received pathetic public education and transportation systems in return. These taxes were mainly being spent on preparations to host the World Cup in 2014 (To learn more about the World Cup, check out Nick’s blog!) While the World Cup generates revenue from tourist spending, Brazilians have been suffering acutely from the current government prodigality. To be a thriving economy, a nation must invest in infrastructure and innovation that will be beneficial in the long run.

Brazil is a dynamic country with a unique culture and a fascinating history. While it used to be ignored relative to other countries, it should not longer get the cold shoulder.  While predicting what will happen in a country’s economic future is impossible, it is normal to make an educated conjecture as to what will likely occur. I personally think that Brazil will flourish over the next few decades, in comparison to other world powers. Granted, it has not been growing as fast as it should have because of the sluggish nature of the general world economy. Nonetheless, be on the lookout for a new key player in the global economy that will surely rival China as America’s number one trade partner.

By the way, the unit of money in Brazil is called the Real (not pronounced like the word meaning authentic, but rather ‘ree-al’.)

By the way, the unit of money in Brazil is called the Real (not pronounced like the word meaning authentic, but rather ‘REE-al’.)

Published in: on December 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm Comments (0)

It’s True: No more $15 for Printing when Filling out Teacher Evaluations

With the $15 for printing no longer being rewarded, I now only have 3 uses for  my student ID: entering the QC library, entering the QC gym, and of course, getting student discounts at stores and theaters.

With the $15 for printing no longer being rewarded, I now only have 3 uses for my student ID: entering the QC library, entering the QC gym, and of course, getting student discounts at stores and theaters.

When I first heard about the Technology Fee Committee last semester, I was excited to join. As a freshman, it would be my first real opportunity to actively contribute to the college and potentially have an impact. Also, I was interested to know if the technology fees that each and every student pays (included in your student fees) were being allocated in the most efficient way. At the last meeting, we were informed that students who filled out teacher evaluation forms would no longer get $15 for printing. Why? Queens College is in major debt and needed to cut corners somewhere. Although I was visibly irate (which some professors at the meeting thought was humorous because the anger matched the redhead “fiery temper” stereotype), I attempted to calmly and logically explain why this is a terrible idea.

I first explained that the number of students who would fill out the evaluations would plummet. Money, I said, is the ultimate incentive when it comes to human behavior. Students who needed money to print multiple ten-page essays (like myself) would fill out the forms in order to get the money to print. By taking away the $15 incentive, most students would suddenly have no motivation to complete it. Ultimately, significantly less people would fill it out.

When I raised this issue, an administrator responded that he did not think such a precipitous drop would result. He explained that Baruch College does not provide $15 for printing when a student fills out the evaluation, and yet students still complete it. I immediately, but politely, rejected his notion on psychological-not even on economic-grounds. Taking away a reward that people have become accustomed to getting will result in far greater consequences should the reward be taken away, than if nothing were to have been offered from the beginning. Baruch students are accustomed to filling out evaluations with no expectation for anything in return.  On a tangential note, I genuinely don’t understand this. Baruch is considered the business CUNY. How are none of their students asking “What’s in it for me, financially?” Queens College students, on the other hand, will feel the sting of a reward being snatched from them.

I was foolish enough to have submitted the evaluation immediately, think that I should do it before I forget and not get $15 for printing. The evaluation system has a glitch in it, so that I had to fill out my biology evaluation twice, as you can see. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, as I will be getting no money, regardless.

I was foolish enough to have submitted the evaluation immediately, thinking that I should do it before I forget and not get $15 for printing. The evaluation system has a glitch in it, so that I had to fill out my biology evaluation twice, as you can see. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, as I will be getting no money, regardless.

The administrator then claimed that students should be filling them out solely out of a civic duty to their college. He also proceeded to ask if we voted in the elections, and that filling out the evaluations are essentially the same thing. At this point I almost wanted to laugh. He was referencing the fact that evaluations are considered when determining tenure for professors. While this is technically true, evaluations in fact play an infinitesimal role in the process. Furthermore, I found it insulting that he had also equated my democratic right of voting for a leader in the free world with my evaluation of “strongly disagree” to the question of “professor returns assignments in timely fashion”. Granted, I understand that he was talking about student apathy and did not intent to be offensive. Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that students look out for their best interests, and not the financial best interests of Queens College.

This is what I anticipate to be the trajectory of number of completed student evaluations:it will plummet. Maybe not the first semester, as some people do it out of habit. Once they realize that they did not get the $15, the following semester they will not fill it out. I guarantee it.

This is what I anticipate to be the trajectory of number of completed student evaluations: it will plummet. Maybe not the first semester, as some people do it out of habit. Once they realize that they did not get the $15, the following semester they will not fill it out. I guarantee it.

However, he also did not take into account the often-apathetic nature of students. Money functions as a more powerful motivator than does civic responsibility. I am not denying the fact that people will still fill them out. However, a fellow student member of the committee made an accurate analysis of the situation at hand. The apathetic people will stop filling them out. However, students who either abhor a professor or are enamored by their professor will be the ones filling out the evaluations. The results of the evaluations will come out extremely skewed, with opinions at opposite extremes. To have a helpful evaluation system, it is necessary for people in the middle to also contribute. Considering the fact that the Technology Fee Committee just approved of a move to spend money to improve the teacher evaluation system, I think we should ensure that the information posted on this system is also accurate.

I did not write this post to bash the Technology Fee Committee. As a member, I have learned a lot about the internal workings of Queens College as well as its budgets allocations. However, I was angered by this revelation, and I thought it is important for students to be aware of it. I asked of the administrative members that, at the very least, the remaining balance for printing not be removed at the end of the spring semester if indeed it will not be replenished. Unfortunately, I highly doubt that they will heed my request. It used to be more financially worthwhile to print at Queens College by swiping my card. Now, however, I think I just might start printing at home or, if that becomes too much of a hassle, invest in a printer (which, to cover my costs, I would sell upon graduation to another student who would be in a similar predicament).

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm Comments (3)
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