According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the Brazilian economy, which grew by 8% last year, is likely to grow only half as fast in 2011 because of infrastructure bottlenecks. Major constraints on growth include power outages, needed maintenance on industrial plants, inadequate port capacity, an internal transportation system that moves goods only half as fast as China’s and inadequate schools and education with a resulting shortage of high-skilled workers. According to the Journal article, “Brazil’s bottlenecks are the result of little public investment during decades of economic stagnation.”
It is interesting to contrast the Journal’s take on Brazil’s economic problems with the enthusiasm on its editorial pages for the efforts of House Republicans to cut the U.S. Federal budget. In its commentary on Brazil, the Journal recognizes the building of ports, roads and schools as a government responsibility and doesn’t even consider the possibility that these elements of infrastructure might be established and maintained by the private sector.
The United States economy also is constrained by some of the same problems: inadequate education, excess medical expenditures due to the bad behavior of poorly educated citizens (such as eating too much), collapsing bridges and roads, an inadequate supply of highly educated workers in such fields as medicine and electrical engineering. In this regard, we can learn something from Brazil’s experience. If our government fails to do its part to maintain our infrastructure, education, research and enlightened public discourse, we won’t get the economic growth that everyone wants.