Going for Growth 2021 – Brazil


The need to rekindle economic activity after the pandemic only intensifies the urgency of tackling long- standing structural policy challenges. To sustain strong growth productivity needs to increase, as well as protection of those in need and economic opportunities for all.

Brazil-Economy Brazil-Inequality Brazil-Environment

Economy: Percentage gap with respect to the population-weighted average of the highest 18 OECD countries in terms of GDP per capita (in constant 2015 PPPs).

Inequality: The Gini coefficient for disposable income measures the extent to which the distribution of disposable income among households deviates from perfect equal distribution. A value of zero represents perfect equality and a value of 100 extreme inequality. The latest available data for Brazil is 2019.

Environment: A high exposure to air pollution refers to above 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5.

Source: Economy: OECD, National Accounts, Productivity and Labour Force Statistics Databases; Inequality: OECD, Income Distribution Database and World Bank, World Development Indicators Database; Environment: OECD, Environment and Energy Databases.

Growth needs to bring opportunities for all

The pandemic exposed weaknesses of social protection policies, notably their poor targeting. To increase the effectiveness of social benefits, current indexation arrangements and some of the benefits should be reviewed, while strengthening others. Well-targeted conditional cash transfers could be expanded and converted into a true social safety net by accelerating benefit provision in the case of dismissal and more gradual withdrawal to strengthen job search incentives. Such a reform should build on the experiences made with temporary pandemic-related emergency benefits for informal workers, which account for one third of employment and are not covered by unemployment insurance schemes.

In the longer term, enhancing outcomes and equity in education and professional training holds the key to lower inequality and poverty (Panel A). Access to education has improved in recent decades, but the quality of education is highly unequal across schools and regions and early drop-out rates are high. Expansion of early-childhood education would benefit particularly children from more challenging socio- economic backgrounds while at the same allowing more women to take up gainful employment. Better selection and training of teachers would help improve the quality of education, as would a wider adoption of vocational content in secondary education. Professional training – if well-aligned with local skill demand – can help adults to adapt to changing job requirements resulting from either the pandemic and/or stronger domestic and external competition. Opportunities for skill upgrading facilitate worker mobility into new and better-paying jobs and strengthen productivity at the same time.

Vulnerabilities and areas for reform


Brazilian firms currently face limited incentives to become more productive, emphasising the need to reduce barriers to trade, entrepreneurship and competition (Panel B). At the same time, a complex tax system distorts incentives for productivity enhancements and results in high compliance costs. Consolidating all six consumption taxes into one simple value-added tax with a broad base, full refund for input VAT paid and zero-rating for exports would reduce distortions in the tax system.

Deforestation, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, has recently rebounded. This emphasises the need to strengthen effective protection of natural resources, including of the Amazon rain forest. Current laws and protections, capable of reducing deforestation in the past, should be preserved and coupled with stronger enforcement efforts to combat illegal deforestation, which will require additional resources.

Brazil: Summary of Going for Growth priorities and recommendations


Recent progress on structural reforms

The passing of the pension reform in 2019 was a major milestone that has been on the agenda for many years. It will be the basis for further reforms to enhance the targeting of social protection benefits towards those most in need. The 2020 reform of financing of basic education (“FUNDEB”) will also be a crucial pillar for further improvements in the area. In the wake of COVID-19, there is a growing consensus for the need to bolster social protection, especially for informal workers. However, given the limited fiscal space, this would require spending cuts in other areas. The government is very committed to additional structural reforms and has submitted several reform proposals to Congress, where they are currently being discussed.


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