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Brazil: Reversal of Fortune, Alfred P. Montero

Reviewed by Brandon Van Dyck

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Despite recent problems of economic stagnation and social unrest, Brazil, in the last 20 years, has undergone a striking reversal of fortune. Policymaking institutions have improved, and better economic and social policies have resulted, leading to sustained low inflation, a long economic boom, and significant reductions in Brazil’s notoriously high levels of poverty and in­equality. These advances in governability and policy quality confounded the pessimistic predictions that dominated analyses of Brazil during the country’s first decade of democracy (1985–1995). Yet they have also generated a degree of optimism about Brazil’s economic and political future that probably is not warranted. Precisely how—and how much—has Brazil changed for the better since the early 1990s? Can we find a reasonable middle ground between the excessive pessimism of early analyses and the excessive optimism of more recent ones? For a reader interested in these questions, there are few better places to look than Alfred P. Montero’s clear, wide-ranging, and consistently interesting new book.

Montero identifies three dimensions of possible turnaround: governability, the quality of policy, and the qualit

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