Fernando Henrique Cardoso

FORMER PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL

Brazil 2015  I  Politics & Diplomacy  I  Leader

BIOGRAPHY Born on 18 June 1931 and also known by his initials FHC, he is a Brazilian politician, professor and sociologist who served as President of Brazil from 1995 to 2003. He is the first President to have been reelected for a subsequent term. He was awarded in 2000 with the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

THE KEY ATTRIBUTES OF A LEADER ARE HAVING A VISION FOR THE FUTURE, THE COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS, THE ABILITY TO STAY THE COURSE AND PERSEVERE.

Should Brazil be considered an emerging nation or has it already emerged?

The Brazilian economy has indeed emerged, Brazilian society, not yet. Brazil needs to substantially improve its cultural development to ensure quality education for all, social development to ensure basic health care to all, and juridical development to improve public safety as well as full and speedy access to Justice services by all. Among the so-called emerging countries, only China can be compared to Brazil in terms of development performance. We are the first or second major global exporter of 7 out of the 10 main mineral and food commodities. We have expanded our industrial basis and are well advanced in the service sector, especially regarding the use of new information technologies. The key attributes of a leader are having a vision for the future, the courage to take risks, the ability to stay the course and persevere, and the capacity to nurture trust and persuade others to follow.

 

Are you surprised at how quickly Brazil has grown in these past couple of years and what challenges does such massive growth bring?

Yes, I was surprised at the rapid pace of change that Brazil has achieved. During my mandates as President, I stressed time and again that Brazil was no longer an underdeveloped country, even though it remained a socially unjust nation. I also underlined that we should no longer be seen as ‘a country of the future’, as the future was already upon us. But I did not expected the depth of the transformation derived not only from economic stabilization but also from political democratization, and from the social policies initiated in my government and deepened in subsequent administrations.

 

Can you provide an overview of your vision for what needs to be done to ensure Brazil’s continued leadership?

In the field of education, we need to go through an authentic revolution regarding the reshaping of the school curriculum, teacher training programs, effective learning of basic skills and the extension of the number of hours that students stay at school, especially at the elementary level. The same applies to higher education, which should give greater priority to the acquisition of scientific knowledge relevant to the challenges of daily life and work in a complex society.

 

In the field of infrastructure, we need to overcome, once and for all, the ideological bias against privatization, which curtails the amount of resources available for investment and downplays the management capacities of the private sector. We have also to make a final decision regarding the role of ethanol in our energy matrix in order to define a consistent policy to promote its use. In addition, we need greater clarity about Petrobras’ financial viability regarding pre-salt oil drilling.

 

We must also achieve greater transparency regarding the public/private relationship, without the recurring inconsistencies in the treatment of capital, with government either deciding to be the only investor or opting for lukewarm forms of partnership with the private sector. The same goes for the modalities of exploring hydroelectric energy that remains unclear to this day. In the environmental field, these clarifications will also serve the purpose of creating the conditions for a low intensity carbon economy.

 

Tell us more about your latest book “The sum total and what is left”.

The book is an open and candid conversation with someone who has reached 80 years of age and, released from any concerns related to the functions he has exercised or to his academic status, delves into controversial themes such as narcotic drugs, the fear of death, and the value of friendship. In this book, I also share my understanding of the great challenges facing today’s world in the aftermath of the informational revolution and the balances or imbalances coming from the shift of economic power towards Asia: Will the West be capable of responding to this trend? Which position will be occupied by Brazilians, inhabitants of the farthest shores of the West, in this changing world? All this and more is dealt with in a colloquial and straightforward language. The book has been on the top 10 best-seller lists in Brazil since its recent publication.