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Doing Business in Brazil: Political and economic landscape

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Ethics and Democracy

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After moments of great suffering when not only Brazil but the world was faced with a lethal pandemic resulting in the death of millions, life begins to return to normal. The economic issues caused by the pandemic in addition to the health injuries of citizens show the dramatic social abyss, which is engulfing mainly the lower-middle classes in Brazil. Economic markers, GDP below the target, and galloping inflation demonstrate that the ghost of recession is more realistic than we'd like.

Regardless of one's political ideology, Brazil, which was once an empire ruled by an emperor until 1822, and was once ruled by dictators and the military, is now experiencing the democratic regime defined as a political regime by which all eligible citizens participate equally – directly or through elected representatives – in the proposition, development, and creation of laws, practicing the power of governance by means of the universal suffrage, in other words, voting.

In view of all political regimes known to date, democracy is celebrated as the most adequate as it is supposed to represent the people's will. However, the issue is not that simple, as the people is made up of a group of individuals having different ideals, different purposes, and different needs.

In Brazil, considering its population number, the direct practice of democracy, that is, allowing each citizen to vote over each given issue, is unfeasible. Therefore, our democratic regime is indirect, electing people's representatives to political positions, whether at the federal, state, municipal, or district level, granting these politicians with the mandate to represent their respective voters.

Undoubtedly, in my view, one of the best definitions for democracy, according to professor Leandro Karnal, is the one given by Jean-Jacques Rousseau: democracy is imperfect, but perfectible.

However, the question that possibly arises the greatest interest is whether ethics and democracy can coexist within a presidential system of government like ours. And the answer is that they not only can, but they should!

However, the question is not so uncomplicated as taught by Harvard professor Michael Sandel: removing the doubt of whether what is being done is the right thing to do is not always clear – given that politics takes into account not only the people's will, but also the parties' ideologies, the interests of market segments, and political and power aspirations of the politician. Should one be loyal to the people (given the complexity of the will of this group of subjects), be loyal to the party (which often offers support and creates considerable conflicts of interests), or be loyal to convictions (not always undamaged, under the ethical standpoint, since they are tainted by personal gains or conflicts for power)?

Distortions in the democratic regime can considerably hinder the coexistence of ethics and democracy, such as lifetime positions, nepotism, lack of transparency, and excess of power centered in a single individual, whether in the legislative, executive, or judiciary branch.

Approximately 10 years ago, the TV network Bandeirantes broadcasted a story in its newscast “Jornal da Band” on the benefits granted to the political class in Sweden, informing that Representatives, while exercising their mandates, receive functional apartments having 18 to 40 m2, without the right to a private washing machine or domestic servants; their offices are 18m2, without the right to advisers, secretaries, or drivers; the Prime Minister's residence is 300m2, without employees for domestic tasks.

These information among other seem even utopic considering that the same democratic regime exists there and here in Brazil. But the questions that arises are whether the democratic regime is really the same, whether the awareness on the taxpayer's money is the same, and whether the altruism in managing public affairs overcomes personal interests.

There are, however, two driving forces to shape the democratic regime, within solid moral values, strengthening its coexistence with ethics.

The first is called education, which is fundamental for the development of any country. It is through education that people's socioeconomic condition can be improved, the country can develop technologically, social inequalities are reduced, and moral values of the population and its representatives are enhanced.

The second is called combating impunity or “enforcement”. From an ethical standpoint, just as the recognition of doing what is right, punishing mistakes should be a premise. Impunity, regardless of its groundings, encourages unethical or even criminal conduct.

The people are the most responsible for this change in the democratic regime, as they elect their representatives, who will deliberate on their interests. In order for the democratic regime to evolve and be perfected, based on ethical principles, the choice of such representatives must take into account the same as companies consider when hiring a candidate: behavior, skills, and attitudes. Whether Brazilian democracy will be ethical is through attitudes.

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