As Sunday evening rolled by, the lower house of the Brazilian Congress began its vote in the process to impeach the current president Dilma Rousseff, accused of hiding a budgetary deficit to win re-election in 2014. When the final tally was announced six hours later, more than two-thirds of the lawmakers voted to pass the motion. The impeachment motion will next go to the country’s Senate, and if a majority approves it there, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial. This would probably happen in May, three months before the Summer Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro – an event that was supposed to showcase Brazil as a rising power on the global stage.
“Bleak” is a word that I hear often to describe the current situation in Brazil. Compared to 2013, the real (R$) is down 50%, while simultaneously funding is drying up for the ground-breaking BSMP. What does this all portend from an internationalization perspective? Is it time to disengage, sit on the fence and see how things shape up? Quite the contrary, as I see it. I would suggest “doubling down,” and by that I mean to strengthen our commitment to a particular strategy – or in this case, to a country (and region for that matter).
Why do I say this? Because over the past three years, I have visited Brazil six times and (as the political uncertainty has grown) interest in U.S. undergraduate programs has increased significantly. As the largest country and the biggest economy in South America, Brazil is a land blessed with natural resources. The underlying factors that made this economy the B in the BRICS nations haven’t changed, but have been overshadowed by the negative news of corruption and political upheaval.
According to our annual survey, Brazil is at top ten recruitment destination globally, and leads the western hemisphere in days-spent-in-country at just over a week/year. And I would say that having had a chance to interact personally with students and parents on several of our recruitment tours, the intent to find a solution for the student who wishes to study abroad has never been stronger. Now is the time when parents want their child to be away from all the uncertainty, safely immersed in a predictable environment that provides him or her an opportunity to pursue academic and career dreams.
NOW is the time to be in Brazil, interacting face-to-face with parents and students, helping them with their queries. If Brazil is a part of your longer-term strategy – this is probably the best time for you to invest resources in this essential country.