Breakfast Discussion with Governor Jaques Wagner
**To read the full report for this event, please click on the cover image to the left or scroll down to the report link at the bottom of the page. Below is a brief summary of the events proceedings.**
In an effort to provide Brazilian leaders with greater exposure to the Washington policy community and advance understanding of Brazilian issues in the United States, the Brazil Institute continued its breakfast discussion series with a high-level meeting with Jaques Wagner, Governor of Bahia.
On September 11, 2007, Governor Wagner assessed the challenge to the Lula government of transforming the president's immense popularity into effective measures to advance a stalled policy agenda during the final three years of the Lula presidency. Despite the frequency of political scandals that have gripped the country, the ability of Brazil's "Teflon" president to remain popular as well as the resurgence of the PT rest on the success of their social agenda. Governor Wagner cautioned against viewing the ‘new left' governments throughout Latin America through a unitary lens. Rather, the region's leaders were elected through legitimate democratic processes, and the underlying dynamics that influenced the electoral outcomes must be understood. Not all countries are repudiating the market reforms of the 1990s and adopting more populist economic policies, he said.
Wagner noted that Bahia is not only an important electoral base in Brazil, but also a regional economic force, accounting for roughly 35 percent of the Northeast's GDP and nearly 60 percent of the region's exports. Wagner stressed the important role the state must play in the country's economic development, citing Bahia's Desenvolve Program (Industrial Development and Economic Integration Program) as an example of one such government initiative. The program targets agro-industry and energy firms, as well as metallurgical, chemical and beverage companies, and seeks to balance economic and social development with environmental preservation. It aims to attract new industries and expand existing enterprises by offering business investors financial incentives, tax reductions and loan subsidies. Although the government can do more to advance economic opportunities for its citizens by promoting business development, Wagner emphasized that entrepreneurs also "bear a responsibility" to channel more revenue back into social programs. He said business leaders are gradually coming to the understanding that economic development is hindered by inequality; the country's growth depends on improving social conditions--and the private sector, not only government, must play a role.