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 leadership discussion series with a high-level meeting with Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul Yeda Crusius. Among the various objectives of her trip to North America, Governor Crusius met with President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick and representatives from the Bank to sign-off on an extension of a US$1 billion credit to reschedule the state's public debt—a deal that has been made possible by her successful fiscal reforms efforts. The Wilson Center discussion focused on the state of Rio Grande do Sul's fiscal and budgetary prerogatives as well as government initiatives to increase investment and spur economic growth.
Yeda Rorato Crusius, an economist and university professor, was elected governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul on October 2006. A leading member of the Brazilian Social Democrat Party (PSDB), Governor Crusius is the first woman elected to the governorship of the state. She was voted into office on a platform of fiscal discipline. Until she took office in January 2007, Rio Grande do Sul had run a 35-year budget deficit, had the worst fiscal balance of the 27 states in Brazil, and the smallest rate of public investment. Governor Crusius has used her mandate to pursue and successfully implement necessary fiscal reforms. Under her leadership, the state has reigned-in government spending, controlled a 36-year fiscal deficit and increased public investment.
Rio Grande do Sul is a well-developed and economically-advanced state located in the southern most region of Brazil. Governor Crusius remarked that the state's GDP per capita, human development index (HDI), average life expectancy, literacy rate, and average years of education remain well above Brazil's national average. In 2007, the state received more than US$ 3.8 billion in new investments. Nonetheless, as a result of Rio Grand do Sul's deteriorating fiscal balance, inadequate rate of public investment and chronic budget deficits, the state has suffered erratic economic growth and seen a decline in some of its human development indicators. To address these concerns, Governor Crusius set out an ambitious agenda for her administration. The principal issues she aims to address involve revamping the state's aging infrastructure; boosting agricultural production by promoting better water resource management; and increasing the competitiveness of the state by doubling the current rate of public investment to a rate of 10% (of government spending) by 2010.