In This Review

Trandsotming Brazil: A Reform Era in Perspective
Trandsotming Brazil: A Reform Era in Perspective
By Mauricio A. Font
Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, 288 pp

In this useful preliminary evaluation of Fernando Henrique Cardoso's eight years in office, Font argues that the reformist Brazilian president understood both the importance of executive leadership and the need to construct a broad political coalition to promote change. Seeking to break the hold of hyperinflation on the economy, Cardoso pushed forward privatization, trade liberalization, and deregulation, and recalibrated the relationship between the federal government and states and municipalities. But Font also shows the extent to which Brazil remained vulnerable to external financial shocks and failed to resolve the dilemma of how to achieve both stabilization and growth. And in return for a change in the constitution in 1997 to allow him to run for reelection the following year, Cardoso, Font argues, postponed the bulk of his fiscal adjustment policies, leaving the country unprepared for the severity of the 1998 Asian crisis when it hit. Cardoso was ultimately not able to sustain his new fiscal model and, despite major successes against inflation, could not complete pension, tax, or social security reform -- and for these reasons Font remains uncertain about Brazil's political and economic future.