Brazil | FIFA World Cup 1 | Olympics 1 | Papa 0

Alas Brazil’s hope of having their cardinal elected as Pope was dashed by Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis of Argentina. Having got the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in Rio in 2016 this would have been the icing on the cake for Brazil. It will continue to thrive regardless.

At the end of September 2012 David Cameron, the Prime Minister, took a 40-strong trade delegation on a two day visit to Sao Paulo to capitalise on the Olympic connection and to foster trade links with one of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses. He opened a JCB digger factory which is expected to produce £100 million a year in orders for components from JCB plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wales. Mr Cameron said: ‘This visit is about British jobs, British growth and the British economy, because I want Britain to be tied up to the fastest growing economies on the planet.’

During the visit it transpired that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, was a hot topic of conversation with the media. Boris’s handing over of the Olympic and Paralympic flags ahead of the Rio Games in 2016 was beamed into millions of Brazilian homes and they wanted to discuss the rivalry between them. It can only be good for business if they are taking such a keen interest in our capital and the country even if  David Cameron had a few moments where his diplomatic skills were put to the test. By all accounts he acquitted himself well.

Till recently we have thought of Brazil as a very poor country without much hope. Brazil is tackling poverty through its Bolsa Família Program and for this they receive technical and financial support from the World Bank. It is a family grant scheme where 13.9 million poor families with children receive an average of R$70.00 (about US$35) in direct transfers. In return, they commit to keeping their children in school and taking them for regular health checks. It is cited as one of the key factors behind the positive social outcomes achieved by Brazil in recent years and their government claims that it has lifted 22 million people from extreme poverty.

According to the FT, this week Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced an additional disbursement of R$773 (US$395) million. This is for 2.5 million very poor people and they will receive it on top of their Bolsa Família grant. The aim is to break the cycle of poverty and to give Brazil the educated workforce it needs to forge ahead.

Brazil’s star is in the ascendant and that we need to take advantage of the opportunities it will afford us. Therese May, the Home Secretary, was keen to end the agreement that allows Brazilians up to six months in the UK without a visa over concerns about illegal immigration from that country. Yesterday David Cameron used Prime Minister’s Questions to reject proposals for new regulations for Brazilian visitors to the UK. Therese May has now cancelled the plan following concerns that it would impact business links with the country as well as the UK tourism industry.

According to The Telegraph, Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow and chairman of the all-party group on Brazil, said: “I am delighted it is not going to happen because Brazil is one of the most important nations on earth and we have to build as close relations with them as possible.”

Therese May has changed her mind just in time to save us from an own goal.

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