This is Skip Montreux in Tokyo Japan. And you are listening to Down to Business English.
A big hello to all of you return listeners and a warm, warm welcome to any of you downloading D2B for the very first time.
My partner in crime and co host, Dez Morgan, has departed the UAE for the summer and is now firmly entrenched on his summer holidays. He is traveling through the UK for a few weeks and will eventually end up in India. I look forward to hearing all about his adventures when he returns in August.
Today on Down to Business English we will be turning our attention to one of the few economies in the world to escape the brunt of the global financial meltdown in 2009. That economy is the economy of Brazil
As a leading member of the BRIC group of emerging economies, Brazil has seen amazing growth numbers over the past decade. However, today their booming economy is being stifled by a serious lack of skilled workers. Not only is this labor shortage making it increasingly difficult for companies to do business, it is also adding to inflationary concerns for the economy. How serious is the labor shortage? What steps are being taken to rectify the situation? The answers to these questions and more today on Down to Business English. So, let’s do it. Let’s get D2B…Down to Business with Brazil: now hiring, apply within.
Soccer, samba, and sun soaked beaches. That is the image most people have of the South American nation of Brazil. What many people don’t realize is that Brazil is currently home to a booming economy, and some experts are saying that they are on the fast track to becoming an economic superpower. Many economists see Brazil as having the fourth largest economy by 2050. Compared to where the nation was sitting 30 years ago, it really is an amazing story.
Just so that we are all on the same page, here is a quick economic profile of the country.
The Federative Republic of Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest country in the world, both in terms of geographic size and population. With an estimated GDP of US$1.7 trillion in 2010, Brazil has the eighth largest economy globally. They are one behind France and one ahead of Italy. And it is a very unique economy in that it is extremely diverse. Unlike here in Japan where the economy is based primarily on manufacturing, Brazil’s economy is spread out over many strong sectors.
Known as the coffeepot of the world, Brazil is the world’s leader in coffee production. They produce one third of the world’s coffee supply. Think of that the next time you are enjoying your morning cup of Joe. In addition to coffee, Brazil is also a lead producer and exporter of sugar, orange juice, ethanol, and tobacco. They also have the world’s largest heard of beef cattle which stands at 198 million heads and they export more beef to China than any other country.
In addition to agribusiness, Brazil boasts a clean and robust energy market. The national oil company Petrobras is the fifth largest oil company in the world and is poised to grow even more with the recent discovery of major oil deposits off the eastern and southern coasts of the country.
in the manufacturing sector, Brazil is home to the world’s third largest aircraft manufacture Embraer, just behind Boeing and Airbus. Most of the leading global automakers also operate facilities in Brazil. And of course in the mining sector there is Vale mining corporation based in Rio de Janeiro. They are the world’s second largest mining company and largest producer of iron ore.
These are only a few highlights on a very long list of strong economic data coming out of Brazil and the list just seems to keep growing.
Certainly, the past 10 years in Brazil have been truly remarkable. But it hasn’t always been the case. In the late 1970s Brazil found itself to be heavily indebted to foreign creditors. They were also facing double digit inflation rates and a declining Gross Domestic Product. Several economic recovery plans were implemented through the 1980s and 1990s but nothing seemed to take hold. By 2002 the situation had deteriorated to the point where to avoid defaulting on their loan payments, the International Monetary Fund loaned Brazil $60 billion dollars. Something similar to what is happening in Greece today.
So how did Brazil turn things around? How did they manage to rectify the situation?
Many people give the economic reforms of President Lula da Silva a lot of the credit. He came to power just after the IMF loaned Brazil money. Through a combination of austerity measures imposed by the IMF and economic and monetary policy reforms introduced by the da Silva administration, the economy was stabilized. One key part of the recovery was stimulating the domestic economy by giving monthly stipends of $115 to families. This measure not only helped boost the manufacturing industries but also helped over 30 million Brazilians join the middle class.
It also helped that higher food prices around the world brought greater profit for Brazil’s commodities. A strong growing domestic economy combined with healthy profits from exports and Brazil was able to pay back the loan from the IMF within 4 short years.
But even with the prosperity of the last 10 years, Brazil today still is facing some unique problems.
The biggest issue facing the nation is a lack of skilled workers. Employment figures coming out of Brazil are incredible. In the first three months of this year over a quarter of a million new jobs were created. Engineers, accountants, professionally trained managers, as well as skilled laborers such as welders and carpenters, are all in high demand. Multinational companies doing business in the country are resorting to importing personnel from depressed economies such as Spain, Portugal, and the U.S. in order to fill positions. Other companies are working in conjunction with technical institutes and universities, hiring students while they are still studying, offering to pay for their tuition in exchange for a commitment to work for their company after graduation. Of course, this red hot demand for workers is leading to higher wages which while great for the worker, does not help to fight against inflation.
A persistent inflation rate is another concern in Brazil. In an attempt to put the brakes on inflation, Brazil’s government has been raising interest rates. However, these higher rates attract even more foreign investment which is pushing the Brazilian currency to be, in many economists eyes, overvalued. The challenge going forward will be to allow growth without creating an overheated economy that would lead to even higher inflation.
With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics both being hosted by Brazil, the world’s eyes will certainly be fixed on this exciting economy and culture.
Now it is time for you and me to get D2V…Down to Vocabulary.
Let’s get things started off today with the phrase the brunt of something. This is a noun phrase and is usually used with the verb to receive, or to get. To get the brunt of something means that you are receiving the worst part or worst effect from something. Listen to this example: Our manager was angry at all of us for not finishing the project on time, but because I was team leader, I received the brunt of his anger. He was more angry at me than the other members of the team. In the story I mentioned that Brazil had escaped the brunt of the global financial meltdown. Brazil was not as badly effected by the financial crisis as other countries around the world were.
Moving on the next word today is the very useful verb to rectify. This word is a synonym, or is similar to words like to fix, to repair, and to correct. In today’s introduction I asked the question, what steps are being taken to rectify the labor shortage in Brazil? In other words, I was asking, what are politicians and businesses doing to repair or make the situation better? Now I usually use rectify when I am talking about a problem that is very large and will take a lot of effort to repair. Listen to this example: Currently in the United States, the government is facing the problem of a huge public debt. Some politicians are saying the best way to rectify the issue is to raise taxes while others feel a better way to rectify the problem is to cut government spending. In any case, they need to do something very soon.
Next let’s talk about the verb to stifle. When something is stifled, it is being prevented from growing or is being restricted in some way. In today’s report, I mentioned that Brazil’s economy is being stifled by a lack of skilled workers. Due to this shortage, Brazil’s economy is not growing as smoothly as it could be. It is being restricted. Another example is how here in Japan, the strong Yen is stifling Japanese exports and therefore hurting the manufacturing sector. Stifle is also quite commonly used as an adjective as in: the stifling heat prevented me from going for a run today.
Now to the idiom to be on the fast track. In the story I mentioned how Brazil’s economy is on the fast track to becoming an economic superpower.To get a mental picture of this expression just imagine a group of runners racing around a 400 meter track. The runner in the lead is said to be in the fast track and is well on his or her way to finishing the race in first place. This expression is very common in business. Currently I am working with a student who, at the very young age of 32, is already the vice president of international sales for his company. He is always out performing his coworkers. He is definitely on the fast track to becoming the CEO of his company in the near future.
Next is another common business expression–to be on the same page. This is a great expression if you want to confirm with your coworker that the two of you understand each other. In the story, I used this expression just before going into the details of Brazil’s economic profile. I was making sure or confirming that you, the listener, had the same understanding of the economic situation in Brazil as I did. Another example would be earlier today I sent Dez an email asking him to confirm when he was returning from holidays. I wrote that it was my understanding that he was returning in early August but just to be on the same page wanted him to confirm. Hmm I’m still waiting for his reply….I hope he comes back.
Following on, let’s look at the verb phrase to be poised to do something. To be poised to do something can either mean you are finished preparing and are now ready to start something, or simply that you are in a position to do something. It is often used to talk about a group or organization being ready to accomplish or achieve something great. In the story I reported that Brazil’s oil company is poised to grow even more in the near future, now that oil reserves have been discovered off Brazil’s coast. Here is another example: China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy sometime in the next 30 years.
Finally today is the idiom to put the brakes on something. Just as when you are driving a car and put the brakes on, the car slows down, this idiom can be used to describe slowing down a process. Brazil’s current inflation rate is the result of many economic processes occurring. In the story I mention that the Brazilian government is trying to put the brakes on, or slow down the rate inflation is rising. They are doing this by raising interest rates. Here is another example: In order to stay under budget this year, our department is going to have to put the brakes on how much we are spending on product advertising. We need to spend the money we have at a much slower rate.
And that is D2V today. As always, I encourage you to go back and listen to the story again and hear these words and phrases in the context of the story.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope today’s story was as interesting for you as it was for me.
I would like to give a big shout to Ms. Iramaia Loiola who recommended the topic for today’s episode of D2B. Ms. Loiola is an English teacher and writer from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She also manages a great blog for English students called English–It’s now or never. You can check out her site at www.english-itsnowornever.blogspot.com Thanks Iramaia, I really appreciate the suggestion!
I would also like to sincerely thank all of you who have left your own show topic suggestions on the Down to Business English Facebook page. Each and every one of your ideas is appreciated and Dez and I will be doing our best to get those shows out to you soon.
If you have a topic idea for an episode of Down to Business English, please send drop by our Facebook Page, click the Like button and post your suggestion on the wall.
And one more shout out to Mr. Paul Emmerson at www.paulemmerson.com . That’s Emmerson with two ‘m’s. Paul is a material writer, teacher trainer and presenter who has published several books for Cambridge University Press and Macmillan. And he has been kind enough to recommend Down to Business English on his website. The site is full of useful tips and techniques for teachers and students alike. Please drop by his site and check it out as well.
And finally a reminder to everyone to drop by the Down to Business English website and sign up for our newsletter. In the newsletter we will bring you updates to some of the stories we cover here on D2B as well as throw in some interesting links and perhaps a study tip or two. You can find our site at www. downtobusinessenglish.com
And don’t forget, you can find me at www.twitter.com/skipmontreux and Dez at www.twitter.com/dezmorgan
Thanks for listening everyone. See you next time.