Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Expat News and Info Jan 6, 2014: Libya, Brazil (reposted from original location)

article from January 6, 2014
By Jamie Douglas

Working in Libya

During the attack on Libya that deposed Muammar Gaddafi, I wrote two articles (here and here) for Expat Daily News forecasting that there would be many openings in the oil fields of Libya, which holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, to rebuild the infrastructure that has been neglected for decades and also to build new high-capacity pipelines.

Sure enough, there is now a sizeable population of expat workers under contract to various companies as well as the state-owned Libyan oil company. But one must always be careful when navigating the explosive atmosphere of this country. After 40 years of iron-fisted rule by the despot, there is still a lot of hatred against Westerners present in this oil-rich nation.

Sadly, two expats decided to go on a romantic beachfront picnic in western Libya recently, but instead of having an undisturbed time on a lovely beach, they were later found shot to death, execution style.

Tripoli itself has several enclaves of expats who only move in heavily secured convoys, and life is very difficult for them, as they are unable to move freely. The concept of accompanying family members is impossible to realize, but the excellent salaries are enough incentive for foreigners to go live in this desert wasteland that is suffering from all kinds of security issues.

Brazil, the “B” in BRICS

The only Portuguese-speaking nation in the New World, Brazil is the fifth-largest nation in the world. It is home to over 200 million people, the majority of which live in poverty.

The nation had become the darling of investors, with its ever-growing GDP, and the currency of the nation, after years of wild swings and hyperinflation, became one of the strongest in Latin America. Along with that came a new era in politics that brought socialist Lula da Silva into the office of the presidency. New wealth was created with industries and a middle class was established, but the very poor still existed below what the World Bank considers to be abject poverty, US$1.25 per day per family.

With all the newfound wealth, one would have expected the administration of Lula da Silva to institute stronger social programs to stabilize the destitute and build a sustainable social safety net. But instead, he committed the nation to take on the Soccer World Cup as well as the Olympic Games, squandering billions of dollars in the process.

His successor, Dilma Rousseff inherited a mess of corruption that ate away at the core of the government, with ministers and governors as well as local politicians robbing the nation’s coffers.

The nation initially was spared the impact of the meltdown that was triggered by the real estate bubble in the USA and Europe, but by late 2013, the Brazilian real had lost almost 30% in value, and the nation was downgraded by the major ratings agencies.

The new affluence has brought in many manufacturers and there has been a boom in auto sales, which, in turn, has created a demand for refined petroleum products, a large portion of which has to be imported, adding to the problems of inflation and the nation’s trade deficit.

Meanwhile, the construction projects for the World Cup are way behind schedule and the quality of the construction can only be described as shoddy, leading the FIFA President Sepp Blatter to issue an unusually blunt statement on January 6, 2014.

This is also an election year, which will see Dilma Rousseff try to hang on to the presidency of Brazil. Her current approval rating is 52% among the desperately poor but at an all-time low of 0% among the upper classes. She has looked at the example set in Argentina for years, covering free food, TVs, cash handouts, large child allowances and generally buying the election with the poor on her side a la Evita Peron.

There is no doubt that the disenfranchised Brazilian masses need government assistance, so just imagine what could have been done with the trillion dollars the nation is spending on itself to celebrate its exit from “developing nation” status.

One of the biggest priorities Brazil should have is to create decent jobs to get the millions of young unemployed into mainstream Brazil. There will always be favelas (slums), but the living conditions there should be improved by creating much-needed infrastructure for the poor instead of giving them a little money.

Jamie Douglas
At large in the Americas

[Image of Tripoli Central Business District via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

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