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Explaining infrastructure underperformance in Brazil: cash, political institutions, corruption, and policy Gestalts

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Brazil’s infrastructure underperforms compared to that of peer emerging economies. Why? The political institutions of coalitional presidentialism with strong federalism undermine rational national planning. Politicians’ incentives to distribute ‘pork’ combine with sector-specific oligopoly characteristics, offering fertile ground for corruption. Yet the greatest challenge is low infrastructure investment, a consequence of weak private capital markets and regulatory inconsistency. Recent center-right governments improved infrastructure service delivery without stimulating investment, while center-left governments raised investment, but undermined public finances and efficiency. Greater technocratic consensus across the partisan divide on reforms to stimulate investment is one positive consequence of Brazil’s current crisis.
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Keywords: Brazil; Infrastructure; clientelism; coalitional presidentialism; corruption; energy; political institutions; public policy; telecommunications; transportation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada 2: Department of Political Science and International Relations, Universidad del CEMA, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Publication date: May 4, 2017

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