After visiting Pao de Acucar, I returned to the hotel to meet with Josef Barat. He is the former Secretary of Transports, Sao Paulo. He was a wonderful man and I much enjoyed talking with him. He is very knowledgeable on many areas and is still being called upon to assist with the future of transports in Brazil especially with the World Cup coming here in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Being from Boston, I can appreciate the challenge of transportation with our "Big Dig."As technology is implemented, it is becoming outdated. Brazil recognizes it has much to invest in infrastructure should it want to be fully capable of moving people for these major events. The Federal Government spends less than 1% of its GDP on infrastructure which he feels should be at least 2.5%.
Brazil is a changing country with a very dynamic population. Currently, there is a trend for people to move out of the major city centers. 85% of the population live in urban areas with 40% of that in major metropolitan centers. This has caused increased traffic demands of 15-20%/year. (fortunately, the population growth here has leveled off to 1% annually) Brazil does boost the 2nd largest helicopter fleet for transportation behind New York. The two bottlenecks: lack of capacity and lack of financial resources at the State and Federal level. The government will provide private enterprise with concession for development if they invest in infrastructure.
When we discussed how this logistical challenge plays into agriculture, it is clear there is a major issue for producers to ship and export products. All shipments are sent by truck, including those leaving the country to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is a challenge for any small farms to send their products to larger markets.
We talked about a major shift in the "social fabric" of these rural areas as people look to establish community roots/connections. The Evangelist Church has been setting up in these small communities and acting as a center of connection. The Catholic Church (Brazil has historically had the largest Catholic population in the world) remains in the metro centers. I will be curious to see what role this will play in the development of social change.
Josef and I enjoyed a bit of time taking about family heritage and how Brazil, much like the US, is a melting pot of people and great diversity. He and I agree that it would be beneficial to establish education partnerships and exchanges with the two countries in all areas of economic, environmental and social growth.
This was my only free afternoon in Sao Paulo. I walked around a bit. The area where I am staying is much like New York's 5th Avenue...a shopping mecca made more alert because it is fashion week. I did have an opportunity to try the Acai drink they make here. It taste very different than in the States but is delicious. Tomorrow morning I will leave for Rio. This should be an interesting day to travel as it is Valentine's Day here tomorrow!