Brazil’s biggest challenge lies right ahead.

As I fly back to Toronto from Sao Paulo, and I pass right above Brasilia, exactly on the first full day of work of the new President, Dilma Rousseff, I can’t help but think that Brazil has a tremendous challenge ahead.

I know a lot of Brazilians will not agree with me on anything I write, but I type this words as a simple observer who has been to Brazil close to ten times in the last year and I love this vast country.

Brazil, according to a 60 minutes report from a couple of weeks ago, is bound to become the fifth largest economy in the world. One of the worlds largest producers of oil, sugar, coffee, soybeans and aircraft. A vibrant and certainly diverse society. From the frenzy of Sao Paulo, to the relaxed beaches of Bahia, Brazil is a mixture of old and new, of work and play, of craziness and laziness.

Brazil not only has one of the worlds biggest reserves of oil in the world, but also some of the best topography in world. And yet, as someone at the Hipica club told me, more like an anecdote than a fact, more people drop off the line at the Eiffel Tower every year, than  visit Brazil.

For one, President Rousseff will have to come face to face with the reality that she is not the charismatic President Lula. About half of Brazil don’t think he was so great given that he never finished primary school, was a union leader, mostly in line with the traditional leftist parties than anything else. I tend to disagree. And although he might have enjoyed the benefit of economic policies of his more right wing predecessor, he brought a “Je ne sais quoi” to Brazilian leadership, the same way that Bill Clinton was well received everywhere.

President Rousseff will face her own identity crisis as she starts to move from the Lula legacy to shape Brazil’s future and keep this amazing charisma glowing.

In my view, Brazilians will have to wake up quickly to their new reality. One of economic leadership. Brazil has very little time to develop massive infrastructure just in time for the next World Cup and the Olympic games of 2016, to be held in Rio De Janeiro.

Sao Paulo is in need of a better international airport to serve the amount of traffic it already receives. And having one of the worlds most beautiful beaches and coastlines, it also needs a massive investment in tourism development to be able to exploit their massive litoral beauty, in  the way Mexico did with Cancun, yet protecting it, as Costa Rica has done with theirs.

The opportunity for Brazil to shift the world economy is there for them to take. The biggest question will be if Brazilians can unite to face the challenge, as they unite to take the challenge in the World Cup, or will they standby and let the golden opportunity pass them by.

I’m of the mindset that President Rousseff will rise to the occasion and bring Brazil to a predominant place in the world leadership, and Brazilians, by and large, will support her. Yet I’ve been surprised by the final tally, when countries receive this opportunity and decide to pass on it.

I sincerely hope that my colorful, enthusiastic and most vibrant Brazilian friends choose to go for the best option and show that they can be champions on any field they decide to play.

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