Institutions and Competition

The Syrian Refugee Crisis. Can Brazil really afford to take 50,000 syrian refugees?

November 14, 2015
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While Brazil's “strategic allies” --Germany and France-- are now turning away Syrians and other refugees Brazil has already provided asylum to 2,900 people presumed to be Syrian nationals fleeing the bloody civil war.

 

The United States, which open sources indicate is spending billions of dollars to provide asylum to refugees from many nations, including Syria, operates sophisticated screening operations to examine the backgrounds of asylum seekers.

 

As seen by the refugee program launched by U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry, it can take four or five years from the time an applicant is processed until approval is granted, after which there can be more wait time.

 

The recent statement by U.S. President Barack Obama that Washington will grant asylum to 10,000 Syrians has become a contentious and divisive political issue heading into a crucial presidential and congressional election year. For these reasons, its unlikely that Obama's talking point will become a political reality during the remaining period period of his presidency, if at all.

 

Brazil's relaxed vetting process a cause for concern?

 

Leaning toward it's historic identification with the Non-Aligned Movement, Brazil considers its relaxed process of vetting Syrian asylum seekers in the context of Brazilian-style "social inclusion."

 

In most cases families and Islamic benevolent organizations have covered the cost of their travel and relocation to Brazil. The new arrivals include factions that hold opposing views who may even be linked to ISIS (ISIL). Some may prefer to remain part of the growing number of traditional Islamic communities that are expanding in Brazil rather than assimilating into mainstream society.

 

A recent article generated by the BBC portuguese service in Brazil interviewed just one.Syrian refugee in Sao Paulo who said his biggest challenge to assimilating is learning Portuguese.

 

With Brazil struggling with inflation and a deeper economic crisis the Dilma government has few resources to help the refugees to adapt. Syrian families with children and little or no income quality for the government food program known as the "Bolsa Familia." But the benefits are small, less than the dollar equivalient of $150 per month.

 

Western media suggest Brazil isn't doing its part

 

In spite of the burden on its economy, print and online media in New York and London are suggesting that Brazil shoud be doing more to mediate the Syrian refugee crisis.

 

Oliver Stuenkel, a german analyst who studied at Harvard and in Europe and consults with the free-market Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo penned an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting that Brazil can take 50,000 syrian refugees.

 

He argues that Brazil could use a "crowdfunding" approach, asking those nations who refuse to take syrian refugees like Japan, China and Saudi Arabia to chip in. But with the International Monetary Fund now forecasting that oil prices will remain low for the next five years Stunkel's model will be a hard sell.

 

The BBC portuguese website recently ran a second article quoting an American professor from Yale who consults with the United Nations suggesting that taking more Syrian refugees would give Brazil a good source of human capital to fill skill positions that many Brazilians can't qualify for due to lack of education.

 

Never mind that Syria is not even among the top 100 nations on the annual World Economic Forum survey of human capital that is published each May.

 

Brazil is #78 on the World Economic Forum top 100, having dropped from #57 in 2014. China, which produces the I-Pad is #64. Russia holds down the #26 position. The United States comes in at #17 and the #1 nation on the 2015 World Economic Forum survey of human capital is Finland.

 

Human capital means different things to different nations and cultures

 

Multilateral lending organizations, politicians, global business leaders and central bankers have differeing views about what human capital represents and how it can help drive the emerging "economy of things" that is led by data, algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence.

 

In a simplistic generalization, the education of the individual (including proficiency in foreign languages), the capacity of workers and managers to adapt rapidy to change and reinvent themselves, and willingness to accept short term assignments often at less than optimal salaries that require non-disclosure clauses all signal that a person can add value to the human capital model. But refugees, whether Syrian or others seeking asylum from conflicts are seeking a humanitarian haven and do not bring these qualities with them "off the shelf."

 

G-20 scripts and sherpa overload make the Syrian crisis a non-starter

 

Distracted by the death of ex german chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the new socialist government in Portugal and the apparent extremist attacks in Paris and on the french naval base at Toulon the G-20 summit in Turkey has assigned a low importnace to the Syrian refugee crisis.

 

Until the global economy returns to a period of sustainable growth it may be best for humanitarian and moral themes to be addressed not by a multilateral organization like the G-20, but by individual nations within the context of their own systems of governance and diplomacy.

 

Brazil remains an unfair society

 

As for Brazil, neoliberal economist and former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso has said on many occasions that Brazil is an “unfair society”. Clearly, the big spending social programs that the Worker's Party goverments of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and president Dilma have helped working Brazilians improve their living standards. But the cost of financing these programs is and will remain at the heart of the nation's economic crisis.

 

The notion proffered by western media that Brazil can absorb 50,000 syrian refugees by relying on the vagaries of the human capital model are likely to make Brazil a more unfair society.

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