A Comparative Perspective
Edited by Werner Baer and David Fleischer
Chapter 17: The Regional Question in Brazil: Nature, Causes and Policies
Alexandre Rands Barros 17.1 INTRODUCTION Brazil is the fifth country in the world in area, with the particularity that most of it is suitable for human life and economic activities, unlike other big countries such as Russia and Canada. Even the Amazon forest, which takes up almost half the country, can easily be occupied economically, although most of it is only lightly populated at present. The drought areas of the Northeastern Sertão are also suitable for human settlements, as its historical occupation has shown, although life can be hard in those parts of the planet. Under such circumstances, it is reasonable to expect that regional disparities could emerge. Regional gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and most economic and social development indicators have shown that regional disparity is a reality in Brazil. The Northeast and North regions, whose populations together make up 36.2 per cent of the total population,1 are relatively very poor. Their per capita GDP in 2007 was only 35 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively, of the average GDP per capita in the Southeast, the most developed region, according to the latest available data from IBGE.2 These spatial inequalities have acquired a huge literature on them in the last 50 years, which is still growing, as this is a very complex phenomenon and many of its causes and consequences are still unrevealed or subject to diverse interpretations. Such disparities have lasted a long time, although only since the 1950s have they been the object...