Marvellous as ever?

“O Rio de Janeiro continua lindo (Rio de Janeiro keeps its beauty)” are the words to Gilberto Gil’s immortal samba, but after years of economic decline, skyrocketing violence and corruption scandals, has the appeal of Brazil’s cidade maravilhosa remained intact?

Marvellous as ever? Credit: Illustrations by Jan Bielecki

If Rio de Janeiro’s most famous landmark, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, could react to what has occurred under its outstretched arms over the past five years, it might be covering its face in shame. Recently Rio has been the backdrop to a depressing sequence of events: surging violence, collapsing public finances, bankrupted companies, fleeing investors and a long list of postponed construction projects. Brazil’s two-year recession, which lasted from 2015 to 2016, caused the country’s GDP to shrink by 7.2%. But in the state of Rio the downturn was deeper and lasted longer. The state’s economy plunged by 7.6% in the same period. While Brazil managed to close 2017 with a small measure of GDP growth, Rio only reported growth of just above the 0% mark in the second quarter of 2018. Unemployment is also more severe in Rio: for Brazil as a whole it stands at around 13%, but in Rio it still hits the 15% mark.



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