The key to Brazilian competitiveness

5 Mar 13
A new approach to cross-sector collaboration is sweeping across Brazilian cities and states. Here, Erik Camarano from Movimento Brasil Competitivo, tells us how Brazilian government, and society, is benefiting

By Erik Camarano | 5 March 2013

A new approach to cross-sector collaboration is sweeping across Brazilian cities and states. Here, Erik Camarano from Movimento Brasil Competitivo, tells us how Brazilian government, and society, is benefiting

Brazil is in many ways a nation of contrasts. From the huge, bustling cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, to the unexplored wildernesses of the Amazon, it enjoys a diversity and mix of races, religions and cultures that few countries can match. But that’s not to say that Brazilians do not share common aims and values.

Sports, particularly football, are a national passion. And more importantly, the country’s recent economic surge has enabled its citizens to share the proceeds of growth and prosperity. Rising domestic consumption of goods and services, driven by a fast-expanding middle class, together with macroeconomic stability and deep industrial and natural resources are the building blocks of the Brazilian economy. These strengths have delivered both rising foreign investment and an economic growth rate that is the envy of many countries — both developed and developing — around the world. Throw in the role as hosts of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, and it is clear Brazil is a country on the move. So where’s the problem?

Notwithstanding the need for greater investment in infrastructure and education to safeguard projected growth, the country’s public sector is facing its own set of challenges. Across its 26 states and one federal district, government at all levels is struggling with issues of capacity, reform and professionalization. And this is where Movimento Brasil Competitivo (MBC) comes in, an organization that is pioneering a truly innovative approach to collaboration across the public and private sectors.

“It works in many ways,” says the MBC’s President, Erik Camarano. “An economy that is poised to grow requires not only highly competitive companies, but also a modern, efficient public sector. A more productive, capable and competitive public sector will make both the country more productive, capable and competitive, and make companies more productive, capable and competitive. And this will lead to a better quality of life for Brazilian people. In other words, it’s not just in the interests of government to get its departments right, it’s in the interest of Brazilian society as a whole.”

With this in mind, MBC is overseeing a groundbreaking program whereby the performance and productivity of government departments and projects are overseen and reviewed by private sector organizations. This model means that government is no longer responsible for everything as the private sector is accountable too. “Government and business need to work together and learn together,” says Camarano. “When a project or initiative is successful in one place, it can be implemented throughout the country. For example, most people in the world now live in cities, and we have more than 5,500 in Brazil. They are dealing with similar challenges and issues — it is

logical that they can learn from each other, and from what business organizations have accomplished in areas such as change management, efficiency and IT modernization. Together, these partnerships will improve the country.”

With the costs of these reviews were met by MBC and its business partners and not by government, the underlying mission is to increase the capacity of the public sector by introducing new methods of project management, strategic planning and tighter public financial control. The result should be increased revenues, reduced costs and improved outcomes in areas such as health care, education and public safety. Interestingly, as part of each review process, MBC sets up a panel made up of business representatives that monitors the progress made toward mutually agreed outcomes. Public servants report into private sector reviewers and are held jointly accountable. At first glance this would appear to be a setup ripe for confrontation, but Camarano insists that this has not proven to be the case. “Everyone wins when the country wins,” he says. “Dialogue between public and private leaders always has this objective in mind. We all want the country to be more competitive and more successful.”

Camarano can point to a series of successes since the organization was founded in 2001 to illustrate his point. First tested in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, it has since spread across the country with review projects having been implemented in 13 state governments, 11 counties, 2 state Courts of Justice and 4 agencies of the Federal Executive. In addition to the 24 projects already completed, another 16 cases are under way. The results have so far totaled US$7 billion in increased revenues and efficiency savings, and improved results in crime reduction, child mortality and educational performance.

To take a couple of examples, MBC recently signed an agreement to implement a long-term strategic planning project for the state of São Paulo. This particular state, which has a population of more than 40 million and is widely seen as the powerhouse of both Brazil and Latin America as a whole, is not short of financial resources but needs to modernize its system of government in order to be able to effectively manage and oversee its surging economy. MBC will instead be seeking to develop the state’s economy and transform its public services by supporting the State Government in producing a strategic vision called “SP 2030.”

Camarano’s teams are also hard at work at the Ministry of Transport. Addressing the country’s low-quality yet high-cost transport system is of prime importance — particularly before the impending World Cup and Olympic Games — and it is perhaps of little surprise that the Ministry wants to be ready for these truly global events.

Asked how Brazilian citizens have reacted to this approach and results, Camarano says that they

themselves have been a key factor in driving change. “People are demanding more transparency and improved services,” he says. “As a result, governments are having to move faster and to look to learn from other governments and private sector organizations.” And there certainly seems to be little doubt that the role of MBC in bringing different groups and individuals together to pursue a common, patriotic goal has proved crucial. “We have a long-term vision for Brazil,” says Camarano. “But our work also demonstrates that citizenship is alive and well in our country.”

This article first appeared in the Jan/ Feb edition of Citizen Today

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