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October 26th, 2008
America in Gridlock
[VIDEO] More tolls, but better roads in Brazil

Analysts predict Brazil will have the world’s fourth-largest economy in the world behind China, US and India by 2050. But experts fear Brazil’s underdeveloped infrastructure will hinder its economic development. Only 12 percent of the Brazil’s 1 million miles of roads are paved. Blueprint America — with Worldfocus — travels to Rio De Janeiro to see how the government and private companies are partnering to fix Brazil’s highways. Public-private partnerships are also under consideration in America, where states are looking for ways to fund repairs to their roads.

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Read producer Bryan Myers’ blog posts from the field: Truckin’ through Brazil, Brazil plans to improve highways and Brazil privatizes its roadways.

Although Brazil is almost the size of the United States, it doesn’t have nearly as many major highways. Apart from areas around São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, most roads labeled as “highways” are actually two-lane roads. Many of them are in poor shape. Adding to Brazil’s highway headaches are the large number of 18-wheelers on the road—in Brazil, most goods are shipped by truck.

But if Brazil’s president has his way, that’s all about to change. Last year, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the most ambitious plan to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure in Brazilian history. Lula’s plan calls for spending over $250 billion on infrastructure projects by the year 2010 — $17 billion of that will go toward fixing roads.

Lula’s plan couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Along with China and India, Brazil is one of the world’s hottest economies. Much of its newfound wealth is the result of exporting commodities like iron ore, coffee and soybeans. In turn, a newly prosperous middle class is hungry for imports of consumer goods. Timely shipments are essential to keeping the wheels of commerce turning.

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