Brazilian infrastructure: Boom to nothing


A disheartening reality-check for the infrastructure boom in Brazil, now reduced to rubble and rust. While we have often discussed infrastructure as a basic economic good, inferior or incomplete infrastructural development may very well have the reverse effect.

These pieces from NYT’s Nadia Sussman, an eery video, and this companion piece from NYT’s Simon Romero (Photographs by Daniel Berehulak), a combination written and visual story, paint a vivid image of a nation striving to build the massive infrastructures similar to those of other nations, but at a time of stagnant and non-existent government budgets, all of which comes on the heels of planning for the World Cup in June, just a couple months away from the time this post goes up. We wrote about the economic impact of similar Olympic stadiums and even a bit on how we might think about their copious infrastructural leftovers.

The article reads:

The growing list of troubled development projects includes a $3.4 billion network of concrete canals in the drought-plagued hinterland of northeast Brazil — which was supposed to be finished in 2010 — as well as dozens of new wind farms idled by a lack of transmission lines and unfinished luxury hotels blighting Rio de Janeiro’s skyline.

Economists surveyed by the nation’s central bank see Brazil’s economy growing just 1.63 percent this year, down from 7.5 percent in 2010, making 2014 the fourth straight year of slow growth. While an economic crisis here still seems like a remote possibility, investors have grown increasingly pessimistic. Standard & Poor’s cut Brazil’s credit rating last month, saying it expected slow growth to persist for several years.

7 thoughts on “Brazilian infrastructure: Boom to nothing

  1. One solution (which is hardly a real solution, but a solution none the less) would be to build them with materials specifically designed to be “un-built” and recycled into other products. However, a major concern about these “international pissing contests” is precisely that they MUST be profoundly wasteful in order to adequately impress!


  2. well I’m not so charmed by events like diving but leaving that aside what the marxist critique (which i agree with) of the project and the salespitch misses is what i take to be your starting place/point which is now that we have these instant ruins (part of our new throw-away culture) what the hell do we do with them?


  3. Also, regarding the London case: that is a seriously mixed mixed-bag; if you consider the activities that it hosts to this day (events listed here for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium, they are impressive: ; where else would a world diving championship be possible in the UK?); however, even a modest review of the news media and you see precisely what is expected, which is routine decay, patches of weeds, in West Ham manager Sam Allardyce’s words “You only have to look around the world at some of the Olympic Stadiums that have been built. They’re white elephants now. There are weeds growing there. Look at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Look at Athens. The Olympic Park is a fantastic place, but it can’t be left to rack and ruin. If a club with the history and fanbase and potential of West Ham don’t go there, the concern would be that the park is left empty the vast majority of the time.” (see, for example,


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