How does the economic development of Brazil compare with Cuba from 2012-2016?  

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pnrjulius eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a fairly short period---four years is not even enough to capture the whole business cycle, much less a long-run development trajectory. Also, 2016 hasn't finished yet, so any figures such as GDP and unemployment for 2016 can only be projections.

That said, we do have figures on Brazil and Cuba for the last few years that would allow us to get some idea about where they are and where they might be going in terms of economic development.

The first thing to note is that these are indeed highly comparable countries in terms of level of development. Both are Latin American countries at a moderate, Second World level of development. Brazil's nominal GDP per capita is about $6,000, while Cuba's nominal GDP per capita is about $5,000. A better measure in terms of real standard of living is GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP), on which Brazil is at $15,400 and Cuba is at $20,000. Prices are lower in Cuba than they are in Brazil, but both places have much lower prices than the United States.

Using PPP as our guideline, we can see that Cuba seems to be undergoing quite strong economic growth lately, perhaps due to the loosening of trade restrictions with the US. The World Bank 2014 figures have not been released for Cuba yet, but using World Bank figures, Cuba's per capita GDP PPP rose 4% from 2012 to 2013, which is quite a healthy growth rate for a country at this level of development. Brazil only grew 3.3% from 2012 to 2013, and from 2013 to 2014, they grew a mere 0.7%---which would be slow even for a First World country. By other estimates, Brazil's economy actually shrank in 2013---meaning that Brazil is now in recession.

The gap between Cuba and Brazil is projected to continue in coming years; by 2020 Cuba is projected to have a per capita GDP PPP of $24,800 while Brazil is only projected to reach $18,800. This would mean that in real terms the standard of living in Cuba is about 30% better than that of Brazil.

Of course, these projections could be wrong, and it will really depend on whether Brazil can implement good fiscal and monetary policies to bring themselves out of this recession. Economies fluctuate over time, and it's dangerous to forecast long-run economic development on the basis of just a few years.