“Samba! That’s all you’ll get, samba…”
That’s all you’ll get, samba…”These were the weary words a partner shared with me when I announced a hastily devised trip to Rio de Janeiro to investigate a new project for Swiss Style Magazine.
Let me confess that although well aware of the extraordinary development in Brazil’s economic and social structure over recent years, I still found myself bracing for a Latin-style setup where a slow and bulging bureaucracy and the ‘mañana’ syndrome were rampant.
I was wrong… and I should have known better…
Brazil, the ‘B’ in the often overused BRIC acronym, had made important strides in the past decade toward sounder fiscal management, increased market efficiency and openness, and export diversification, among others. In the most recent World Economic Forum ‘Global Competitiveness Index 2010–2011’, Brazil was listed a prominent 58th, up 16 slots since 2005. The country’s recent dynamism in the rankings reflected the remark-able dash it undertook over the past 20 years toward macroeconomic stability, liberalising and opening the economy, and reducing income inequality. These efforts have been instrumental in putting the economy on a much sounder competitive foundation and in providing a markedly more business friendly environment for private-sector development.
Much of this has allowed Brazil to successfully steer a delicate path through the recent global economic crisis. While the country’s GDP contracted slightly in 2009, the economy has started to grow again in 2010, with an expected annual growth rate of 5.5 percent, despite the recent change in government.
In relative terms, public perception has it that Brazil and its BRIC colleagues are showing the way, whilst Continental Europe will tend to lag far behind.
And yet, there is a notable exception to this trend: Switzerland can point to its own achievements, retaining its 1st place position in the above mentioned report, due to its outstanding capacity for innovation and a very sophisticated business culture, also making it an attractive and alluring place for business, past and future.
In this issue of Swiss Style Magazine we present some of the actors of the ‘Swiss exception’. We take a look at Swiss innovation with Christian Simm, San Francisco director of swissnex, a network of science and technology outposts run by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research. We chat with Carlo and Franklin Adler, fourth generation members of the Adler jewellery company, who explain what attracted them to Switzerland.
We also spoke with well-known international companies such as the Club Med and Porsche, whose respective regional directors, Laure Baume and Stephan Altrichter, discuss the particularities and challenges of offering high-end services and products to the Swiss markets. And speaking of luxury products, you will find an exceptional interview with Clive Christian, the world-renowned interior decorator and entrepreneur, an eye-opening looking into real British luxury, adaptable to the humble Swiss chalet. And if you want to find out how to shrink a carbon footprint in an economically dynamic way, the portrait of José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, might have some information for you.
In the meanwhile, stay tuned for more on Brazil in our upcoming issues, where samba will be danced to Alphorn accompaniment…
John François Béguin