Brazil’s business leaders look towards the future

29 November 2018 Consultancy.lat

Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil will undoubtably be one of many contrasts. Bolsinaro has often been called the Trump of the Tropics and in line with Donald Trump’s United States, Brazil will experience a shift away from a liberal-social agenda, whilst bolstering economic incentives. Whilst it stands to be seen the longterm effects of the incoming government’s populist policies, business leaders across the nation are cheering.

In the aftermath of a highly divisive and explosive campaign – which saw the President-elect narrowly survive an assassination attempt – Brazil is now attempting to prepare for the next phase of Brazil’s unwritten legacy.

After Brazil's social and economic shortcomings in the past two decades, the expectations of Brazilian businessmen for their organizations and for the new elected government's first year, show the private sectors enthusiasm about change.

Deloitte asked over 800 business leaders about their expectations for the coming year during the period after the election. The results show that an overwhelming majority believe that the incoming government has the potential to at least partially address the respondents priorities. 

“We present the research Agenda 2019, from Deloitte, which gathers the expectations of entrepreneurs for the country and its business next year, the first of the new government elected,” the firm said on Twitter. “Answered in the light of the end of the electoral cycle, what should be the priorities of the new elected Government and the expectations for its business”.

Priorities for the next government

The global professional services firm evaluated five areas of action, which included; reforms, business activity, public administration, economic activity and social investments. The respondents could identify what should be the government’s top priorities and their sentiment towards business in Brazil with Bolsonaro’s PSL in office. 

In terms of opinion on the new government, 56% of executives, the new government will be able to partially address the priorities chosen by them; 38% bet that it will fully address them. Another 4% do not believe that the new administration will be able to meet their expectations and 2% did not know how to respond.

One of the biggest insights from the survey is the apparent need for tax reform. Brazil’s tax system is extremely complex and burdensome for the country’s economy. It has been attributed to wiping at least 1% GDP of the country and according to the International Tax Review, simplification and reform could see Brazil compete with some of the world’s largest economies. Unsurprisingly then, 93% of the Deloitte survey respondents believe that tax reform should be a priority for the new government.

Priorities for the next government

The survey also identifies that business leaders expect the government to prioritize the fight against corruption (62%), stimulate job creation (80%) and improve and expand Public Private Partnerships (52%). Reflecting the concern with the qualification of the Brazilian employee, the area indicated as a priority to receive social investments is education (84%), public security (77%) and health (65%).

Deloitte’s “Brazilian Agenda 2019” also questioned the business decision makers about what they expect for their own business in 2019, in aspects such as investments, funding, hiring of people and sales. The results also draw a picture of an optimistic private sector flourishing in a positive business environment. Almost all respondents (97%) indicated the intention to invest or implement actions that will develop their business in 2019.

However the business leaders have also sent a strong message to the government saying ‘education is a top priority’. With 71% of respondents putting education and technical training as a priority for the incoming government and 80% saying stimulating job creation will advance the economy, Brazilian bosses want to create a larger job pool.

This is unsurprising seeing that Brazil’s professional workforce is increasingly looking to work and live abroad. Identified earlier this year by The Boston Consulting Group, the vast majority of Brazilians do not see Brazil as the best place to develop their careers. Bolsonaro’s ability to stimulate the economy seems inherent, but his real task will be to retain progressive young professionals in the country.

Related: Brazil’s talent shortage time bomb.

Digitization could add $240 billion to Mexico’s GDP by 2025

22 January 2019 Consultancy.lat

New in-depth analysis by McKinsey & Company ranks Mexico 55th in digital maturity out of 151 countries. When compared to countries with similar economic output, Mexico is in good shape, but the country has “yet to achieve the kind of world-class digital transformation that fuels productivity and economic growth.”

Countries that have adequately transformed, such as Estonia and Malaysia, have incomes close to Mexico, but punch “above their weight” when it comes to digital maturity. Mexico is about halfway there. Taking steps to improve its global digital position, however, could increase the country’s GDP by  7-15% (approximately $155-240 billion) by 2025. Such an increase would be powered by increased productivity and employment in existing industries, new digital businesses, a broadened expanded information-and-communication-technology (ICT) sector, as well as the successful labor force transition into the digital world.

Mexico is the second-largest economy in Latin America, meaning it is in the unique position to set the regional standard for a “digitally enabled” government.

For their analysis, McKinsey & Company researchers Alberto Chaia, Gonzalo Garcia-Muñoz, Philipp Haugwitz, Max Cesar, and Andre de Oliveira Vaz defined digital maturity using four categories: government, foundations, economy, and society. The study also laid out steps that Mexico could take to improve its digital maturity. Of these four factors, Mexico has the most work to do in digital economy and digital foundations, categories in which its scores are just below average – and which are highly correlated.

Digital maturity of Mexico according to McKiney

The bad news first

Digital foundations essentially encompass the ability of citizens to participate in a digital society. This means internet access, mobile networks, and so forth. “In 2016, Mexico had just 13 fixed-line broadband subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants” the analysis found. “The rate of subscription to mobile broadband is higher, at 61%, but this still leaves a sizeable portion of the population unconnected and thus spending additional time and money getting to physical centers to access government services.” This lack of access causes Mexico to rank 93rd overall in the digital foundations category. 

Mexico’s digital economy, in turn, is hindered by its “shaky” digital foundations. It sits in 92nd place of all countries surveyed. There is a lack of access to high-speed internet, as stated, as well as an unreliable postal service and a lack of bank accounts among the population, with just 40% of citizens aged over 15 having an account. These factors decrease the country’s potential to develop an e-commerce industry that is widely and conveniently used. Exports of ICT goods, as well, account for an astonishing less than 1% of all exported goods and services.

And now for the good news

Mexico’s digital government, which ranks 39th overall, has made great strides in recent years. The creation of gob.mx, for example, provides "a one-stop portal that consolidates 34,000 databases from 250 government institutions and 5,400 public services. The platform is described as the “centerpiece” of Mexico’s digitization efforts, allowing citizens easy access to important legal documents such as birth certificates, as well as automating internal processes, making workplaces tasks run more smoothly for government employees.

Despite this – and the appointment of a national digital strategy coordinator who sits on the president’s staff - Mexico “receives low scores from its citizens on their overall satisfaction with the convenience and accessibility of government services.” Citizen experience was the worst-rated of those group countries surveyed (Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States). There was also a largest perception gap between the private and public sector.

How digital can boost Mexico’s GDP

A digital society, according to the report, “can improve the quality of life for citizens by fostering greater civic participation, providing access to information, and offering new tools for health and education.” As previously shown, Mexico is pushing such platforms, including several subsections of gob.mx, on which citizens can participate in public polls and discussions, and present potential digital solutions to serious societal problems such as earthquake detection systems.

Mexico is well on its way to achieving a “good” or “very good” digital maturity rating (right now, the country is “acceptable”). According to McKinsey, “There are three basic initiatives Mexican government leaders could consider putting on top of their priority lists [to speed the transition into the upper echelons of digitization].”

First, the Mexican government must define a digital vision and strategy. Second, it must link that vision to policymaking. Entwining the two ensures that digitization acts as a “lever” to a policy’s success. “To establish a clear link between its digital vision and public value, Mexico’s incoming administration may want to consider revisiting the country’s "National Digital Strategy" for 2013 and aligning it with Mexico’s current and future needs, as well as with the new government’s priorities,” the report states. A “test and learn” attitude toward linking digital vision and policy will also be necessary, as the only way to avoid repeated mistakes is by closely evaluating those that have been made, then planning accordingly. Adopting this attitude, according to the report, will necessitate more flexible budgetary strategies.   

The third suggested initiative is all about power to the people. Successful digital transformations are those that are centered around the citizens, rather than the institutions that serve and govern them. This means service delivery is key, and centralization of digitalization efforts – initially, perhaps, in the form of a council that would oversee governmental transformation – could greatly aid government agencies in getting the people what they desire. As Mexico transforms, so would the ways in which ideas are generated and put into action. For instance, the United States has the US Digital Service, which works with the White House, and Singapore relies greatly on the Government Technology Agency, which reports to the country’s president and implements digital strategies.

Digital maturity benchmark

Filling in the cracks

Because Mexico ranks on the low end of the “digital foundations” category, it is obvious that the other four categories, which by nature fall under the “foundations” umbrella, are potentially negatively affected. As such, McKinsey offers five steps that could be taken to strengthen the country’s digital infrastructure. 

Private companies, for one, could be offered incentives to provide broadband internet to “marginalized” communities, such as those in Oaxaca and Chiapas. The study points to India as an example, where the government-created National Optical Fibre Network (BharatNet) “successfully brought broadband services to approximately 115,000 villages, aiming to deliver broadband connectivity to 250,000 villages overall.” 

Talent is also an issue. “In recent years, Mexico has made significant strides to boost the number of college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” the report states. In 2016, 25% of university graduates with a STEM degree. 

But degrees aren’t so much the problem as education in general. “Only 17% of Mexicans graduate from college, making the talent pool small.” Programs that keep primary and secondary school teachers in the loop are a must – as are “reskilling” programs meant to train a percentage of the workforce that is soon to be displaced by technology such as automation. 

Rounding out the five suggestions are a system that easily and simply explains new regulations regarding technology - an invaluable resource for startups; the development of cybersecurity units required to monitor the security of such a large, overarching transformation; and a streamlined, interoperable model for data sharing across multiple government agencies. 

It’s an investment

The challenges and obstacles in Mexico’s path to digital transformation are not inconsiderable, but are neither without long-term reward. “Going digital will require an investment of financial resources, extensive coordination among the multiple stakeholders and levels of government, and new regulations governing the growing e-commerce and fintech sectors. It most likely would entail participation incentives for the private sector, since governments should not attempt to 'go it alone.' In the end, both sectors of society stand to reap the value digitization will sow.” 

Related: Mexico leads Latin America in robotization, followed by Brazil and Argentina.