Brazil beamed with pride Tuesday on news that it has powered past Britain to become the world's sixth biggest economy but officials say it will take another 20 years before the country can match the Europeans' standard of living.
"From a psychological standpoint, this is a fantastic year-end victory," Ricardo Teixeira, an administration professor at the prestigious Getulio Vargas foundation in Rio, told Agence France Presse.
Major Brazilian newspapers hailed Monday's report by the London-based Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) that Brazil has overtaken Britain to rank sixth among top economic powers behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany and France.
But Brazil's per capita GDP and the standard of living of its people remain far below those of its US and European rivals.
Latin America's booming economic powerhouse will close the year with a GDP of $2.5 trillion, behind fifth-place France with $2.8 trillion and ahead of Britain with $2.48 trillion.
But Brazil trails in per capita GDP with a mere $12,916, compared with $48,147 for the United States, $44,400 for France and $39,604 for Britain, according to International Monetary Fund data.
A simulation conducted by the Brazilian agency Austin Rating suggests that Brazil's per capita GDP, under an optimistic growth scenario, would match Britain's in 2028.
Experts stress that the country still has major challenges to overcome in the areas of education, health and extreme poverty, which still affects 16 million out of the country's 190 million people.
"This announcement illustrates the greatness of Brazil and shows that the country is today a major economic power, this improved GDP is a consequence of all the measures implemented since the launch of the country's Real economic stabilization plan" in 1994, said Alex Agostini, chief economist at Austin Rating.
And economist Jose Marcio Camargo told the O Globo News daily that the country's improved statistics were partly due to "its economic expansion but was also a consequence of the stronger national currency (real) and of the Eurozone debt crisis."
He pointed out that Europe would experience a decade of low or zero growth like Japan.
But Agostini said Brazil had a lot more to do and would need "20, 30 years of adjustments to reduce its social inequalities."
"Brazil has a very high tax burden, that of a developed country, but it provides society with public services such as health and education that are at the level of an underdeveloped country," he added.
Eradicating extreme poverty is one of the key challenges facing President Dilma Rousseff, who will mark her first year in office Sunday.
On Monday she again renewed her vow to meet that objective.
Finance Minister Guido Mantega for his part said Brazil would need between 10 and 20 years to reach the Europeans' standard of living.
"This means that we will have to continue growing faster than those (developed) countries, boost the employment and the revenue of the population. We have a big challenge ahead," he added.
But Mantega sounded optimistic.
"The IMF predicts that Brazil will be the (world's) fifth largest economy in 2015, but I think this will occur before," he said, noting that his country was growing twice as fast as European countries.
"It is inevitable that we will overtake France and in the future, who knows, Germany if it does not perform better," he added.
The Brazilian economy grew 7.5 percent in 2010, but the government has cut its growth projections to 3.5 percent for this year after the economy slowed in the third quarter.
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