At a launch event for the project organized by the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, DC on May 19, 2014, country reports were presented on Brazil by Simon Schwartzman; on India by Eswaran Sridharan; and on South Africa by Ann Bernstein. Video of the event is available here. The Brazil country report begins by outlining Brazil’s gradual democratic transition that was initiated by the former military regime and which ended in 1984 when a popular mobilization campaign defeated the ruling military party and closed that era of Brazil’s history. In 1988, Brazil adopted a new constitution and in the 1990s successful economic reforms brought hyperinflation under control. This stabilized the economy, allowing for expansion of the country’s social safety net. While millions of Brazilians were lifted out of poverty by this expansion, increased social spending became untenable following the 2008 financial crisis. The report explains that while democracy has expanded the distribution of state resources beyond the elite, it has also enabled political rent-seeking during economic booms, such as that following a surge in demand for commodities in 2005. In order to escape this trap during leaner economic times, the report emphasizes that the Brazilian government must pursue inclusive growth by improving its efficiency and accountability and building on already impressive education reforms. The India country report begins by noting two of India’s chief contradictions—that in the post-independence era it embraced political freedom without economic freedom, and that it remains to this day a strong democracy with many weaknesses (including entrenched corruption, myriad social divisions, and an often incompetent bureaucracy). While India began opening its markets and dismantling the infamous “License Raj” in the 1990s, a lack of broad political support for these reforms has stalled their progress. Even so, the ensuing economic growth opened up new opportunities for many Indians, especially those of traditionally lower castes. The report notes that while India has seen a long period of stagnation in terms of poverty and inequality levels, the country’s “ease of doing business” and other key metrics are improving, and the country continues to pursue innovative policy reforms in education and other areas. In order to make further, larger reform inroads, however, the report suggests that India will need to effectively use the rise of new political and civil society movements to solve the country’s policy challenges, including the achievement of political party finance reform. Finally, the South Africa country report highlights the electoral dominance of the African National Congress (ANC), which routinely wins around two-thirds of parliamentary seats, as a stumbling block for South Africa’s continued democratic development and inclusive growth. The report explains that the ANC’s alliance with national labor unions has created overly labor-friendly policies, resulting in an unemployment rate consistently near 25 percent. Despite the relative success of policies intended to integrate black South Africans into economic life, poverty continues to pose a challenge. Despite this economic record, South Africans continue to support the “party of liberation” in large numbers—and this lack of electoral pressure is facilitating a large, recent increase in political corruption. The report notes, however, that these governance challenges are reinvigorating civil society and opposition parties in a way that may provide the needed electoral incentives for the ANC to implement the reforms necessary for South Africa to see inclusive growth in the future. Forthcoming work by the Centre for Development and Enterprise and its partners focusing on democracy and the rule of law is expected as part of the next phase of this initiative. Worth Reading is a list of featured readings on democracy disseminated semi-monthly by the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Many thanks to the Centre for Development and Enterprise, the Legatum Institute, the Centre for Policy Research, and the Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e Sociedade for their contributions to the “Democracy Works” project. If you have materials you would like featured in Worth Reading, please send us an email at With best wishes, Melissa Melissa Aten-Becnel International Forum for Democratic Studies National Endowment for Democracy 1025 F Street, NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20004 Phone: 202-378-9675 Email: