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Brazilian province says Ciao! to Kerala

Vinson Kurian

An effort is under way to identify areas of cooperation between the sprightly province of Ceara, that nestles in the north-east fringes of Brazil, and a laid-back Kerala.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, March 15

NEITHER the natural attributes of size and scales nor the acquired features of numbers and figures seem to have prompted either Brazil or India, the two largest and among the most populous developing nations, to count their blessings and leverage strengths and opportunities on their own to mutual benefit.

Trust the Brettonwood twins to help!

The World Bank, the better-known sibling in this part of the world, has apparently sized up the situation and seized the initiative to build bridges between the two countries of almost continental proportions.

In the first such move, a team of top ranking World Bank officials, led by Dr Vinod Thomas, Vice-President and in charge of Latin American affairs, is trying to identify areas of cooperation between the sprightly Brazilian province of Ceara and a laid-back and far-off Kerala.

Reaching out to Business Line from Ceara, Dr Thomas said the province nestles in the north-east fringes of Brazil and has a population one-fourth of Kerala, even while featuring similar characteristics and developmental needs.

"During my visit to the State in early March, the Governor, Dr Tasso Jereisatti, came to me and introduced four leading personalities from his State who had spent some time in Kerala in November last after having been invited there by the Governor and Chief Minister. We agreed that a workshop in Ceara could be the next step where a number of participants from Kerala would participate. My World Bank colleagues from the State of Ceara are equally excited at this prospect,'' Dr Thomas said.

In the words of Dr Mansses Claudins, the Vice-Chancellor of the State University of Ceara, he was impressed by the herbal medicines and ayurveda and the research taken up in these areas in Kerala.

Also in the team was Mr Joachim Celestino, CEO of a leading Ceara-based software company. "Bangalore is far too advanced and commercialised to be a useful partner for Ceara,'' he said. "I am convinced Kerala would be an ideal partner for us in information technology, given the impressive talent available.''

Dr Jair Filho, a research director in the State Government of Ceara, is convinced that both Ceara and Kerala could benefit greatly from a partnership, in a manner that adds more value than could relationship with some of the more advanced countries be expected to. "This is a genuine feeling shared by many here in Brazil,'' Dr Thomas says.

There is no doubt Kerala is way ahead of Ceara in the area of social progress. Ceara has a higher average income but the incidence of poverty is perhaps twice that of Kerala. School enrollment and life expectancy are higher in Kerala, infant mortality much less.

But these are also areas in which Ceara is marching forward. With great openness to the rest of the world and with strong support for reforms, Ceara is making rapid strides on all fronts.

Meanwhile, a weary Kerala is stuck in deep slumber, waking up only to periodic nightmares that throw light on the inevitable reality - that others have left it far behind, Dr Thomas said.

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