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Counting the Cost

Brazil's fallen star

Businessman Eike Batista is a man whose rise and fall mirrors that of his country's economy.

Last Modified: 02 Nov 2013 08:30
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Brazil's Eike Batista was worth about $30bn over a year ago, and confidently declared that he was on his way to becoming the world's richest man, surpassing Carlos Slim and Bill Gates.

Backing this up was his belief that he was sitting on oil fields off the coast of Brazil valued at $1tn. But four of the five fields were shut down after proving to be little more than duds, and Batista's oil and gas company OGX has now filed for bankruptcy protection.

On its own, Batista's is an interesting story. But it also speaks volumes about Brazil, and its economy as a whole.

Brazil saw protests earlier in the year, which demonstrated that people felt the last decade of economic growth had been wasted, with little investment made in infrastructure and education.

Back in 2010, its economy expanded by 7.5 percent - thanks in large part to foreign investors and a credit and consumption boom. But now, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its economy is barely eking out 2.5 percent growth, and the Central Bank has stepped in to raise interest rates in a bid to tame inflation.

Carlos Caicedo, the principle Latin American analyst at IHS Country Risk in London, speaks to Counting the Cost about the Eike Batista story, while Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reports from Brazil.

Responsible gold mining

Elsewhere, the big gold miners say they spend billions in developing nations, but with gold off its peak, how long will it last?

Accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that gold mining contributed $78bn in gross economic value to the 15 leading gold producing countries, with the creation of 530,000 direct jobs.

And the World Gold Council says its 15 members - all big mining corporations - spent $55bn last year in the countries they operate in.

That breaks down to $8.4bn in tax and royalty payments to governments, $35bn to local businesses, to provide essential services to mining operations, and $8.3bn to pay wages to the quarter of million people they employ.

But the price of gold has really fallen since 2012, which hurts the earnings of the big miners and, in turn, hurts the revenue of the developing nations where the gold comes from.

So how does it all balance out? Counting the Cost speaks to Terry Heymann, the director of Responsible Gold at the World Gold Council, to find out.

Airline alliances

Gulf air carrier Qatar Airways has joined one of the world's big three airline alliances - the groupings which bring together airlines, connections, lounges etc - all, they say, for the convenience of the passenger.

The big three alliances are SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and oneworld, which is the alliance Qatar Airways joined. The oneworld alliance now has 13 member airlines, including big players like British Airways, American Airlines and Qantas, plus another three which are in the pipeline to join.

Combined, it carries 475 million passengers a year to a thousand airports in over 150 countries. That translates into annual revenue of $150bn.

But for a long time Qatar Airways did not want to join any alliance - a view still held by the other major Gulf players, Etihad and Emirates, who want to keep more control over their own destiny.

We speak to Bruce Ashby, the CEO of the oneworld alliance, to discuss the recent move by Qatar Airways and whether it will pay off.

Amazon oil

Finally, we look at Ecuador, which is giving up on a controversial drilling plan in the Amazon.

It first wanted rich countries to pay it not to drill for oil in the rainforest, effectively saying they would not go after the oil riches if they were compensated not to do so.

However, the government is allowing oil exploration in one of the most pristine parts of the country, and many people are unhappy about it. Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar reports from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Click here for more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali@abidoliverali

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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