how to get things done in brazil -- 9/02/16

Today's encore selection -- from Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed by Larry Rohter. The "jeito." In a country that is as populous as Brazil, a person must learn to overcome Brazil's bureaucratic constraints and inequality in regard to the distribution of wealth. So Brazilians have developed jeito. Jeito's rough translation means "the way" or "quick fix". Brazilian's rely on the jeito as a way to overcome obstacles and roadblocks, which hinder their progress in getting what they want. Derived from the word driblando or "dribbling" such as in soccer, it symbolizes dexterity and finesse in overcoming your opponent or challenge. Oftentimes in a way that may not be legal or ethical.

"Some forms of the jeito are almost universal and are easily recognizable even to outsiders. If a policeman in a Brazilian city stops a car for exceeding the speed limit or making an illegal turn, the driver is likely to ask, 'Officer, isn't there a way to find a jeitinho to resolve this?' Or if you want to be seated at a corner table at a chic restaurant at the peak of the dinner hour, some money slipped into the hand of the maître d' may help get you what you want.

"But because so many institutions in Brazil are corrupt or inefficient or both, citizens are forced to band together and help each other to a larger extent than in many other places. Bureaucracy pervades everything from enrolling in school to getting electrical service or buying a house. Sometimes getting around laws or situations that are inconvenient involves a cash payment of a bribe, tip, or 'gratification.' Or it can involve other illegal means. So Brazilians find a jeito and create informal, parallel institutions or mechanisms to work around that problem. The emphasis is on exchanging favors or building the kind of durable personal relationship with someone who allows for favors to be asked. ...

"A jeito can also arise in response to deficiencies in the way a business operates. Until the 1990s, when the government-owned telecommunications company was privatized and the country was flooded with cellular phones, Brazil suffered from a chronic shortage of working telephone lines, and there was a long waiting list, up to a decade, to obtain a line. The jeito devised to deal with the situation was a black market in telephones. When an elderly person with a telephone died, ownership of that line would pass to heirs of the deceased. If they had phones of their own, they would sell the line to the highest bidder, sometimes going so far as to put an ad in the newspaper announcing the availability of a line. Rather than wait years and years, a person or company in urgent need of a phone line would pay $1,000 or more to have the line transferred to their use. This was an arrangement that left everyone involved happy, except perhaps the phone company itself. But since the company was seen as the cause of the problem, the impediment that had to be dribbled around, no one really cared much. ...

"Other common cases fall into a morally ambiguous area. Public hospitals in Brazil, for example, are chronically overcrowded and underfinanced. So let's suppose your mother is ill and has been told that no bed is available for her. But you have a friend who is a doctor. The jeito is applied by asking the doctor to intervene on your behalf, with the understanding that in return for admitting and attending to your mother, the doctor deserves a favor to be collected at some unspecified time. ...

"One of the ways in which the jeitinho has been formalized is through the institution of the despachante, or dispatcher, especially in dealings with government bureaucracies. Suppose you want to obtain a driver's license without having to go through the normal procedures. You may simply be in a hurry and not want to wait. Or perhaps you haven't studied for the written test or have failed it in the past. Or maybe you don't know how to drive at all. The solution is to hire a despachante who has cultivated a personal relationship of some sort with key employees at the driver's license bureau and can get you your license in record time.

"Many who resort to the jeitinho know they are doing something that they really shouldn't. But they shrug their shoulders and justify their actions with the phrase Não tem outro jeito, 'There's no other way.' Since everyone at one time or another uses the jeitinho to resolve a problem, and many of those who have the ability to use the jeitinho do so all the time, odds are that no one will look askance at what you have done. The alternative is to play strictly by the rules and be classified as an otário, a dupe or sucker, an object of ridicule and derision, and no one wants to be in that category."


Larry Rohter


Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed


St. Martin's Griffin


Copyright 2010 by Larry Rohter


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