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Brazil is trading productivity for profit with public holidays expected to cost Rio industries $2.3 billion in GDP; however, the long-term returns on infrastructure investments and increased tourism awareness should eventually balance out losses.
Rio de Janeiro, the city that will host soccer’s World Cup final, has decreed three public holidays during the tournament to try to ensure the city’s growing traffic problems don’t interfere with the event.
Rio’s municipal government announced an entire day’s holiday for the July 4 quarterfinal at the city’s Maracana stadium. It also approved half-day holidays for World Cup holder Spain’s game with Chile on June 18, and the June 25 match between Ecuador and 1998 champion France. In total, Rio will stage seven games in the monthlong tournament, the others being played on weekends. The final is on July 13.
“The measure aims to reduce the flow of vehicles, minimizing possible inconvenience to the population, and speeding up the flow of fans to the Maracana stadium,” the Rio mayor’s office said in a statement.
Drivers in Rio are often caught in jams lasting several hours. The situation has become worse recently as the city has embarked on a series of road-building works ahead of the 2016 summer Olympics. Other cities are likely to follow suit, including Belo Horizonte which declared public holidays last year on days when it staged matches during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament.
Brazil is spending about $11 billion on staging sport’s most-watched event. Several projects including work on 12 refurbished or new stadiums have suffered delays and cost overruns. Many projects to improve urban mobility in host cities have been scrapped or won’t be completed on time.
Cost of Holidays
National and state public holidays this year will cost Rio industries an estimated 5.5 billion reais ($2.3 billion), or 4 percent of its industrial gross domestic product, according to a Feb. 24 report from Firjan, an industry group for the region. Without taking into account plans for the World Cup, Brazil will this year have eight national public holidays and 30 state holidays during weekdays, with an estimated total loss for the country’s industry of 45.5 billion reais, according to Firjan.
“This will certainly have a big impact on production,” Jonathas Goulart, an economist at Rio-based Firjan, said in a telephone interview. “In Brazil there is an excessive number of holidays.”
Rio’s government said some workers will be excluded from the holidays. They include those in emergency services, garbage collectors, people working in the tourism sector and journalists. Some schools across Brazil have already changed their calendar to coincide with the World Cup. Schools in South Africa changed the schedule there when the country hosted the tournament in 2010.
Adding to organizers’ concerns is the possibility of a repeat of the nationwide protests that coincided with the Confederations Cup. The demonstrations were the biggest in a generation and many ended in violent clashes as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to push demonstrators back.
Protesters said the money going toward building infrastructure such as stadiums would be better spent on improving the country’s public schools and hospitals.
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