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Red-hot Brazilian economy running afoul of paperwork

While Brazilian businesses want to soar, the bureaucracy is maddeningly Third World.

Dos Santos said the paperwork to incorporate her company took 11 months, and she couldn’t import or export until she got another permit that took another half a year to get approved.

While she was waiting, she was approached by the Nigerian government to negotiate the purchase of 450 buses for a municipal transit system, but problems with their visas and other paperwork led to the deal falling through, she said. 

“The idea was to include the turnstiles and everything to equip the bus stations, too. It was a multimillion dollar contract, but I had to wait to get my export license,” she explained. “They ended up going to India instead. I missed out on a huge opportunity.”

Brazil’s bureaucratic excess costs the country $46 billion a year when compared with a selection of countries where the bureaucracy is less cumbersome, according to a recent study by the State Federation of Sao Paulo Industries.

But bureaucratic regulations don’t affect businesses alone; they are also costly for individuals. 

Back at the federal police station in Sao Paulo, most people have to pay about R$200 (roughly $120) to register as a temporary resident. But it’s the time it takes to navigate the system that makes their cost of living difficult to sustain, said several applicants standing in line recently.

“I got here at 11:30 last night to wait in line for my Bolivian girlfriend, who is applying for her residency, then I went to work.” said Gilvan Andrade, a slim 23-year-old from Sao Paulo who earns a living printing T-shirts in a factory. 

“I only earn R$510 a month ($303), which is the minimum wage,” he said, hurrying out of the station late in the evening to catch the bus with his wife and his baby daughter. “If I miss a day, we won’t have enough money to pay for milk, our rent and all our bills. It’s not fair but that's just life, thanks to all the bureaucracy in this country.”