Brazilian Army seek out gamers for image boost

. Jun 23, 2020
video game army recruiting (1) Photo: Shutterstock

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We’re covering a curious project to improve the image of the Brazilian Army. Are improved economic forecasts warranted? And the new tug of war between the president and Congress.

Call of Duty: Tropic Ops

The Brazilian Army’s Joint Chief Staff has launched

<a href="">Mission Olive Green</a>, which plans to develop a first-person shooter video game —&nbsp;similar to Call of Duty —&nbsp;to &#8220;create positive impressions of the Army, especially among the 16-to-24-year-old demographic.&#8221;</p> <ul><li>The Army&#8217;s communications team realized its social media channels only reach strong supporters — giving it rare exposure to other audiences.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The gaming project is to be modeled after the free-to-play shooter America&#8217;s Army —&nbsp;launched by the U.S. Armed Forces&nbsp;as a cost-effective recruiting tool which has proven extremely successful.</p> <ul><li>A 2008 study suggests that 30 percent of Americans aged 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the Army because of the game. Another study revealed that around 40 percent of enlisting soldiers had played the game —&nbsp;though it is unclear whether it was a decisive factor.</li><li>Media theorist David B. Nieborg criticized the game and noted that its mechanics are &#8220;a careful blend of propaganda, advertising, and education.&#8221;</li><li>Baruch College CUNY Professor Corey Mead has written that games developed for the Army have had <a href="">three big aims</a>: recruitment, training, and, most recently, treating psychological issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.</li></ul> <p><strong>Guidelines.</strong> The primary goal of the project is to raise awareness about military careers, so players will only compete against AI, not with each other. Also, developers will be required to combine fighting sequences with humanitarian actions and pro-environment missions.</p> <ul><li>Many scholars believe this kind of game is dangerous and could propagate &#8220;semi-fascist themes.&#8221; Political scientist Marcus Schulzke, from the State University of New York, <a href="">doesn&#8217;t buy into that notion</a>: &#8220;These studies often fail to explain the mechanisms that may produce this harm [nor do they] discuss the positive functions that military gaming might be able to serve, such as how America’s Army has been used to improve the soldiers&#8217; ethics training.&#8221;</li></ul> <p><strong>Not quite the U.S. </strong>Making a game like America&#8217;s Army will be a gargantuan task. Brazil&#8217;s gaming industry is not nearly as developed as the U.S.&#8217;s. Meaning that, to record the intended 3 million downloads within the first two years after launch, the Brazilian Army will have to settle for a subpar game or spend big bucks.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Between 2002 and 2008, the U.S. game cost taxpayers <a href="">USD 33 million</a> (BRL 174 million).</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Markets improve forecasts for Brazil — but it remains too soon for optimism</h2> <p>For the first time in 19 weeks, market agents improved their outlook for the Brazilian economy in 2020, albeit very slightly. The Focus Report, a weekly survey among top-rated investment firms, brings a median GDP growth projection of -6.5 percent, a marginal improvement from -6.51 percent last week. But this shouldn&#8217;t send champagne corks popping yet.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>The improved forecast is based on the notion that the worst of the pandemic&#8217;s economic effects are behind Brazil, because: (1) while recent economic indicators came up negative, they were not as bad as anticipated; and (2) states began reopening their economy a couple of weeks ago.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1733972" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Yes, but … </strong>Experts alert that the reopening was rushed and that infection curves are set to spike. A study by the University of São Paulo suggests that 1 in 5 Brazilian municipalities are experiencing an &#8220;expressive increase&#8221; in cases.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Underreporting of existing cases is also a persistent problem. An inquiry by the São Paulo City Hall based on random testing suggests that roughly 1.2 million people could have been infected with the coronavirus in the city — more than the total number of cases in Spain and France combined. That number is also larger than Brazil&#8217;s nationwide official case tally.</li><li>A second wave —&nbsp;on top of the first —&nbsp;would have even more devastating economic effects, besides the human impact. &#8220;If states have to go on stay-at-home mode again, it would crush confidence in the economy,&#8221; says Marco Harbitch, a strategist at Terra Investimentos.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/2945141" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Economic effects.</strong> &#8220;The question is how fast will Brazil recover. And it seems clear that it won&#8217;t be a V-shaped recovery, but a U-shaped one,&#8221; João Rosal, chief economist at Guide Investimentos, told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</p> <p><strong>Monetary policy.</strong> The Central Bank will publish the minutes of last week&#8217;s meeting wherein it decided to cut interest rates to an all-time low of 2.25 percent. The report will indicate how the bank intends to move forward. &#8220;We expect the rate to get as low as 1.5 percent by year-end and to remain low, reaching 2 percent by the end of 2021,&#8221; says Mr. Rosal.</p> <p><em>— with Natália Scalzaretto</em></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Emergency salary the next Congress-Bolsonaro tug-of-war</h2> <p>It is widely accepted that the government will have to extend its coronavirus emergency salary, initially designed to last for three months. The question revolves around how much the new monthly stipends will be. The government has proposed making two extra payments of BRL 300 (USD 57) — that is, half of the initial benefit. But Congress wants the current amount of BRL 600 to be sustained for at least two to three months.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> A World Bank study suggests that 7 million people would be immediately <a href="">pushed below the poverty line</a> if the benefit is interrupted.</p> <ul><li>&#8220;The government can&#8217;t wait any longer to extend the aid. Help is urgent and it must come now,&#8221; argued House Speaker Rodrigo Maia.</li></ul> <p><strong>Yes, but … </strong>The administration claims there is simply not enough money. &#8220;The federal government cannot withstand another BRL 600 payment, which would cost us BRL 50 billion per month. If the country becomes too indebted, we will have a problem,&#8221; said President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday.</p> <p><strong>Push and pull.</strong> Current discussions about the amount the government should pay are reminiscent of how the benefit was created in the first place, with the Economy Ministry and Congress taking weeks to reach an agreement — thus delaying the start of the payments.</p> <p><strong>Politics.</strong> Jair Bolsonaro has lost support among wealthier families, but the emergency salary has <a href="">allowed him to stand his ground</a> in terms of popular support. Expect his base to erode fast in the case of a massive cut to the monthly benefit.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Exports. </strong>Thailand&#8217;s ban on two farm chemicals, a decision made earlier this month, could hit key <a href="">Brazilian agricultural exports</a> worth over USD 600 million. Both Brazil and the U.S. filed separate complaints to the World Trade Organization, claiming that Thailand lacks new scientific evidence to base its decision —&nbsp;as required by a WTO agreement.</li><li><strong>ESG.</strong> A group of 29 global investment firms managing USD 3.7 trillion have called out President Jair Bolsonaro for his <a href="">laissez-faire stance on the environment</a>. While the letter itself doesn&#8217;t spell out the consequences of government inaction, many companies have threatened to divest from the country if deforestation continues to ramp up. Forest destruction increased 64 percent in April, as the pandemic makes monitoring hard for environmental agents, who are often of advanced age and belong to risk groups.</li><li><strong>Healthcare.</strong> Due to the <a href="">pandemic</a>, Brazilians are restraining themselves from going to the hospital to treat conditions unrelated to the coronavirus. The National Agency for Supplementary Health shows that Brazilians are using health insurance less than ever recorded, with data first measured in 2016. Deductible expenses represented 66 percent of insurance companies&#8217; revenue over the period, against a peak of 85 percent in June 2016. Meanwhile, default rates jumped from 13 to 16 percent. The House is discussing a bill, already approved by the Senate, that would freeze insurance premiums during the pandemic.</li><li><strong>Education.</strong> Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes gave the Solicitor General&#8217;s Office 48 hours to explain the Education Ministry&#8217;s decision to lift racial quota policies for post-graduate courses in federal universities — one of the very last acts of <a href="">former Minister Abraham Weintraub</a> in office. Quotas are considered by many experts as an effective way to reduce race-based gaps in higher education in Brazil.</li><li><strong>Anti-democracy probe.</strong> Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who oversees a <a href="">probe into the organization and funding of anti-democratic rallies</a>, published his ruling of last week that lifted the secrecy over bank and phone records of 11 pro-Bolsonaro members of Congress. They are suspected of inciting anti-democracy rallies, which is illegal under the National Security Law, created during the military dictatorship. Justice Moraes believes there is a &#8220;criminal organization&#8221; behind these acts —&nbsp;a notion reinforced by the finding that pro-Bolsonaro politicians used BRL 58,000 of their money for political activities to launch social media campaigns promoting said demonstrations.

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