Latin America

Brazil's President Struggles to Bring Business Back

Two years of disappointing growth numbers

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The conversations with Brazil's top business leaders often last two hours, and up to four. President Dilma Rousseff asks detailed questions but otherwise listens intently, staring back with an inscrutable frown that occasionally unnerves her guests.

There is talk of investments, and the need for shared prosperity—a favorite topic of Rousseff's. But in these meetings, the conversation inevitably comes back to the severe bottlenecks that have brought the economy back to earth after a historic boom last decade.

"Brazil needs to focus now on issues like productivity and reducing costs, because that's the only way we can grow in a sustainable fashion," said Marcelo Odebrecht, who runs a global conglomerate that bears his family's name.