Macaé, Oil Rush Boomtown

By Sarah Coursey, Editor

Aerial view of Macaé, photo by the Macaé Prefeitura.

Aerial view of Macaé, photo by the Macaé Prefeitura.

RIO DE JANEIRO – With an economy that grew 600 percent in the last ten years – a boom greater than China’s – Macaé is a city bubbling in new business, most of it lubricated by the same black gold that has sliced Brazil’s poverty in half in the new millenium. The development of the oil and gas industry, and specifically the set-up of Petrobras in the Rio de Janeiro state locale, has transformed Macaé from a small fishing village into a respectable metropolis.

Today the city boasts oil workers not just from Rio de Janeiro and other petrolium cities in Brazil, but also from multinationals such as Chevron and BP. On the streets, one can hear Norwegian, English and German being spoken, with an official foreign-born population hovering at a healthy ten percent.

According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), the population has tripled to count more than 200,000 inhabitants, and is now responsible for 85% of the oil output and 47% of the natural gas of the entire country.

Macaé is now among the ten cities in Brazil with the highest concentration of production per capita. According to the IBGE, The city rose from 55th up to 8th position in the ranking of contribution to the country’s GDP (known in Brazil as PIB) between 2003 and 2004. Its PIB per capita is now R$120,612.

This year the city was named the third best place to live in Rio de Janeiro state, a statistic from the Centro de Informações e Dados do Rio de Janeiro (CIDE, Center for Information and Facts of Rio de Janeiro), which includes 92 cities in its ranking. It was just behind Niterói and the city of Rio de Janeiro. In 1998, Macaé was in fifth position.

Praia do Pecado Beach in Macaé, photo by Robinson Carvalho.

Praia do Pecado Beach in Macaé, photo by Robinson Carvalho.

Jumping ahead of the country’s other economic hot-spots, Macaé was named the most dynamic city in Brazil in 2007 according to the newspaper A Gazeta Mercantil. Specifically, it led the pack in what is referred to as ‘human development’, concerning the output from individuals in a given geographical area.

The Insituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (IPEA, Institute of Applied Economic Research) named the city as the most developed in the past decade in the Rio-São Paulo axis.

On a human scale, the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) marked the city as the thirteenth best place to work in 2006, and the eighth best in the Southeast. Today, in Macaé, 26% of all official workers earn ten times the minimum wage.

It’s not just oil that is bringing money in – the construction and service industries are booming as well. It was recently named the city with the fourth highest number of formalized workers. The city has 3,189 service companies alone, 2,514 businesses dealing in straight commerce, and 2,000 individuals registered as autonomous professionals.

The city has also been recognized for its advances in the areas of education and health. Infants from birth to six years of age in Macaé have the best quality of life in the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to research made by Unicef in 2006. On a scale of zero to one, in the Index of Early Childhood Development (IDI), the city came in at 0.886.

Macaé recently received the Município Amigo da Criança (City Advocate for Children) Award from the Pan-American Health Organization. It was also ranked number one for education according to the Development of Basic Education Index (Ideb), calculated with the results of Test brazil, carried out in 2005.