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Lisboa, Portugal
Nasci no dia 11 de Junho de 1964 na cidade da Beira, MOÇAMBIQUE.

A Estação dos CFM, Beira

A Estação dos CFM, Beira
Ex-libris da cidade, 1966

The Euro, as a single currency, should be abolished

Another black and white motion statement leaving me no option but to choose No.
While I agree to the first part I am not prepared to contemplate the idea that the Euro should get abolished.
Abolished? Then what?
All 17 countries now sharing the single currency would revert back to their old monies?
Or a new version of yesteryear's currencies?

Simplistic as I made it out to be packed in a few odd questions, every single serious economic, financial and social consequence is inextricably wrapped up within each.
That is where the stakes are high enough to ensure that the Euro is given a new lease on life.
It calls for closer European integration.
What form and shape this will take is for policymakers and far-sighted politicians to grasp and propose.

It would seem to me that the Euro has many underlying strengths but will not - contrary to the founder's beliefs - assure convergence between all the economies it services. How could it?
The divide has been felt acutely lately (1-2 years) the logical consequence of relevant economic under-performance among member-countries.

There has obviously got to be a political solution rooted in realistic economic fundamentals.
The road traveled so far proved artificially smooth during the first 10 years I dare say but unsurprisingly very bumpy in the last 1-2.
It could not have been otherwise given the structural differences setting these countries apart. And excessive spending pursued mostly by a few Southern European States who could not see beyond the present.
Adherence to the Maastricht criteria never again seemed to be taken seriously once countries landed themselves inside the Euro club. Not to mention Greece that never fulfilled the criteria in the first place or ever bothered to balance its books.

Very disappointing to admit but the Euro Zone is indeed right in the middle of a storm testing its main crews to the limit.
The latest summit decisions seem to indicate that where there is a will there is a way.
It may have just been one first small step in the right direction.

The specifics are very hard to work on.
Yet it would seem to me that the 17-member Euro Zone and the larger EU can hardly afford shooting down the Euro.
The broader picture needs to come into full view.
An hypothetical demise of the single currency would deal another severe blow to Europe's economic fortunes.
Its relative decline vis-a-vis the rest of the world would get a further boost.

I do not like misplaced calls for solidarity from Southerners but would rather see the stronger half of the dividing line realize where their medium-to-long interest lies.
To that end many balances across the Euro Zone need to be restored at the earliest.

Europe agrees a "shock and awe" bailout for Greece

A rescue package of epic proportions, epic challenges for the Greek government and people, epic uncertainties and epic stakes for the single-currency.

It was the Euro's defence that ultimately forced politicians from Germany to Malta to perform a hard balancing act whose overall success is far from assured.Each finance minister has enough reasons to fret and grumble about.It being the Euro as a common currency, because of Greece despite Greece.
Up to now every 'least damaging' approach failed miserably to cool down the financial markets that remained as unimpressed as ever throughout.
For its part Greece is effectively the main winner in this high-finance gamble.The country bought time the markets were not willing to give it once confidence vanished.Precious time desperately needed to restore credibility and good governance at home.
A daunting internal fix with daunting external implications.
Three full years is what the government and Greek society top-down and bottom-up now have to set the record straight in so many ways.
Literally and figuratively.

For the other 15 Eurozone countries - each facing own troubles to varying degrees - keeping fingers crossed would be mild to describe the monitoring of Greece's performance over the coming 36 months.Potentially they are all losers, starting out by losing simply to avoid bigger losses!
There are so many relevant questions that might be asked to which full answers ought to be provided.
They won't get asked or get answered.
Tellingly, each and every single one of them would now seem rhetorical or at best an exercise for academia.

The spectre that haunts Europe

I am still hopeful that Greece will not require a bail-out in whatever form pinning my hopes on the PM's own words.

He did sound very bold and brave in the face of such overwhelming odds but until a deal is actually in place I would rather believe the Greeks can and will take care of themselves.

My stance is wholly based not on immediate needs triggered by the Western financial meltdown that led to the economic downturn.This in turn led to a collapse in tax revenues across countries caused by economies shrinking badly.

To a large extent Greece is indeed a one-off case-study for the worst reasons, its latest fiscal deficit the sum total of profligate spending, widespread cultural-rooted tax evasion, underbudgeting, creative accounting, weak notion of public service and duty, etc - all conspiring over decades to bring the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

I am sure many Greeks will have seen it coming and warned their governments in years past.To no avail as even the present government was elected as recently as late 2009 on a platform to increase spending.

According to EMU rules public finances were clearly to remain national responsibilities.A considerable chunk of sovereignty for States to manage through their democratically-elected governments of the day.
Would the Greeks have liked their Finance Ministry to be ruled or dictated to from Brussels or Frankfurt just so the Maastricht-agreed criteria could not have been so despondently ignored?

Current turmoil is the Euro's hardest test ever but one that will also represent a defining moment in the single-currency's future.

It is a fact that Southern European countries are faced with similar issues though not on the same scale and urgency.Others in Northern Europe, the US and Japan also recorded their biggest fiscal deficits and added up noticeably to their debts in 2009.
Each one has its own track-record, however.
This is exactly what sets Greece apart from the rest.
Each country is unique in its own way, there being obviously overlapping between them.

International rating agencies must make the effort to closely monitor and register those differences and then advise financial markets.

After all it is sovereign countries and sovereign debt one is dealing with.

There is much more at stake than strictly soulless bundling of nations.

Arquivo do blogue

segunda-feira, 27 de dezembro de 2010

TEc debate motion "The language we speak shapes how we think" - It exercises influence but does not bound up thought.

What an exciting debate this is that I rush to comment wishing I could vote for both sides of the argument.

Thought and thought processes are triggered in multiple ways by any number of inputs.
While languages certainly make a great difference on the outwardly expression of thought I am not so sure that thought has been framed by language, mother-tongue I assume, upstream.
There is bound to be an interplay between the two which makes people meaning basically the same thing say it differently in different languages according to usage types and expressions of their particular culture.
That said I am led to believe that this is not a straight clear-cut motion statement defined by yes or no.
I just had to drop these lines even before reading what the guests and the moderator are saying.
But I'm afraid I will have to come back later.


As the debate moved on it has only become harder for me to make up my mind. Not being into philology puts me at a disadvantage with those who may easily grasp the influence of languages on thought.

But what does emphatically come first: thought or language?
Or both simultaneously, or is there any precedence at all?

I remain as hesitant as ever for there is doubtless an interplay more acutely verified in some languages relative to others.
English is a good case in point.The very language we are using writing in on this debate.
English is a particularly versatile and practical language that delivers in short sentences - written and spoken, briefly and to the point.
In my native Portuguese it generally takes many more words to produce the same content.
That, however, does not alter my thinking the least bit.

Whatever my abstract thinking on a given subject matter will then be released in the required language.
The form, the style, the fluency will be determined by command of the language rather than any alteration to the essential thought.
While some languages do make it easier to sum things up and may indeed shape the way we think practical, I cannot accept that they are the main driver.
Do the Japanese and the Chinese with their painfully exquisite plentiful characters and sounds think entirely different from us in a Western mindset speaking Western languages?
To some extent yes but would that be enough to concede that thought is shaped by language?
I have thrown up a few questions here but at the end of this linguistic journey I am now more confident to disagree with the house motion.
Even if I may partially agree, and I do, on language influencing thought it does not go as far as considering that the latter is actually formatted by the former.

TEc - "Save the date" - Predicting China's rise to unseat the USA. Is it no longer an if?

The economy is not an exact science, leaving ample space for variation.

Going by economic history for the past 2 decades, more so the last one, the trends for China and the US are very nearly cast in stone.(?)
The multiple reasons for growth and growth potential in either country too.
The logic of full-blown American invented capitalism - free capital flows, free markets, free trade, free banking and finance - all now favour China not the US.

If, however, an unforeseen event or circumstance crops up that alters current assumptions then those trends can head off in a different direction.
Right now that seems unlikely though.

Japan, the previous runner-up failed badly to fulfil predictions made earlier on in the 80's.

It is not difficult to find sensible answers.

China, however, even if it were not racing along at breakneck speed is an altogether different story.
Need I only mention the country's size, demography, iron-fist rule, still untapped potential and apparent collective focus?
For "The Economist" it is no longer a question of 'if' but 'when'.

sexta-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2010

TEc - "Pushing back" - India and China have scars from 1962 but are bound to get along.

No matter how big their disagreement and suspicion resulting from past wars India and China have come a long way.Ultimately they are bound to get on with each other from current levels of mutual interaction.

Neighbours tend to hold grudges of multiple sorts, there being many examples around the world.
What India and China share in common is their demography - with significantly divergent dynamics - fast economic growth, millennia-old cultures and a legitimate ambition to ever greater world prominence.
More than enough to keep both countries focused, showing respect for each other's sovereignty and deepening their relationship across the board.
Save a few more common points they are relevantly different multifold from political set-up down to the chores of daily living and activity.
Yet, both remain essentially interested in getting up to ever higher levels of material development.
An aspirational desire as much as a dire requirement for all the needs still vastly pervasive given the low starting points of not many years ago.

India and China face daunting internal challenges and any number of priorities to busy themselves with in the foreseeable future.There is hardly a gain to be had in stoking mistrust between the two from unresolved issues left by history.Both peoples would profit nothing from raised border tensions and would certainly stand to lose a fair deal.

quinta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2010

TEc - "No safe harbour" Australia's uneasiness with boat would-be immigrants

Unless Australia changes the way it views these would-be-immigrants I'm afraid there is no solution for them.

It being mainly a humanitarian issue with wider social, economic and political implications, Australia remains woefully uneasy about how best to handle it without losing face(?) or its own straight self-image(?).
Or jeopardize a hot theme for its internal politics that has long nurtured negatively the overblown idea of a country swamped by boat people arriving from populous countries to the north.
Doubtless I deem it as a difficult question particularly if these people are not being smuggled - in the darkest sense - but only making a genuine desperate dash to improve their living conditions.
Getting a second chance, perhaps a first to many - that which brought so many now full-fledged Australians to Australia after all.

Immigration should be a controlled process as pursued by the Australian State. An objective made easier to achieve given the mainland's island condition albeit with a huge coastline.
Perhaps the Australian State owes it to those who perished against the rocks of Christmas Island a review of the country's current policy.
Perhaps even going as far as opening a little window to them.
Despite the challenges posed by such a bold move.

These people were brave enough to knowingly undertake a perilous trip.Most did not make it to live to Christmas 2010, relevant to them or not.
Their ordeal is over.
Australia, however, will likely remain at odds with boat people.

TEc - "The best or the rest" British teenage students are falling behind many from other countries according to the Programme for International Student Assessment-2009 tests.

I cannot assess the criteria used in selecting schools and pupils to undergo the PISA tests.

Assuming that groundwork is made to produce representative and comparable samples is the starting point to the credibility of the entire exercise.

However, I am in no doubt that final rankings do provide an insight into the general standards of a country's educational system that allows for a fairly meaningful comparative analysis.
General perceptions are broadly confirmed for each country standing alone.
Their performance relative to others also seem to match.

Overall the PISA tests are a gauge to the delivery of an educational system.
If the same schools are tested in 3 years' time producing markedly improved results then it follows, cheerfully, something positive has happened.
The reverse is also true only far more worrying.

segunda-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Has the International Criminal Court outlived its usefulness?" - I think not.

I would need to know a great deal more about the ICC's work and output to make an informed comment.

Save that key weakness I must say, nonetheless, that the world does require one such institution permanently.
Those of us who believe in the rule of law and on justice being served on Earth cannot but approve the efforts of an International Court despite every shortcoming it is charged with.
Leaders anywhere who act as if they are virtually immune to prosecution everywhere - after commiting the foulest crimes against humanity - should be aware that their hour of reckoning might only be a flight away after all.

I would leave the budgeting and other equally relevant issues to the experts to bring under control on balanced terms.

TEc - "Friends, or else" China's rise and wider implications

Why does China now command so much attention that the Western press seems transfixed by it?The question is deliberately rhetorical.Many answers could be readily provided though - and they would be right in all likelihood.China's fast rise across the board has caught much of the world by surprise.Yet it should be mainly welcomed as a normal occurrence that the world's most inhabited country is (again) acquiring greater prominence.The US through its President and Administration of the day will have to find clever ways of accommodating China while diplomatically seeking to exercise influence in favour of democratic freedoms and respect for individual human rights.
I do believe that increased social and material development will inevitably lead to greater demands from within by the Chinese themselves. These demands will have to be met when a critical tipping point is reached.The communist party will then no longer resist maintaining its self-notion of a closed-tightly-controlled society indefinitely.Just as the demise of the Soviet Union was never predicted until it riped and started unravelling so too will China's moment of openness eventually arrive.
The United States and the European Union have a lot of home work to do which is to repair, redress and rebuild their faltering financial, economic and production systems.It calls for a new approach that on many counts should take these countries back to basics and fundamentals.
The US can hardly stall China's rise nor would that be acceptable ever.
What it needs to do is to focus on the causes of its relative underperformance multifold.If China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Asian countries in general are on top in school achievement then Education surely requires much greater focus from the nation and its institutions.

The world is on the move and China is making sure it is one of the drivers.

sábado, 11 de dezembro de 2010

BBC Blog Peston's Picks: " Brown states 'We have a major crisis in the euro area' " - He is right but it is unravelling directionless

It is important to listen to what former chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown has to say on the Euro Zone.The views of the likes of him are of added value because of their now inherent condition as non-ruling politicians.Relieved of public office they can freely speak their minds up...
Furthermore, GB knows full well the dire consequences a Euro implosion would have on the UK's economy too.
Which brings us back to square one and the absolute need for the EU to iron out a deal - in whatever shape, form or size - that effectively seizes initiative away from the markets. Leaving the markets yearning to invest in government debt at discount rates.
Instead of the current piecemeal approach that has had mixed results at best.
I understand the complexities of such a deal but as each day goes by the Euro Zone as one single currency area looks headed for further upsets coming from weaker links going up to other not-so-weak links as well.
Germany and France have vowed to uphold the Euro.
Truth be told they have been doing so at their own discretion thus far.
The financial markets though remain defiant choosing to target and test each weak member one at a time before going for bigger fish.
Which they will when their turn comes up.

The Euro Zone moves into 2011 under the spell of uncertainty.
Very few have the power to influence its course and this minute it is not known whether they will want to use it.

quinta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2010

BBC Blog Network "What is John Lennon's legacy?" - Music with a powerful message

Have always been a fan of the Beatles - therefore of John Lennon as well - and will forever remain so.
His/their songs were so inspiring that no one could ever possibly stay indifferent to the music and lyrics, the rhythm and style, the genuineness and youthfulness.

I think John Lennon's enduring legacy is one of permanently striving for universal peace as an absolute value to be shared by all human beings.
It may just be that he did not appreciate the need to, on occasion, make war to attain Peace.But that's beside the point in this 30-year homage.

His music will always remain relevant prompting us all to permanently IMAGINE a better world - a world at peace with itself.

BBC Blog Network "Is Wikileaks right to release secret documents?" - Disguised voyeurism with serious implications

The main issue here is that diplomatic cables have been made public when they are supposed to be private communication exchanges between a government and those who represent it in foreign countries.
If one should want to go down the road of voyeurism in different guises then anything goes really.
Indeed it may get pretty funny to know the kind of language used between high-profile public figures when privately referring to each other!

It is disgusting enough that so much of what goes on around us smacks of third-rate soap opera that we would do fine without the latest intrusive leaks made to look like of high value to the general public.

terça-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Do hard-line Republican terrorists represent a serious threat to peace and stability in Northern Ireland?" A threat maybe but Peace has many more backers now.

I believe radical Republican nationalism may still represent a threat in Northern Ireland but not a serious one any more.
The people, north and south of the border and in the mainland have known 12 years of near blissful peace in NI following the random, senseless violence brought on by the 'troubles' from the late 60's to 1998.
It is likely that the new political modus vivendi between the two communities in the North - even if still defined by many divisions in larger society - is seeping in to consolidate the case for lasting peace.
While many of the hard-liners, especially from the Republican side, will not rest intellectually until Ireland is finally reunited their means to that ultimate end have hopefully changed permanently.
Sooner than many expect they may win through demography and democracy that which they never would through strictly sectarian barbarism.

TEc "Conquering the Complexo do Alemão" - A vast favela is at last claimed back by the State but the hard work starts now.

A huge step in the right direction is an understatement to label the operation now underway in Rio's notoriously ugly backyard.
Political will has finally been displayed to start tackling an endemic social problem that has plagued beautiful Rio de Janeiro for decades.
Whether or not the trigger is the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games is next to tertiary in the face of the scale of the problem and urgency to deal with it.
Once the Brazilian State through its armed branches has firmly and permanently secured the territory - every square inch of it - a massive investment plan should follow to address infrastructure, housing and community facilities throughout the favelas.
This will require great vision from planners, builders and all involved who may only share one and the same objective to achieve over a realistic timeline.
Political will and funding cannot waver to finally rid Rio from that which has haunted it for so long depriving hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants from that most elementary of rights: citizenship to freely exercise daily in the most basic ways.

segunda-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Will the Euro-zone break up?" - A disturbing question whose answer defies prognosis

It is troubling enough that we should have this question asked.More so to realize that as I vote one third of respondents agree a break-up will come about.Much has been said and written on Euro-zone woes since the beginning of 2010. So many the delays, dithering and apparently contradictory moves by European politicians that a learned comment is not easy to construct.Especially one that does not mix wishful thought with pragmatic evidence.
However, taking after every in-depth analysis made by reputed economists and The Economist it would seem that the case to keep the Euro-16 is one of the lesser evil.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this applies to countries/economies on far ends of Euro-zone.
The single currency was never meant to arrive at such a critical crossroads.
It may now sound academic but I still cannot quite figure out whether Euro designers did not think through every weakness that might eventually undermine the currency.(!?)
On the other hand - should a country leave the Euro to regain competitiveness - I have always believed currency devaluation to be nothing but a quick fix.
It does not address core problems or force governments/private sector to plan and implement medium-to-long-term development/company policies to prop up and strengthen an economy lastingly.It is very much the opposite, an easy exit route likely to make weaker an already weak economy in the longer run.
Anyhow the stakes are too high that even the best analysis look constrained when not stone-walled by a powerful political/economic/social combination.
To my mind summing it all up it would appear that the case to make Euro-zone work is by far the stronger one.
Contemplating its downfall is indeed reason enough to double common efforts to undertake every institutional change that will ensure its survival.
To this effect the ECB's decisions no matter how grudgingly made are as bold as they are required.
Governments in afflicted countries now have to rise up to the tough choices and challenges.
Making the most of available time and lifelines thrown to fulfill the internal adjustments needed while pursuing economic growth as well.

TEc "Will Spain need a bail-out?" - The question may be asked. The answer would better be no.

I think not.I imagine not.I believe not.
But mainly I wishfully think - mostly I expect - Spain will manage to muddle through.
The stakes are awfully high when it comes to the world's ninth largest economy, the EU's fifth, the Eurozone's fourth.
Financial markets will remain watchful and the tug of war with politicians promises to liven up or gradually die down.
Uncertainty is the only sure bet, truly.
Which renders any additional words next to useless.

segunda-feira, 29 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "Europe and America" Why the EU needs to stand tall on its own, or...

Since long the European Union has been punching below its real weight - well below its potential weight.This owes much to the failure of EU leaders to sell to their own peoples and the larger world the European ideal as envisioned by the founding fathers and successive generations of statesman-like politicians. Most of them deepened the economic and political project best exemplified in the Treaty that changed designation from EEC-European Economic Community to EU-European Union.Later by the creation of the now troubled single currency and the EU's two latest arguably overambitious speedy enlargement rounds from 15 to 25(2004) to 27(2007) member-States.

With the Western world (mainly the US and Europe) severely knocked-down by the 2008 American triggered sub-prime crisis that led to the overwhelming financial meltdown, both the EU and the US remain far too busy finding their own bearings to afford entertaining each other meaningfully.
Indeed viewing it all in one big picture that combines many sub-images neatly conveys a critical juncture enveloping Europe and America.
Their taken-for-granted relationship is not threatened on fundamentals least of all is it beleaguered in any way. But unless the two sides of the Atlantic resume sustained economic growth - especially an even spread across the EU's 27 members - already visible imbalances of sorts will increase.
I believe it falls mostly on the EU to demonstrate where it wants to be over the next 10 years.
Should it succeed pulling itself together and moving forward as one - despite every welcome difference setting member-countries apart - and America will listen and value the EU for its real worth.
If not the call from Pacific rim nations and beyond will strengthen further leaving Europe out to a sentimental line and NATO. Effectively pushing the EU into secondary player status.
This might come about through practical evidence rather than any intentional policy shift.
Conversely, the EU which remains a formidable economic and trading bloc, still could secure its rightful place as seen from Washington.
It will, however, take far more purposeful leadership and renewed commitment to the European political project to achieve this.

In a nutshell a vision from Brussels extending well over and above today's shadowy lows that have so profoundly sagged Europe's ambition is utterly needed.

sexta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2010

TEC debate motion "This house believes that America's political system is broken" I disagree and wish to stress why yet again.

I have already cast my vote earlier on but if I had to do it again I would unequivocally side with the minority once more.

In fact the gap has marginally widened showing what I believe is mainly overwhelming mistrust of America's political system as people perceive it.
The very system that produced by all means and measures - despite inevitable shortcomings - one of the world's most successful countries.
Proud Americans would not hesitate to say 'the' world's most successful country. 

When dealing with such a complex edifice that took long painstaking work and very many bright minds to put together one needs to humbly step back a distance that would allow viewing the broad picture.
Perhaps this is what is lacking nowadays blinding many to the virtues of a system that delivered so much to excessively focus on the failures of the immediate instead.

To my mind such an assessment is very short-sighted no matter how relevant or even substantive.
Any political system may require adjustment to keep up with ongoing challenges posed by a dynamic free society and an ever moving wider world.

If co-operation across party lines has worked in the past there is no reason why it should not be made to work again. Especially at a time when the US is faced with tough core issues/choices from within and major multiple shifts from without.
That rather hinges on the quality of a majority of politicians in Washington, not necessarily on the political system.

Sometimes it may become easier to find fault with political institutions when a sound ideological divide needs only be bridged by smart reasoning and eventual agreement. In the nation's interest first and foremost not a party's short-term political gain. And on some issues we might just as well politely agree to disagree.

Whatever Americans make of it, I do not think that their compreehensive and thoughtful political system based on values, checks and balances and responsibility deserves such radical blame for current woes.
Blame lies elsewhere perhaps much closer to many than they would care to admit.

terça-feira, 23 de novembro de 2010

TEC debate motion "This house believes that America's political system is broken" I disagree, the issue is rather different.

The American political system is far from broken in the broad sense.
In the narrow sense it can certainly be improved upon to deliver best and faster for the majority.
The real issue is that the system is to a large degree permanently held hostage by unelected money wielding power brokers.Politics has been hijacked to a level that places it in the back seat not the driver's where it legitimately ought to be.But then insiders to the banking and financial sector will never bat an eyelid if they need to go back to the Treasury again... and again.
Basically the political system must be realigned to re-take its central role and focus on serving the people.In the US there is a healthy divide between the two parties that have steered it for most of its history.Each has made a contribution into the making of America as we know it.The main challenges facing the country over the coming decades have to do with how effectively it deals with the economy in a changing world.Perfecting the Union by perfecting the political system - that cannot deflect from its core activity and raison d'etre which is to represent and deliver for the people at all times - is an ongoing call.
Going back to basics wherever required.
Given the disproportionate weight money-holders now have in the political set-up, whether or not that is achievable remains very much an open question.

TEc - "Atlantic trouble" - Portugal fights for exclusion...

This is a situation resembling a death row.
The accused is not an individual but a collective body.
Each frightened country queued up to go to the gallows wishing it may earn last-minute mercy from the executioner.Above all not wishing to be taken for someone else.Innocently paying extra for someone else's misdeeds.
Seriously, Portugal is neither Greece nor Ireland.Greece is neither Portugal nor Ireland.Ireland is neither Portugal nor Greece.Period.
There are enough differences between them - past, present and future - to warrant separate treatment from that unidentifiable entity named financial markets.Unfortunately what they've shared in common - the need to go back to the markets selling debt, perceived sluggish economic prospects (Ireland is more promising) and the fact they are smaller countries - made them very vulnerable to poaching.
Portugal has defied the worst expectations by posting an expected plus 1% export-driven growth this year.If financial markets/investors should allow it some breathing space 2011 might just be a little less bruising than what forecasts anticipate.As long as overdue internal adjustments are carried out within Portuguese society by strong purposeful government.

TEc - "Saving the Euro" - Unending woes for the single currency

Excellent writing by The Economist that perhaps for the first time highlights the marked differences between the stricken countries of the Eurozone.
However much Greece, Ireland and potentially Portugal may have caused havoc and suspicion in the financial markets - producing similar nerve-wrecking outcomes within the 16-member club - each country is one of a kind with its own track-record, institutions, economic set-up, social attitude and, crucially, future growth prospects.The Eurozone will likely remain in the spotlight, the strains of its unbalanced make-up showing until a common framework for economic management is eventually (re)defined.And enforced by responsible governments of the day.
The Euro does not appear threatened in this re-run of the trials experienced earlier in the year.There can be no doubt however, that unless the strikingly different weaker links return to sustained levels of economic growth troubles within the Eurozone will be recurrent.

TEc - "Slowing down to speed up" - On the credibility of forecasting by international agencies/organizations

Forecasts from international bodies such as the OECD, and many others, have to be read through sharply refined glasses lest readers be grossly misled.At best they offer light look-ahead pointers at worst useless pieces of information adding to bafflement.
Nonetheless, I am always inclined to check them for what they are.Eagerly hoping for the best while fearing the worst.Their overall credibility has doubtless been severely dented over the last three years.

terça-feira, 16 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "Of inhuman bond spreads" Ireland is poached, Portugal becomes more visible

The financial markets remain jittery and suspicious.

Unpredictable is their assessment of risk presented by the affected, should I say afflicted countries.
The sad trio - with Greece already in full rescue mode - continue to share significant bad publicity despite major differences between them.
The fact that this is about sovereign debt each built up to varying levels (with unmatching maturity dates), serviced by dissimilar economies does not seem to impress the markets the least bit.
The Eurozone therefore may yet face another tough test stretching its internal balances to the limit.
In Portugal and I suppose in Ireland too, the government, politicians, economists, opinion-makers are nervous enough to make any meaningful statements.
The financial markets will unravel themselves to hold the final say over the fate of millions whose leadership over many years - whatever the reasons - placed respective countries at their mercy.

sexta-feira, 12 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "Still crazy after all these yields" Portugal and Ireland are tested by financial markets

As this article went to press and as I now write Nov,12 it is not at all clear which way these two countries are heading for.Except that government spending in either is to be severely axed in the coming years.
This time with tangible and widespread implications across societies.

On the bright side a golden opportunity for countries to adjust themselves to more realistic levels multifold.
Despite both presenting largely different standings in many ways, the almighty markets have poached them for their vulnerability rather than anything else.
In retrospect Portugal did position itself wrongly from the outset - perhaps out of an overly optimistic wishful belief the markets would drift away from the Eurozone following Greece's bail-out earlier in the year.
The economy here remains weak and the country might very well experience a double-dip recession next year.
A daunting prospect at the very least.

Meanwhile latest figures indicate Portugal's feeble yet relevant 2010 growth is export-driven.
This holds out the only hope of narrowly avoiding next year's worst forecasts.
Financial markets are unlikely to be impressed by any measures announced whose implementation cannot produce outcomes until well into 2011.
The capitalist system shows itself in full view and coldness.
But then governments cannot pretend, ever, not to have known about its ruthless rules of engagement.

TEc - "Containing engine failure" - Rolls-Royce faces unexpected hiccup in the wake of A380 engine explosion

Every word said about what led to the explosion of this engine is premature until Rolls-Royce engineers step forward to report the full findings of their investigation.
An oil leak is being suggested as the root cause to the failure.
Assuming it was a leak it could have just as easily been catastrophic.

The whole issue is technical enough that besides fixing the leak aircraft-engine makers will need to look again into ways of containing unlikely explosions - whatever the cause - within the engine's cowling.
Hot high-speed rotating metal parts/shreds randomly hurtled in all directions are lethal enough that this A380 owes its survival to the wing luckily not being fatally hit. Or perhaps the fact this was the number 2 inside engine not the number 1 outer one, or...
The ifs, ors and buts are now irrelevant.

Rolls-Royce's reputation will not be tarnished if, as expected, it lives up to its own high reliability and safety standards.

quinta-feira, 11 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "Enough's enough-but what next" Zimbabwe remains in sorrowful political and social limbo

Only the content of the very last paragraph to an otherwise depressing text offers a glimmer of hope for Zimbabwe.

The country remains permanently in a heightened state of political gridlock.
There are far too many oddities pervading the governing coalition that nothing looks set to move forward fast enough, if at all.
Meanwhile, it is likely that a tiny few have never had it so good.
Why bother about the plight of millions around them, or the future of the country, if they can enjoy the spoils of past struggles today?

segunda-feira, 8 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "Divided we fall" Britain and France join up men( ) and kit to save treasure

How telling of changed times it is that cash-strapped Britain and France should throw themselves headlong into military partnership.
The two governments have acted swiftly since David Cameron took over and decided the UK's top priority to be slashing spending - never heard of any such plan for the military from Labour.
The 50-year pact sounds almost visionary for longevity into the future.
The UK, with solid military traditions in the distant past as well as the more recent successfully fought and won major and minor battles of the 20th. century, seems to me the biggest loser of the two.
Already both countries have shrunk their armed forces relevantly but harnessing hardware to efficacy could indeed prove wise and deliver greater punch in real armed conflict scenario.
Notwithstanding the perceived change in the nature of 21st. century threats what the move undeniably underscores is the relative decline of military powers of yesteryear.
Unless most of Europe gets economies to grow meaningfully over the coming years/decades I suspect that firmly established trend to accelerate further.

quarta-feira, 3 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "How did it come to this?" - asks The Economist of Obama's fading popularity.The going is tougher ahead but hope remains.

Won't even attempt go into the technicalities of governing a country with a huge private-sector economy made fragile by years of easy credit, spending binges and financial recklessness.

Barack Obama's two-year White House stint could hardly have achieved more in so far as jobs are concerned.

It is only fair to acknowledge his Administration's diminished blame or fault delivering quicker after the overpowering debacle of 2008.
Change has come to the USA in ways that are not tangible enough to the average American yet.This mostly explains the popularity loss suffered by Democrats readily seized by political opponents whose main thrust stems from frustration and anxiety over economic underperformance.

America's electoral cycles while ensuring a near-perfect system of checks and balances may nonetheless prove extremely vulnerable to shifts in public sentiment due to timescales being very tight .

The US finds itself in a changed world setting with China's quick rise and major multiple shifts undermining its hitherto unchallenged role as the single dominant political, financial, economic and military superpower.
The upheavals of its domestic politics are also a reflection of increased uneaseness with a predictably ever diminishing role.
Not yet over military capability and outreach or external trade - the US economy is by no means dependent - but certainly due to its grossly unbalanced public finances, excessive external debt, debtor nation status, sluggish internal market and fast declining manufacturing without clear volume-alternatives found as yet.

Obama's job has now been made considerably more difficult.Losing the House of Representatives is a major blow that is hard to recover from.It cannot be underestimated for the wider political fallout, especially getting legislation through that would accomplish that promise of change.

It will now be for him to demonstrate Yes he Can despite it all...
His Administration's judgment day, however, is not due until 2012.

segunda-feira, 1 de novembro de 2010

TEc - "No surprises this time" - Dilma Rousseff wins Brazil's Presidency

Dilma Rousseff's unsurprising ride to the Palácio do Planalto on a borrowed ticket from incumbent Lula da Silva should not be underestimated for its wider political overtones of sorts.

The first ever woman, the Worker's Party candidate yet again, the people's desire for continuity and most important of all Brazil's high-performing economy, social policy, higher international profile and overall good fortune.

Brazil has shown itself and the world that it is a vibrant Democracy - in fact as colourful and amusing too.
And mature to the extent that Dilma was not awarded carte blanche by winning outright in the first round.
José Serra scored solidly and, significantly, green candidate Marina Silva put up a brave fight with a strong showing.

Votes will likely have been split between the two across all walks of life in yesterday's run-off.
There is a point in the article's second paragraph regarding the big numbers.
But that hides the welcome fact that Brazilian society has been on the move as the country grows richer and displays far better self-awareness.
Millions of educated Brazilians increasingly realise Brazil's massive wealth must be more evenly spread from North to South, East to West.

José Serra may have been the better prepared of the two but Dilma may very well prove a refreshing continuity with a difference.
Just as Lula surprised many during the 8 years since taking charge. He silenced his loudest critics while largely overcoming his own overblown shortcomings.

Brazil is better-balanced today than a decade ago.
Its challenges remain daunting but the country is firmly on an upward swing.

sábado, 30 de outubro de 2010

The European Union - the Eurozone in particular - has now come to a head.

The partying, high-spending, careless spend-now-pay-later that followed the launch of the Euro in many of its member countries - generously stoked by creditors eager for self-profit - is now an image of the past. The very recent past that is.

The buzzwords of the day are cuts, cuts, cuts.
On paper so far, because the real thing is yet to be achieved.
Then come deficits, responsibility and waste.

Suddenly many realised entire nations were spending far more than they could ever afford.
The implicit nexus spender-borrower/financier-creditor broken up by the latter given how insatiable and unsustainable the former became.
How quickly times and moods change dictated by nameless forces pulling the strings behind flashy computer screens displaying charts and trendlines.
The masses will be called upon to come out and flood the streets. Clenched fists punching the air, banners unfurled and high-pitched voices screaming protest against sitting governments.

Some of the blame lies squarely with the system, the awesome market-economy system. An economic system all but hijacked by unscrupulous bankers and financiers who happily gambled and fooled around with the savings of millions over a lengthy period.
The balance, however, lies fully with numbed governments that chose to look the other way while themselves carelessly indulging in fanciful spending. Mostly to answer the calls of the day from lobbies closely associated with it.

Chronically deficit economies/countries in the Eurozone should first ask themselves whether or not fiscal discipline is relevant as a matter of good governance.
True there was the American born and bred financial storm that gutted Europe like a fire consumes a thick wooded forest.
It explains part of the problem. It does not explain the whole problem. Not even the main part.

Germany's stance is vindicated not merely because it is Europe's biggest economy and Angela Merkel played it hard and tough all along.
It is mainly a confirmation that governments must act responsibly full time.
Managing their countries within the means generated by respective economies.
Imbalances that are structural in nature have to be addressed wisely over many years, not hideously seeking to wish them away by throwing borrowed money aimlessly into non-productive projects.

There would be much more to write about.
Words, however, have hollowed themselves out.
The time now is for restrictive action by governments that wilfully ran out of options.

TEc - "Sinodependency" - How important is China as an importer?

The lines above conjure up a rather hazy picture of China's increased role in the world economy.

In a decade China has become the number one - or any of top five numbers - market for many countries across the globe.

This has got to matter, of course.
It tells me China is not only flooding markets worldwide with its manufactures.It is also sucking in a varied mix of imports ranging from hard and soft commodities to luxury goods.

If the Chinese economy should continue to grow handsomely over the next decade it is set to matter ever more to individual countries not less.
Two industrialised countries from the developed world - Germany/manufactured goods and Australia/commodities - are both cases in point.
Especially in view of anaemic growth elsewhere.

Many more economies rely on exports as the main growth driver, not domestic consumption.

TEc - "Should the French government stand firm on pension reform?" - Here's why there is hardly room for disagreement:

Absolutely yes!

Pension reform in France is overdue and cannot come a day too soon.

I would have thought an explanatory debate on what lies at the core of it all to have been held already.
I would also have thought the main opposition party - the Socialists - to know exactly what is at stake.
The whats, the whens and the whys so as to adopt a politically responsible stance.Have they?

French Unions may be popular with large sections of the population. They have indeed flexed their muscle in the past standing up for fairness and social advancement.
The French as a people have arguably a tradition of mass protest and revolution.
That does not mean they always get it right, especially on issues prone to cheap populism and demagoguery.

The current issue is unlike any other.
Political calculus, backdoor maneuvring, left-right ideological divide should be removed from a serious spot-on assessment of the pensions system and its future sustainability.

President Sarkozy may be riding low on opinion polls.
If his government should want to leave a lasting impression I believe they have no option but to stand up for what is right.
Standing firm for France's living and future generations.

It is about time the Unions start making the effort to understand this is way over and above politics of the day and ideology.
For starters, why is it that France's neighbours already have higher retirement ages?

sexta-feira, 22 de outubro de 2010

TEc "The apology of Sócrates" - A ruthless austerity budget for 2011 is due in Parliament on November 3.

It is a bit unfair to put all the blame for Portugal's tough predicament on the current PM and his two governments.Or expect Sócrates to be apologetic beyond whatever share rightfully belongs to him.
The country's structural woes date back to many decades.
The latter ones to many years traceable to the restoration of Democracy in 1974.
Add to that the recent financial meltdown in the US that dragged down Europe battering several economies harder than others and the sorry state of Portugal's public finances is explained.
Not nearly in full because clearly most governments here since 1991 made a contribution to the country overreaching itself.
It is therefore as if everything concurred now to make a bad situation much worse than it ought to be.

Party politics mired in endless rhetoric, wrangling, personal rivalry, dubious policy priorities and often useless diatribes all conspired to push the country closer to financial abyss.
The coming days and weeks will be crucial if Sócrates' government is to secure tacit support for the 2011 budget, likely through abstention by the leading opposition party.
Portugal's challenge however looms largest than ever.
It will be for the country's civil society, institutions and future governments to get it steadily out of the hole it's in right now.

quinta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2010

TEc - "Will the British government's £81bn spending cuts help the recovery or hinder it?" Short-term losses, longer-term gain but there was hardly a responsible choice.

I am impressed with the swiftness and resolve so far displayed by the coalition government grappling with the UK's dire public finances situation.

From day one in office David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their teams haven't wasted a moment coming to terms with the country's choking debts.Choosing to cut spending as the main route to balance the books seems to me the right option as much as indeed the only realistic one available.

The short-term pain is not to be underestimated but would anybody seriously think there to be ideological zeal in going for spending cuts following a decade of mounting excesses?
Rebalancing the UK economy will take years to achieve as the country hit a damned if you do, damned if you don't type of conundrum.

At least the government of the day has set out straight policies and targets for the coming years, its fundamentally sound choices and priorities clearly spelt out.
Spending cuts will in the short run produce a slower recovery.
I do not think they will hinder it as such and should doubtless help unlock the country's economic potential in the years ahead.

Looking through the macro-economy figures I cannot but agree with George Osborne that yesterday the UK stepped back from the brink.

segunda-feira, 18 de outubro de 2010

BBC Blog Network "Does multiculturalism work?" - It should be made to work but there's more to it...

Angela Merkel has been upfront and forthright in her comments on immigrants in German society.
She should be commended for letting everybody know her thoughts.
She has not, however, specified who the non-integrated immigrants are according to origin - or if her general comments apply to all non-native Germans or people of non-German extraction.
In my view there's a bit of a blur that would need sharpening if indeed there's intent to start changing the cultural rules of the game concerning the ever sensitive question of 'the other'.

To the best of my knowledge Germany's immigrants came from a host of countries ranging from Turkey and the Middle East to Southern Europe to North Africa and more recently to Eastern Europe. In addition, there are smaller groups from a scattering of countries around the world. 
The sizeable and conspicuous group from Turkey was joined by numerically minor contingents from poorer Southern European countries (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal) invited by the German State since the early 60's to help manpower (on) the German economic miracle.
And so they all did – accruing massive wealth to then West Germany - most having stayed back with their German-born descendants, as would have been fairly predictable.
Minorities will retain their cultures - two generations at most in their quasi-true form - but should obviously make the effort to assimilate the main features of the host country’s culture. To this end command of language would seem universally consensual.

Multiculturalism does have its benefits that can be best witnessed in the New World - North and South America and Oceania. Despite the melting pot the US and Brazil aim and claim to be there is considerable evidence there that many ethnicities retain their culture of origin too.
Europe or the Old World has traditionally been - for centuries - a point of departure for millions. Europeans have left in droves from less prosperous countries and from poorer regions of richer ones to this day.
This is why the Old World - with its long history, tradition and rich heritage - wakes up startled, especially when the economy is down, to the existence of large groups of 'the other' sharing the same land but to the surprise(!) of many a politician not the same culture.
The array of unsettled issues - social, cultural and linguistic - which have always been there suddenly laid bare for everyone to opine on randomly.
Multiculturalism must be achieved through varied forms of integration - provided fundamental balances are upheld in any given society – and it has got to be made to work somehow. Drawing in those who profess a different religion, wear a different dress and adopt different ways - thus likely to qualify as the toughest social groups - as well.
How can one German citizen from such a background be made to integrate fully to become just like a native mainstream German citizen?

Therefore diversity should be welcomed as long as it stays within the limits that a State is willing or able to adopt depending on country, labour requirements, demographic pyramid and law and order situation.
In the broad picture that is the way the world is headed for irrespective of purely segregation wishes some diehards may still harbor for their individual countries.

Angela Merkel has driven her point home.
The complex challenge to integrate fully immigrants of very diverse cultural origins starts now.

quinta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2010

TEc - "Should the West lift sanctions on Zimbabwe if RM agrees to properly monitored elections?" Why not go for trial and error test aiming for something higher.

Having long had a soft spot for Zimbabwe I cannot feel anxious enough for the day that witnesses the country's fortunes turning confidently around and upwards.With or without Robert Mugabe at the helm.
Even if he should remain a hindrance to the model of political and economic development as seen by the West, the Zimbabwean people should be spared further suffering.
If trading lifting of personal sanctions for free and fair elections is the price exacted then it might be worth giving it a trial and error test.
The promise of good is always preferable to the certainty of evil overstaying.

TEc - "Can Robert Mugabe ever be persuaded to go?" I think not, nor is he the central problem any more.

If most of what is reported on Zimbabwe in the Western press is factful then the least I can say is how painful it gets every time to even begin to write.

Writing that might make a tiny contribution to arresting the long decline of a beautiful, bountiful and, by more than African standards educated and affluent country.

With so much to build from at the outset of a promising largely successful first decade following independence President Mugabe and his closest team of loyalists made sure to squander it all.Or very nearly.
Even if there is shared blame to go around there is no getting away from where the biggest chunk lies first and foremost.
A clear-cut example of what can be made of countries/nations when the leadership stubbornly pursues immediate personal/party/minority gain shedding aside any statesmanship that may have been displayed up to a point.

Robert Mugabe is in my view not like any other post-independence African leader.
A gifted and scholarly man commanding genuine support from his people long after independence dawned makes his case as a ruler considerably more disappointing.
He chose to govern against the interests of the greatest number by deliberately electing one single internal enemy - the whites who no longer had a place in a large country and therefore had simply to be driven out forcefully irrespective of all else.

The economic and social cost has been huge.
If anything that alone should have served as a deterrent to such irresponsible populist politics however rightful the historical grudges and claims.

Throughout history land reform in most countries has been traumatic leaving behind a trail of economic and social destruction before - hopefully - a better new order emerges.
Perhaps one should think Zimbabwe to be along such a path transitioning to eventually become a breadbasket again.
In 10, 20, 30 or 50 years?
Time will tell but so far the omens are not good despite some token advances made possible by that uneasy and most unlikely of power-sharing deals.
A home-grown solution to the country's ills after it hit rock bottom?

Robert Mugabe is unlikely to be removed other than through the workings of Mother Nature.
Zimbabwe will endure long after his unfailing supporters are gone too.
Despite the short-term travails it is the medium-to-long term vision that matters.
In this light Morgan Tsvangirai's overbearing patience since long finds full explanation.

TEC debate motion "Religion is a force for good" Perhaps matters of the spirit can never be straightforward.

Theoretically speaking there should hardly be doubt that religion is a force for good.

Unfortunately I'm afraid it has, to a large degree, not been the case over the ages.

No matter what the religion - perhaps with the odd exception - more than a few atrocious atrocities have been committed since the dawn of time by warring factions in the name of one's chosen God.
What a striking and sickening contradiction it is that humanity should have arrived in the 21st. century with religion still being so deliriously divisive when not an outright violence-driving powerful tool!
Factional fighting is an ongoing daily feature in many parts of the world where religion is a readily used argument to whip up feelings of distrust and hatred.Usually to suit immediate political, economic, social or other less visible yet obscure gains of a few promoters.
In such a context it is hard to file the motion statement under a yes or no.
No amount of pious sentiment - genuine or not - can blind us from the perils caused by misplaced and overblown religious beliefs.
Christianity which seems to have arguably evolved the most from its own period of darkness is still beset by internal issues not addressed to full consequence.

Despite religions sitting on akin core values of goodness, forgiveness and evenness the fact remains that over the centuries on balance it is not at all clear whether or not they have served man's earthly causes best.
Maybe there will come a point in time when we can positively be agreed on a statement as authoritative as this one.

Until such time I am compelled to pass on the voting but not on the debate.

TEc - "United they stand" Ghosts and sequels from the past remain but ahead is as one.

Very interesting brief overview of Germany's internal divide that is likely to endure longer than optimists might have hoped for.

Back in 1991 I made it a point to travel through 'East Germany' after visiting the Western part of the recently reunited country.
I could quickly tell a long time and massive investment would need to follow before Germany became homogenous in infrastructure, the economy and general standards.
20 years is not long enough to overcome the issues and challenges of old and new presented by unification.

Germany is the best example of the pains and difficulties of balancing sister regions with woefully uneven levels of wealth.
Despite there being no cultural or language divide two strikingly opposing economic systems produced 'two' nearly distinct countries within one.

On an upbeat note The Economist failed to capture in writing one crucial fact from the infograph shown:
GDP per capita in the 5 eastern Landers has doubled from 1991 while in western Landers increases have been, as might be expected, much lower.
On that meaningful economic indicator former East Germany is fast catching up.
Those massive financial transfers are making a difference but the challenge to eventually achieve balance remains.

BBC Blog Network "Chile miners rescue" My reaction as the operation works its way through...

Not at all in Chile, quite far away from it actually - Lisboa, Portugal is my end.
Coordinates cleared, it has been one of those events live TV makes it feel like I'm nearly there in the middle of the action.
Following the rescue operation as much as possible from the first two winched up to hopefully the very last one when his turn comes.
From day one post-accident management appears to have been carried out seamlessly in every way - now crowned by a so-far highly successful and technically flawless rescue operation.
Expectations management was especially superb since the very early days following news that the miners were alive and safe.

Only trapped 650m down.

When it is all over Safety related issues must be closely investigated. Improvements across every mine in the country should be pursued from a higher level of knowledge and adopted safety standards.
A country that owes so much of its wealth to the bowels of the earth must ensure the men who bring it to surface are well-looked after.
Despite inherent risks some of which cannot be eliminated altogether.

Lastly, these 33 men have shown a team spirit, resilience, discipline, commitment and faith that calls for no further words.
Positive collective human behaviour contributes powerfully to positive outcomes in the face of the greatest odds.

BBC Blog Network "How should tax money be spent?" Wisely but not miserly, thoughtfully but not wastefully.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a chunk of taxpayers' money is grossly misspent.What the size of that chunk is would pretty much be anybody's guess depending on country and the proven quality of its leadership.A fair number of other background factors such as culture/strength of civil society and its bodies and past practices also play a defining role.

Spending it better will come about forcefully out of governments left optionless or naturally when a country's leadership finally ratches up to a higher standard of public duty and service.
Lately what is being witnessed has regrettably more to do with the former than the latter.

The role of government in free-market economies is to ensure the transparency of markets and a level playing field for private business to operate in.
Under no circumstances should governments back away from useful intervention if - and only if - it should contribute to improve and safeguard the interests of the vast majority.
To my mind this is fully compatible as much as it is direly needed long before the appalling practices in the run up to the financial meltdown became known.
Reaching a fine balance is a permanent challenge for responsible government. A quest for the win-win formula that weds private and public interests.

The last question is not an easy one to answer until such time as sound politics takes centre stage again.
Skeptical and suspicious of politicians as people are does not detract from the overriding requirement that governments fulfil their obligation.
By definition.
Delivering for the people - the greatest number at all times - measuredly and effectively by smartly pulling together and managing every conflicting interest in a given society.