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A minha foto
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

terça-feira, 30 de março de 2010

TEc "Small island for sale" The UK's long slide to services

The Economist reads as unrepentant and as uncompromising as ever where it concerns the workings of a purely free market economy.

The free flow of capital and goods - and assorted consequences implied - must under no circumstance get checked by any entity other than the marketplace itself.
Well, 30 years on since the advent of this strand of forthright liberal capitalist thinking the time has come to evaluate the results.

Has the UK economy and society strengthened during this period?

If the "truth is rather more complicated", which I certainly agree with, then it should rest on a balanced, unbiased view allowing for an objective and conclusive analysis to be made.
In relation to its peers - will reinstate the falling G7 grouping of rich countries - the UK as an industrialised developed large economy appears vulnerable to an extent.Notwithstanding the fact that it still boasts a powerful oil industry as a producer country.
Other G7 countries such as the US and Canada are major oil producers too.Indeed both are well above UK production.While the US, despite massive production, still imports over half its consumption, Canada produces far more than it consumes.
UK oil production is believed to have peaked already, having made the country nearly self-sufficient for several years.North Sea oil provided the UK economy with a relevant cushion through a period that witnessed the demise of a significant chunk of the manufacturing base.

To my mind there's two lines - which I will quote - from an otherwise accurate and insightful article that best sums up legitimate worries:
"The biggest loss to the business is the disappearance of a long-term vision, with the emphasis switching to short-term financial results."
One after another British business has fallen prey to this logic as if it were an historical inevitability.Now compounded and accelerated by a lawless globalisation.
It is yet to be proved if this will lead to winners only in the not too distant future...

Time will tell but I can fully understand the moaning and objective sense of loss many Britishers have felt over the years.
It is about much more than moaning.

TEc "The mañana syndrome" Spain's current predicament as I see it

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segunda-feira, 29 de março de 2010

TEc "Devolving Volvo" Chinese maker Geely snaps up a premium Swedish brand

The growing size and attractiveness of the Chinese car-market have put the final seal on Volvo's getting sold to Geely.
What a fast changing world that sees a small privately owned Chinese maker gobble up an established Western household brand-name.
Its reputation having been built around sturdy, reliable, quality cars whose main hallmark remains longevity.Exactly the opposite of what shoddy Chinese goods stood for until a few years ago.

The price paid by Geely nearly looks like peanuts when set against Volvo's overall perceived robustness and premium-brand image no less.Despite it having become a permanently loss-making brand under Ford.

Is it about volumes then?
If so, entering China's market is a promise waiting to be fulfilled.There is every reason to believe Volvo will see its financial fortunes turnaround before long by selling more cars where demand and pent-up demand exist.

As for intellectual property rights sooner rather than later improved competitively priced Geely and other Chinese cars may hit high street in Europe's cities.

TEc "The myth of the periphery" On the divide inside the Eurozone

A very realistic assessment of the divide within the European Union at large, limited to Euroland here.

Absolutely a worthwhile read that brings under sharp focus the historical/social contexts.
This partly explains partner countries sharing a single currency presenting such different approaches and results to economic policy.

There does need to be a broadened consensus on fundamentals though.
Or it might be said pessimistically that the Euro is doomed at some point down the line.
Poor accounting or outright fudging, massaging or cheating is simply unnacceptable whether you share a currency or not.This is down to good or bad governance.

If Greece were not in the Eurozone to still use the drachma what then would its current situation be like?
Conversely, would it have afforded or allowed itself to move in this direction in the first place?
The answers to both questions are plain and clear.
Sharing the Euro has meant its domestic long-standing issues have become to a degree those of others as well.This is exactly where the line must be drawn for each and every member country to understand and commit fully.

True the Euro project was born out of a desire to deepen European integration from a monetary union as much as from a political union perspective.Yet the laws of economics and finance are straightforward enough not making much room for reckless government indefinitely.

This is why I consider Greece's case a peculiar one for the wrong reasons.
Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy or non-Euro-member UK have overlapping problems too.
None, however, would like to be confounded with Greece for the striking differences that brought each to their current status.

As for the North-South divide - I don't think it is quite like that - there is one doubtless, unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Acknowledging it would be a first step to reinvent the European ideal as dreamt by the EEC's founding fathers.
That will take political drive that is not forthcoming under present economic conditions and challenges facing each of the EU's core countries.

sábado, 27 de março de 2010

TEc "The pain to come" On Britains' economic predicament

The main challenge ahead for the new government will be public finances as pinpointed in this informative article on Britain's current woes.Were it not for the substantial differences in the composition of economies and past track-record and it might be said Britain's case not that different from Greece's.
But objectively commonality ends with levels reached by fiscal deficits in both countries last year.

The British economy has undergone deep changes since the Thatcher years.The last period of Conservative rule lasting from 1979 through to 1997 were marked by several structural shifts whose after-effects are still felt today.
New Labour did not de facto reverse a single policy it inherited choosing to manage them under new wrapping instead.With hindsight it is fair to say that between 1979 and 2009 - a 30-year period - the country moved at an hastened pace from manufacturing to services, financial services featuring prominently among them as the mainstay of the economy.
The macro imbalances that this mix implied have now been made starkly clear in the aftermath of financial meltdown and a whopping 6-consecutive-quarter 6.2% GDP contraction.
This has been a financially triggered economic downturn unlike any other, exposing the strengths and weaknesses of large and small economies across the world.

The incoming British government won't have to deal with current problems alone.It would better lay out the foundations for future sustained growth in existing sectors or new ones requiring nurturing and incentives.
The knowledge-based information technology age that's already here may not create enough wealth, provide large-scale employment, generate tax revenue and pay for ageing populations soaring healthcare costs and pensions.

If anything, a return to policymaking by lean and efficient government seems pivotal to internal rebalancing.
It will be the role of the private sector to create most jobs but the role of government must be redefined.Following the debacle of the ill-fated liberal experiment of the past 30 years a few lessons must be learned.
After all where would the economy and society be if government had not stepped-in in a big way to rescue those who shouted loudest against it over many years?

Britain is far from being a basket-case but a serious rethink of the economic fundamentals of the country is due.

sexta-feira, 26 de março de 2010

TEc "A ruinous picture" - The years ahead for Greece

No matter how Greece is looked at right now the Gods have abandoned it but a visible hand has just reached out underneath to prevent eventual collapse.

That an European nation, EU and Eurozone member should have descended to these depths is profoundly disturbing.There is of course no time for the blame game when moneymen knock at your door to collect dues or stop lending altogether or both.

Greece today is being called bad names by all who've lost confidence in the country's systemic ways.
It is not about stuck-up Germans forcing their fiscal discipline or speculators doing what they know best.
It is whether or not nations can fool themselves, take others for a ride and still believe the show can go on endlessly.
Greek leadership and the establishment must grapple with core issues once and for all.They should take the full blame for grossly misleading the people for very many years bringing the country so close to the abyss.
I am quite sure Greece does have its strengths which have been side-stepped when not entirely hidden by current woes.

No-one should be in any doubt that this is not a crisis like any other that had countries running to the IMF cap in hand.There were many such instances in the past or recently affecting large, medium and small economies.
This time a sovereign country - member of what ought to be a prestigious club and currency - was caught badly fiddling with its books massaging facts and figures consistently in order to deceive others.
The game was up only because those runaway figures for fiscal deficit, public debt, interest payments and borrowing costs suddenly became unmanageable.

There's a strong scent of playful decadence to it.
Ironically, Greece's best chance of redemption and national renewal is the upside.

TEc "Sound and fury" - Still Greece stealing the limelight

The hype surrounding Greece finds full explanation in the country's having finally hit rock-bottom.
Not because of the latest recession that at best brought it all to the fore in early 2010.
The collision course had been set years ago when Greek society, or a significant part of it, indulged in reckless practices.In retrospect one wonders how the current crash didn't come sooner to a land that clearly overreached itself irresponsibly.
Even the successful 2004 staging of the Olympics will have likely been too expensive an endeavour for a small-to-mid-sized economy.

There was never such a good time for the government to put in place wide-ranging long overdue reforms to balance Greek society.
Whether it relates to excessive pay in the public service or too little tax collected from professionals who have systematically dogged the system or the unreliability of the statistics office - everything will now require redress simultaneously.
From most readings I have made there is a common pointer indicating the government still enjoys majority popular support.It tells me most Greeks if not upfront on something as difficult as the lowering of living standards perceive the need for internal downward adjustment.

A country cannot get away with living above its means indefinitely.
The PM and his government will have to apply their full political skills to get the job done.
Tidying up the country top-down while implementing those tough economic policies have to go hand in hand.Never losing sight of social balance too.

As of today Greece does know that in a worst-case scenario it will not be dropped.
It is in that knowledge that it must keep on working hard and purposefully.
Standing wobbly on its feet but without falling to the ground.
Like the weight-lifters who've won the country many Olympic medals.
That will be its ultimate success, Greek national pride and honor preserved.

Greece back on course to a brighter future.

quarta-feira, 24 de março de 2010

TEc "More than a slapped wrist?" on the UK expelling an Israeli diplomat

An appalling breach of trust in relations between two States.Both have no option but to move on to normalisation following what will have amounted to no more than just that - a slap in the wrist, a light one at that!
Kicking out a diplomat - apparently a low ranking one - is standard procedure to show displeasure by the aggrieved State but hardly addresses the issue that triggered it.

What about those 12 British nationals whose identities were stolen - temporarily 'borrowed' - and suddenly found themselves in the middle of something totally out of the blues?
How is Israel going to compensate them individually for a State sponsored action that could/should never have involved their names?
Is Britain doing enough to protect its citizens from such planned attacks not by mafia crooks but by the intelligence services of a respected State?

Israel may have a right to persecute those who plot against its very existence.
That does not include forging documents from other countries, impersonating by stealing identities potentially attracting botheration, if not outright undue trouble, to normal people going about their lives.
To carry out a deadly attack in a third country.

Besides the State-to-State strain, soon to be overcome and forgotten, there is something sickening regarding this entire episode.

TEc "Sparing the knife" - On the 2010 UK budget

Do I seem to sense Alistair Darling's tight-lipped smile as opposed to a grin, as indication of a tough budget?

According to The Economist this is a 'shy' budget that does not go far enough dropping the axe.
Perhaps one that takes account of impending general elections.

I would bet that it is in essence a cautious budget in a severely battered economy barely showing signs of recovery.Therefore it badly needs careful tending for sometime to come yet.
What a dilemma for European governments to face in the aftermath of the terrible downturn that wreaked havoc on public finances everywhere.

The UK has posted fiscal deficits for most of the past 30 years.
It did so even when the ecconomy was riding the crest of the wave.
However, none went ever so menacingly high as last year's.

Faced with conflicting choices I believe Darling has played the pragmatic card feeling fully boxed in by time and circumstance.The next government to emerge from the elections will shoulder the main burdens of reining in spending while making up for the revenue shortfall in the years ahead.
Unless of course the economy rebounds strongly on some lucky ticket not found yet.

The fact the UK is not a member of Eurozone has now been vindicated allowing the country more time and leeway bringing those red figures down.

terça-feira, 23 de março de 2010

BBC Blog The US healthcare reform as I see it

It is not easy to pass comments on such complex issues requiring considerable background information for better understanding.

Nonetheless, healthcare reform being so dear to so many for so long, having been attempted but having failed before, itself reveals a major policy advance for America.
Specifically for the 32m Americans - over 10% of the country's population - this is a very real deal and cannot be overstated enough no matter how it is looked at.

For the vast majority who have had their health insurance cover, finding no problem paying corresponding premiums, it should be a joyful day too that the have-nots will be able to afford it, alas at last!
I have seen lower and higher figures than the 32m now quoted depending how they were worked out and who by.But no-one ever questioned that there was indeed a dramatic problem facing millions of Americans unable to cope with scandalously rip-off hospital bills or not getting admitted to them in the first place.
At a time when life expectancy has increased substantially and health costs soared everywhere a mixed system that addresses the needs of all is what honest politicians must seek to provide.

President Obama's principled stand deserves unreserved praise from everyone who still believes there is a vital role for public policy in any society.
It has been a fine win for American society as a whole achieved after fighting many battles big and small over many years simply to get to this point.
A close vote no doubt.
It is now up to the Administration to prove Republican fears groundless.

segunda-feira, 22 de março de 2010

TEc "What went right" On Southern Europe looking East for courage(?)

Not very long ago a former Portuguese President called on Eastern European countries to look to Portugal as a successful member of the European Union.
Now this respected newspaper suggests that Mediterranean Europe should look eastwards for inspiration on making painful decisions.

Firstly it must be stated that Portugal is not a Mediterranean country although it is often taken for one.And despite similarities no doubt.
Its long L-shaped coastline faces the Atlantic Ocean fully and traditionally the country has always looked out to the vastness of the seas for exit strategies to its problems.
Not to mention the oldest State-alliance on record celebrated with Great Britain in another time and age but historically meaningful nonetheless.

Then each of the 4 Southern European countries - Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece - are quite different between them which renders one-size-fits-all approaches untenable.

Indeed Portugal had already initiated, perhaps half-heartedly, some important reforms from 2005.
The country was back within Eurozone rules - regarding fiscal deficit - when the international downturn struck pretty much derailing the adjustment process painfully accomplished by 2007/8.
Spain even recorded an enviable fiscal surplus in 2008.
That is now bygones but relevant nevertheless when assessing each country's track-record before recession set in pulling economies down simultaneously.

The Portuguese government is having a hard time trying to push through mild austerity measures.Opposition parties seem as keen as ever on discrediting the PM rather than reinforcing their own credibility with the electorate or help out finding solutions to existing problems.Structural solutions to structural problems no less.
Instead politics at its worst has set in which may dampen efforts by the government to move quicker on much-needed efforts to deal with a tough economic and social situation.

While looking up North, South, East or West for good example is commendable, three months into 2010 have yet to show the dimmest of lights at the end of a long tunnel stretching until 2012-13.

sexta-feira, 19 de março de 2010

TEc "Where did all the love go?" as US-Israel relations show strains - my views

The Obama Administration's tough stand on this latest incident should go beyond a mere flare-up in words exchanged.
For all the sympathy it earned and still deserves Israel has got to display a lessening of intransigent policies.It has long adopted what is tantamount to dead-end postures on those issues that matter the most.
By making such publicly straightforward statements as the announcement of new houses in the East Jerusalem suburb, the State of Israel is simply being honest about its true intentions.

The Quartet have been working in the region but hardly any relevant inroads appear to have been made.Tony Blair has deservedly got credentials as a mediator, his Northern Ireland role foremost among them.

But for all verbal pressure brought to bear on Israel nothing seems to produced any advance in a position that's systematically cast in stone.
Those rightist nationalists wield greater power than their political representation.For them the whole problem is focused on the land which must be held and settled at all costs.
The dispute being so hard to crack will take much more than tough wording to get Israel to the point where real advances may start being made.

There will not be a break-up in ties between the US and Israel nor is that desirable in the geopolitical context of the Middle East.
The time is right, however, for the State of Israel represented by the government of the day to demonstrate willingness to listen to what the larger world is telling it.
The alternative is for the conflict to continue simmering ever prone to sudden flare-ups and untold suffering for so many.Besides the drain and wear caused to IDF and Israeli society as a whole.

A mostly successful 60-year old, knowledge-based, democratic State such as Israel can deliver much better handling the Palestininan problem.
The world has a right to expect so.
And so has the United States of America.

quarta-feira, 17 de março de 2010

BBC My views on Greek crisis following up on Gavin Hewitt's

This has been a Greek tragedy in the making dating back to many years.
I just can't stop thinking why there ever was so much complacency.
The crisis that spilled over to hit the Euro straight-on would likely have occurred even if there had been no financial meltdown triggered recession.Greece was well on the way to near-bankruptcy due to overspending and other internal imbalances.I make use of 'near' because a reversal might have taken place at some point in time.

Which brings us back to the fundamental issue concerning the unreserved allegiance of Eurogroup countries to the Maastricht criteria as a permanent national commitment.
There have always been more than a few overruns by States other than the so-called PIGS since the Euro's inception.It might be useful to remember each country's track-record from the founding-11 to present-day 16.
The size and incidence of such overruns being the major point in case.

Now Greece is facing an aggravated problem only because it overshot every measure of responsible government.It had been going down that road for a considerable length of time.This explains why no other country wishes to share Greece's fate besides immediate higher borrowing costs it has attracted.
Everyone is hoping for the Greeks to rescue themselves which indeed would be the honorable thing to do.

The Greek PM has put up a brave face so far displaying political courage and resilience.His government is faced with daunting challenges which would have to be taken seriously in any case.
If the country still ran the drachma it would find itself in a much more perilous position.
The Greek people need be told just that.
This has primarily to do with an overdue Internal Adjustment.

For all the tensions felt, the Eurogroup will have to come to grips with a host of issues now openly exposed.
In an area of chronically deficit economies(many) and chronically surplus economies(few) a nobody-knows-how-to-achieve shift towards a balanced mid-point is a theoretical goal.

I've always thought the Maastricht set of criteria as very reasonable, realistic, purposeful and achievable.
Governments should have no option but to stick to them if they wish to continue sharing the single currency.

segunda-feira, 15 de março de 2010

BBC Blog asks: Has Jacob Zuma's state visit improved his credibility? - what I think of it.

Usually I set a clear divide between a politician's private and public life.If that comes natural for most there's every added reason to do so with regard to Jacob Zuma.
It would be unhelpful, indeed useless, discussing the man's proud polygamous nature which he honestly claims rooted in his Zulu origins.Pressed on this JZ has retorted candidly pointing out to many a self-proclaimed monogamous counterpart who've had side affairs or concubines only exposed years later.He has a point.

As a public figure now holding the highest job in the land coming from humble beginnings, his life trajectory can only be deemed remarkable. However, his 'brushings' with the country's justice system in latter years will never be entirely straightforward matter.
As South Africa's freely elected ruling President - having been the ANC's underdog despite grassroots' support - I believe he has so far shown fair judgment, moderation and foresight.

In a country with so many pressing needs and legitimate expectations to fulfil JZ had the misfortune of taking over just as the ugly-foreign-imported recession was setting in.Circumstances yet again gaining the upper hand over any wishful good intentions.
The economy dictating, JZ's administration has steered the country through the rough patch.His job may henceforth ease up gradually.

The official visit to Britain is not going to make any difference to popularity ratings at home other than the instant media coverage highlighting eye-catching details of State grandeur and goodwill.
Besides stressing known historical links between the two countries President Zuma and his entourage should strive as best they can to attract new investment from British business.I am sure they will.

South Africans now look forward to the World Cup which is only a month-long one-off event.They can then share their acquired expertise with the London organisers of the 2012 Olympics.
Two-way trade flows must also get permanent attention as there's surely plenty of scope for expansion in volume, value and variety.

BBC Blog asks: What will the Iraq elections achieve? - an unsettled view

I could never understand how deep the divide was between the different strands of Islam in Iraqi society.Sunnis and Shiites may bear many grudges against each other born out over decades of politicians using levers of power to spread further distrust only contained during Saddam's dictatorship.As soon as that authoritarian rule was gone sectarian violence broke loose aggravated by every external factor that poured into the country.
All in Iraq's name but mainly to their own advantage.Therefore against the interests of all Iraqis.

Any real consolidation of the Iraqi State must effectively deal with this in ways that move it towards secularism.That which binds Iraqis of all faiths and denominations is certainly much more than that which sets them apart.
National reconciliation is a permanent goal only achieved when all Iraqis finally feel totally free and comfortable in their own country, Kurds included.
It is down to nation-building that takes decades to cement but is ultimately the only path to sustained social stability.

If the current election process is one way to achieve that permanent objective delivering a balanced government reflecting national diversity, then we may find comfort that so much blood shed to get to this point will not have been in vain.

Iraqi leadership will be thoroughly tested during the coming months and years.
As US troops gradually pull out most decisions will have to rest on sound judgment and broad-based realistic consensus.

BBC Blog asks: Can the US vice-president broker Middle East peace? - My short conclusive answer

Of course the US vice-President can begin to make an impact in the Middle East impasse by standing firm.
Conveying to both parties exactly what his Administration believes in.
No conflict seems more dogged by mistrust and built-in inertia than the Israeli-Palestinian one.
Decades of trouble and systematic backtracking on circumstantial pledges have bogged the issue down to near resolution-impossibility status.Unless a sudden change of heart grips the region's principal contenders aided by external party/ies.

The blight is such that many have become permanent non-believers in any sort of negotiations however well-intentioned from the outset and whoever brokered by .
The US has traditionally played the leading role of honest broker but even most ardent supporters would need to question recurrently why there is no tangible progress taking place.

Joe Biden's latest statements in the region appear to signal a policy change.
Is a hardened US policy towards Israel forthcoming?On core issues?
Whatever the message he tried to deliver it is never soon enough for the US to state loud and clear how it sees the beginnings of permanent solution to that most intractable of disputes.

That's what friends are for.
Israel must be told unambiguously how the US views both sides of the divide.
Also, what practical steps need be taken by both Israel and the Palestinians to get from A to B.
Importantly, how to find long-term settlement in the short-term that takes account of history, compelling territorial evidence and population densities.

sábado, 13 de março de 2010

TEc "More than just a charade" On Israel's role in the peace process

It is tiresome to look for any hopeful glimmers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following years of failed attempts, empty goodwill gestures, backtracking and stalemate.
Non-believers now far exceed those who may still harbour shreds of optimism that some deal might eventually be struck and will stick.

Israel, as the democratically run organised State that values the rule of law, has systematically used foot-dragging as an official means to forestall changes to the status quo.Why?
Perhaps because deep down a social majority in the country as reflected in the actions of the leadership isn't ready yet for structural adaptation to the existence of a full-fledged Palestinian political entity akin to their own.
The State of Israel has dealt with the Palestinian issue mostly from a position of strength letting it be known openly, or less so, who calls the shots and decides the framework and scope of any negotiations.
Until such time as demographic pressures and social needs are such in the squeezed-choked Palestinian territories that breakdown and mayhem of some sort may inevitably follow.

The anxieties of Israeli society however understandable should not so blatantly hijack every initiative aimed at moving the peace process forward on the ground, literally.
The latest announcement of further housing to be built in East Jerusalem made to coincide with Joe Biden's visit shows beyond doubt often ungraceful ways Israeli leadership chooses to put its points across.From the start the cards are dealt assertively if not aggressively.
That they should do so even to the country's long-time ally and friend bears testimony to prevailing unwillingness to work towards building up vital trust between all concerned.
Despite paying lip-service to the contrary.

It would seem to me that this approach effectively deadlocking the peace process does not suit Israel's medium-to-long-term self interest.
But it is for a majority within Israeli leadership to realise that.

sexta-feira, 12 de março de 2010

TEc "All for one" Word is out that Euro-zone needs EMF-European Monetary Fund.Does it?

Whatever emerges from current Euro-zone woes created by Greece will have to find fine balance between the various goals being pursued.
It is only a consequence of the "amoral" nature of the financial system that speculators could suddenly wield immense clout over nations.
The power to determine the borrowing costs of countries - equivalent to leveraging social hardship - underpinned Greece's PM insistent pleas to his peers.He stressed seeking no bail-out simply the ability to borrow at costs similar to those of other countries.
When Greece became a higher risk economy than others no doubt.

In this context setting up the institution now being proposed could prove valid creating conditions for shielding the Euro from untoward market attacks.
But the need for fiscal discipline across Euro-zone members cannot be undermined by providing governments of the day with institutional safety nets to fall into.

TEC "Germany's engine" - On why it remains so as I see it...

Germany's strengths are multifold and have remained so in a long while.
This is because the country does have a broad-based sense of purpose in what it does and how it accomplishes it.

The economy will forever be the domain of balances, any number of them required to stay checked permanently.The highs and lows are dictated by a fairly large number of variables none more uncontrollable than those invented or manipulated elsewhere in an interdependent world.
The only reason Germany's economy was so badly hit last year was the simultaneous collapse of world markets mainly those the country traditionally exports most to.

Despite the slump it is my conviction based on factual evaluation over a timeline that it won't be long before Germany bounces back strongly.That recovery will be driven by exports but also by measures the government might adopt to boost internal consumption.
The striking difference is that Europe's powerhouse earned that status by own merit over decades of wise policy combining growth, savings and social stability.
Truly a social market economy that has served Germans right turning their country into a remarkable success story.

Today it finds itself able to deal with the aftermath of the worst (and freak) downturn since 1929 from a position of strength unlike many other countries around it big and small.
Germany had already implemented a number of reforms others are only now grudgingly beginning to accept they have to include in any responsible political agenda.

The economic and social paradigms not being static call for continuous adapting to changing conditions.
While that change is needed and welcomed it should not supersede or wipe out altogether relevant changes made in the past that proved workable and successful.
In a world increasingly dominated by economics - often not the best of strands as confirmed recently - there must remain a large enough room for policymaking.
The goal of politics, many others aside, is to match economics to people creating an economy that produces wealth that can then be best channelled to the greatest number.

Germany is one of a few that has been especially successful at both.
Its fundamentals remain unsurprisingly strong.

quarta-feira, 10 de março de 2010

BBC debate motion "This house believes that creating green jobs is a sensible aspiration for governments" - My view

I agree with the motion as I read it to be a general goal governments wish to pursue permanently.
Who can sensibly argue against a "sensible aspiration"?
We have come to a point where it is no longer possible to overlook the environmental factor the way that was done until recently.The environmental debate has evolved to a stage whereby the least that should be expected of responsible society - the entire set-up - is to take one step further the knowledge acquired and awareness already raised.
There is going to be conflict between cost, profit, feasibility, sustainability and so forth.But it would seem that as greener an economy as can be built is not an option anymore, it is the obvious next reachable level to aim for in our development process.
Governments are not to hamper profit-driven private initiative which has always shown greater flexibility and innovation in multiple ways.It must work with the private sector in the relentless search for ever better greener solutions to create jobs, jobs, jobs.
Near-term benefit is an euphemism for quick profit that stands out, no matter how it is looked at, as the main driver for private and indeed public business too.After all every government would wish to run public companies at a profit or break-even point, therefore saving taxpayer's money.Most taxpayers would likely agree and appreciate unreservedly.

Also, there is no foregone aprioristic assumption suggesting green jobs are unaffordably more expensive to create than 'non-green' ones.
While this may be true of specific sectors/cases, higher start-up costs may prove to be savings during a project's lifetime.
Legislation, subsidy and regulation are required only to the extent that they may positively impact the goals pursued.
A greener economy will generate effortlessly green jobs too eventually to become mainstream jobs across sectors in a given economy.
As it is the scope is huge for transitioning from known variables in the economic system.

More than a few important steps have already been taken towards achieving a greener economy.
If benefits are not immediately clear they will start to show before long.

TEc "Accusations fly" On Boeing winning US$35bn airtanker contract, Northrop-EADS dropping out of bid

I will refrain from any definitive statements on this long saga in the defence business that opposed the two archrivals Boeing vs EADS whose main battle is the civilian sector.
I do so in the knowledge that many, if not the most important, pieces of information would be missing from my sources as only accessible to a few.
Whether or not the process from the original lease plan to first bidding/annulment and second bidding was transparent throughout is open to question only those who followed on close would be able to answer.

What I can and will say though is that Boeing would never let go lightly on a massive multi-billion dollar deal in the oversensitive defence segment no less.
While I find such a stance only natural and a reflection of the company's major role since long as the nation's supplier of military kit, my nagging questions have to do with Northrop-EADS having won the 2006 bidding at all.
The chosen plane's main arguments then being those of meeting the technical and capability requirements of the US Air Force.

Have those criteria changed from first to second bidding?
Were those procurement irregularities found beyond fixing?

For Boeing, for American workers and for American manufacturing this is welcome news indeed.
At a time when the after-effects of prolonged recession are still keenly felt and a general decline in American manufacturing is observed, the patriotic card could understandably be waved openly or subtly to better outcome.
For EADS, which obviously used Northrop to improve chances in America - understandably too - there remains some comfort(?) in that it can beat Boeing on home ground.
By any measure this has been a close call, a near miss or worse still - grabbed it but somehow it slipped out.

There will be more defence contracts in the future to supply the American military.

segunda-feira, 8 de março de 2010

TEc "Honeymoon cancelled" - On Cuba/US relations

However tragic these cases may be from a human point of view they should never be allowed to come in the way of larger State-to-State relationships.
I find this particularly true of Cuba vis-a-vis the US with the no less tragic 50-year history of back-to-back relations towering in the backdrop.

There is no denying the fact that this American Administration opened up new opportunities for Cuba to grab, both in words and small but significant goodwill gestures.
I would have expected Cuba to read them up correctly while acknowledging that internal political evolution will eventually have to come about.
It is not because of American pressure or the whimsical wishes of Cuban-Americans.

The Cuban model has had its heyday delivering on important areas of social advancement but also failing miserably on many others.

It would demonstrate foresight and wisdom if the Cuban leadership could see beyond ideology toughened up over decades of relative isolation.Some of it seems to stem from an islander's mentality.
But Cuba is no small island and is only a stone's throw from big landmasses...

A closer interaction with China's vibrant entrepreneurs might inspire many in the regime's set-up to reflect on changes to the economic system that would benefit the greatest number.

I would think the ball is in Cuba's court.
The country does not lack internal intellectual resources to register positive changes that have happened all around it over 5 decades.
It would not be a sign of weakness to promote political and economic evolution from within in the wider interests of the Cuban people on whose behalf the successful revolution was once staged.

A message posted to the Greek's PM personal Website

A brief letter to the Greek Cabinet:

07 March, 2010 – 03:15 am

A few words of encouragement to a beleaguered Prime-Minister whose sincerity exposing his country's current predicament has profoundly renewed my faith that nations can overcome great difficulty when led by honest leaders.

Greece allowed itself to fall into that most lethal of conditions for any collective entity: lack of credibility at a time when it most needs it in the financial markets and next to EU partners as well. Such a bad name was earned over years of internal mismanagement and deceit. It can be reversed by pushing forward every measure deemed necessary.

The ultimate goal is to return Greece to minimum levels of public decency in government, public administration and all relevant layers of society.
I am sure that the government will get the backing of the vast majority of the Greek people as soon as it is perceived change is indeed taking place.

I have been impressed by every interview the Prime-Minister has given to foreign media.Well versed, brief and to the point regarding the country's most pressing issues and ways to tackle them. The austerity measures meanwhile announced received applause from European peers and quietened the markets.

However, throughout the implementation phase they should be seen and conveyed to the Greek people for what they are: the last chance the country has to master and successfully solve its own problems. The fact that there was hardly an option does not detract from the political will and determination displayed so far.

Mr. Prime-Minister I sincerely wish that you may carry with you your entire Cabinet and most Greeks who love their country and want it extricated from the lows it is now in at the earliest.

Carlos Collaco

TEc "Flowering friendliness" - China's rising profile and defence

Swagger or no swagger evidence points to a China that has never looked as strong on a substantial number of measures.

The economy having performed comparatively so well opens up policy choices to the government others may only awkwardly sneak at, dream about and envy of!
Yet the Chinese leadership is apparently sending a message that defence is not highest on their minds.Wise enough as the country, despite unprecedented economic boom of the past 2-3 decades, will predictably continue to face any number of social priorities it must address within its borders.
An internally stable and prosperous society is the best hope of a China at peace with itself and the world.

The middle kingdom has awakened from its long slumber but remains too committed to economic development to raise undue and untimely suspicion.For the time being at least.
Well trained, modern-equipped armed forces is but one legitimate aspiration of all countries large and small.
Lastly, setting China's defence budget at a mid-figure of US$100bn compels us to remember that US$1 in China stretches much further than the same US$1 in the US.

sexta-feira, 5 de março de 2010

TEc "Europe's hypochondriacs" The years ahead

European governments are generally faced with tough decisions in the short to medium run.
Most countries were severely battered but their ability to check fiscal deficits and public debt bringing both under control, hinges on political will as much as it does on overall economic and financial position before and after the recession.

The common denominator is of course the huge budget deficits they ran up - even Germany grudgingly broke through the 3% Maastricht ceiling if only marginally at 0.5% - adding up to the public debt pile.
Economies being so varied in their intrinsic strengths pose very different challenges to governments as well.
It makes every sense that rating agencies should value the ratio of interest payment on debt to government revenue (setting a 10% limit) over the ratio of public debt to GDP.
This is why Greece's case - discarding deceitful accounting altogether - raises concerns of default while Japan's, having a much higher public internally financed debt to GDP, does not.

Indeed the more information that reaches me on the state of public finances in countries across the world the more I realise the requirement for a case-by-case (country-by-country) analysis to be vital.For every similarity found at least one relevant difference may be spotted.
This is why some economies will balance their books faster than others.
This is why some economies may be OK with certain levels of public debt while others may not.

The short-term issue with longer-term implications of utmost importance is how to bring healthy sustained growth to European economies.Expanding economies of their own make those gloomy percentages look more manageable while allowing governments some respite too.
Sluggish growth on the other hand can make the adjustment a great deal more painful.

The years ahead will be critical for politicians whether in power or in the opposition.
European countries basically demand no-nonsense policies based on as wide a political and social consensus as achievable.
A trying time no doubt wherein some countries will fare better than others.
The race is on...
Left with no options Greece -an extreme case- is leading the way.

TEc "Now comes the pain" Greece's woes play on

Any lines written on Greece from now on rest on the assumption that the latest austerity measures will be fully implemented.
The Greek government has finally translated its strong statements into deeds.It shows remarkable political courage and resolve in the wake of overwhelming odds stacked up over many years.There are no options to spending cuts and tax hikes which should also be accompanied by a focused forceful drive to widen the tax base.

The government should and will know which other adjustments are long overdue in Greek society to promote social justice amid increased hardships.
The set targets to get the fiscal deficit down from 12.7% to below 3% within three years is nothing short of a huge challenge.

If Greece does succeed as I do hope it will, for its own sake, the country will be able to charter a new course on a clean sheet.
Current fortunes will be reversed while setting an example to countries worldwide facing similar tough choices albeit to varying magnitudes.

TEc "Not quite as deadly" - On Basque separatism

Basque nationalism is rooted in the territory's cultural and linguistic identity.
This unique expression has found a place within the larger diverse Spanish mosaic that made Spain a country of Regions.There is a central government headquartered in Madrid but Regions enjoy a large degree of autonomy over their affairs.Especially Catalunia and the Basque Country that due to their specific histories have fought and won ever broader Autonomies.

The more politically incensed Basques should realise their best bet is the ballot box.
If they can present their case to the people persuading them that secession and independence from Spain is the way forward their cause may be furthered much more than guns and bombs.
No democratic State can ever buckle under the use of such means of terror and blackmail.

ETA's political wing has so far not garnered majority support in the Basque Country.
No just cause can ever be won targeting, as ETA often did in the past, innocent civilians whoever and civilian premises wherever.
This is likely the main reason why Basque radical nationalism has never attracted widespread sympathy from Basques on whose behalf it claims to fight.

quarta-feira, 3 de março de 2010

TEc - "In need of repair" - On Chile's post earthquake predicament and challenges

I had posted an earlier comment to The Economist's first article on the calamity that befell Chile.I was cautious then as news were still sketchy and predictably the scale of human loss and material damage only just beginning to unfold.
The days that elapsed have meanwhile confirmed a limited death toll and extensive damage to infrastructure and housing.

Unfortunately more than a few failures in the official response - which may have contributed to additional tsunami-related deaths - have also come to light.
Perhaps it underscores that which is widely known - no level of preparedness is high-enough for an unforeseen (though likely) event this sudden, severe and mind-boggling.Everyone who experiences at that 8.8 magnitude is too shaken, dazed by it, and afraid of aftershocks, to begin to think straight.

The upside is truly the fact Chile is a middle-income nation, fairly advanced and technically skilled to cope with the reconstruction effort.A mammoth task that will require years of dedicated work and finance which the incoming administration will obviously prioritise.

The image that sticks with me and will linger on as symbolic of this earthquake is the apartment block that toppled over to lie flat on the ground.
Any urban area around the world has any number of high-rises just as Concépcion.
That one building is likely to have had a structural weak point to cause it to collapse in that particular mode.

TEc - "Recovery in progress" - World trade

Yet again these figures point to a mostly divided world between the rich OECD economies and emerging ones.The latter have consistently outperformed global trade losses recording growth in intra-Asian-trade as well.
How else can one explain China's surge past Germany whose exports dropped significantly while China's still rose?
This despite the fact that Western markets - particularly the US and the EU - were too weak for further Chinese volume gains.

World trade in 2009 reflects general economic trends in the aftermath of the West's major slump.
Contrary to the initial knock-on effect, now that the year's accounts are closed, it can be said that the Asian bloc generally emerged largely unscathed.
In fact it may have strengthened itself somewhat as economies shifted focus to home markets to take up some of the slack left by falling orders from Western markets.
After all decoupling did occur to a considerable extent which bodes well for the Continent's future.

I believe Germany will still dispute the top spot as an exporter.
2009 was odd as much as it was hard on Germany but it won't be long before the country's multiple strengths in manufacturing begin to show.

It remains an open question which way world trade volumes will sway.
It is hard to imagine any backsliding from the lows achieved by Western economies.
Asia's trading strengths throughout this so-called 'world' downturn have now transpired fully.

TEc "East or famine" - On Asia's growing economic weight

I know not what the context was when Winston Churchill will have said the words in the quote here.Regarding Asia he could hardly have been closer to the truth.

While Japan and many of the ASEAN-members - Asian NICS often referred to as tigers during their booms - had already achieved developed status, the novelty in latter years is China and India - the Continent's and the world's two most populous nations - finally on track to joining them.
What is happening is actually Asia taking up its rightful place in the world economic pecking order.
The two countries have walked two very different roads to volume material progress.
Now that hundreds of million have seen real improvement in their living conditions as a result of sustained high-growth over consecutive years, the evidence is one of welcome balancing taking place.

The share percentages but especially the trendline obtained plotting those values projecting them into the future leave no room to doubt Asia's growing weight.
The starting points of the two countries were so low, however, that despite breakneck growth achieved it will be sometime before volumes finally reflect prosperous societies on per capita levels.
That explains the huge potential still untapped.

Importantly though, the trendline is clearly established.
If proven right over the coming 10 years, by 2020 a shift of some sort in world economic power will have occurred.

So much for Asia.
What roles then for the US and the European Union during the same 10 years?
The US will likely find optimal growth in the 2-3% bracket granted it has long matured as a developed rich economy.
My nagging questions fall mainly on the EU, itself a far from homogenous grouping encompassing relatively poverty-stricken Bulgaria and affluent Netherlands.
In between large, medium, small and minute economies with wide dispersion in wealth, social expectation and governance.
If sluggish rates now observed across countries stick as the bloc emerges from the downturn there will be a much dimished role for Europe in the future.

To put it simple the rise of China and India is only half-way (probably less) complete.
Another 10 consecutive years of 7-10% economic growth compared to the EU's 1-2%, according to pessimists(?) has got to show in a big way.

Lastly, I find Asia's ebullient performance only natural.
Unnatural are the lacklustre despiriting forecasts for the EU.
Unless a big jolt from within is provided by its core powerhouses.

terça-feira, 2 de março de 2010

TEc "Destruction in Chile" - my first impressions from far away

It is too soon to fully gauge the extent of losses sustained to this major earthquake.

As the death toll mounts it becomes clear many tragedies have befallen people scattered around regions that suffered the heaviest impact.

Comparisons with the recent Haiti disaster should be avoided unless relevant data is assembled to account for many striking differences between the two events.Offshore location of epicentre, hypocentre depth and magnitude to mention but a few.
After taking stock of nature's variables - over which none of us has any control whatsoever - can we begin to acknowledge the yawning gap between the social and material condition in both countries/societies.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone territories. Together with Japan it is likely one with the highest level of all-round preparedness too.
This is why official response appears to have been swift and efficient.

An earthquake this severe will have caused substantial structural damage to buildings, public facilities, transport infrastructure, industrial premises, etc.These will need detailed inspection and fixing or demolishing over the coming months.
Most, however, withstood the wild shaking remaining standing and thus preserving life.
It has got to do with a building code suited to local conditions and largely enforced by builders and the country's authorities.

Indeed the aftermath of a natural event such as this starkly reveals human intervention prior and post...

For Mother Nature a mere adjusting occurrence as tectonic plates negotiate balance at faultlines.
Until the next adjustment comes due.