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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

sexta-feira, 30 de abril de 2010

TEc "Going for markets" A short view on financial market's onslaught against sovereign debt

Misguided or not a backlash against the markets ensues when sovereign debt comes under blatant fire from one day to the next.

True this is the financial system everybody knows we live in.
True politics plays a part but it is the markets who decide how risky to loan money to country A or B.
Importantly, it is governments of the day that go to the markets seeking finance to make up for shortfalls when no other source can be tapped.

So the best thing really is for countries never to place themselves at the mercy of financial 'sharks'.

Yet even if financial markets advised by those rating agencies - whose credibility is tainted following their recent massive cock-ups - are oblivious to anything other than profit making, politicians still have a duty to their constituents and their countries' national interest.
It is not baffling when the background to current problems is scrutinised against a timeline.
If the system is woefully unfair inflicting further damage to already vulnerable targets only a political approach may eventually begin to face it head-on.

But then who ever said that money lending was about fairness?

None of this, of course, condones Greece's peculiar case.Or that of any other State that recurrently and consistently fakes accounts or clearly overspends beyond its means.
From a Portuguese perspective if Greece had not triggered the ongoing sovereign debt crisis for reasons mostly of its own making, would Portugal now have to face additional borrowing costs?

TEc "On the edge of the abyss" The misfortune that has struck the Euro

Matters have taken a sudden turn for the worse.It's been so quick that while the possibility had been aired earlier on no-one seemed ready to take it in stride when it arrived.

How could they and the rest of us anyway?

Questions and uncertainties abound but the one I would most like to see answered concerns the single-currency itself.
The 'mighty' Euro appears desperately vulnerable at the moment raising deep-seated questions as to how much of it is down to speculative attacks aimed primarily at cutting it down?
If the markets touted by credit rating agencies can wield such power once they lose confidence in a country's economy one wonders what the next full-fledged target will be.

In fact, as things stand the so-called fear of contagion was overtaken yesterday by contagion itself.
How else can the credit rating downgrades of Portugal and Spain be seen if not as a clear focus shift away from Greece to include a larger group?
Despite major differences between the three?

It is known that any measures now implemented by governments to cut spending and raise revenue will not produce immediate outcomes.It simply isn't workable regardless of whichever government's perceived resolve and the credibility of the austerity meaures themselves.
Time is a key factor - at least one full year.
Jittery financial markets are not willing to give that required breathing space.Yet time ought to be considered as inherent to the very nature of things.

Then, there remains the single most important challenge of all.
That which apparently underpinned Standard & Poor's decision.
How to improve growth prospects across countries in Europe generally and Southern Europe in particular?
Indeed it was growth potential - or the lack of it - that hastened the latest credit downgrades pushing the Eurozone to the edge.
Credit-fuelled excessive consumption to drive growth is no longer an option.It should never have been in the first place.
Existing growth drivers are not regarded as powerful enough.

In the meantime Europe's top exporters are reaping the benefits of the lower Euro, the only positive fallout from the current crisis.

Under such a complex scenario it is becoming increasingly clear that only a politically-driven programme will avoid further damage to the Eurozone at its weakest.
And to the larger European Union too.

segunda-feira, 26 de abril de 2010

Financial Times "Japan's splendid isolation may be at risk" Why I think may be not.

David Pilling's rendition of present-day Japan looks like a country resigned to early retirement.

Indeed only twenty years ago, a brief interlude in a nation's history, Japan Inc. seemed ever ready and powerful enough to take on the US. It already had to a considerable degree but its businesses' unabashedly increasingly confident affirmative ways pointed to a much higher profile. It did not come true as the country began to stutter and stagger to finally get internally bogged down in an unending relative downward spiral.

Mostly, Japan remained where it managed to rise and arrive at, in a position of relative stagnation while the rest of the world moved on.
Why this is so I still find hard to comprehend despite every explanation offered. Somehow these never appear plausible and far-reaching enough.

Now is a very changed world from back in 1990.The relative positions of countries have shifted no doubt both in economic and geopolitical terms.
If Japan has for years been under the spell of China's rapid economic ascent, 2010 could translate that into sharp reality should confirmation of 2nd/3rd largest economy swap occur between the two.

But is Japan past its peak then?
Developed and mature as its economy and society may be is there no more room for Japanese expansion?
A reversal of its plight over the so-called two lost decades?

I believe the country is not as spent a force as is being suggested.
If the cultural and tourism revival underway is anything to go by, Japan with its many cutting-edge technological wonders might still stage an economic comeback of sorts.

Will it?

Financial Times - A short comment on Greece's calling in for receivership

Greece's current financial woes are an unending unfolding saga throwing up new twists and turns with every passing day. Nothing positive has emerged from the country since initial rumours that its national accounts for 2009 were deeply flawed by the previous administration. The latest bad news is that the fiscal deficit has been adjusted upwards from a staggering 12.7% to a staggering 13.6% of GDP.
Staggering as many other countries' deficits may equally be - following the 'freak ' financial crunch and recession - the Greeks have had to wage a losing credibility battle only to surrender to unwavering, overpowering rather, financial market forces.

A new age has dawned within the Eurozone.
A lot of hard thinking and tough decisions will have to be made in order to restore confidence in the single-currency with its present make up of 16 'diverging' economies on data, on substance, on governance and on social expectation.

sábado, 24 de abril de 2010

TEc "An extreme necessity" A short write-up on Greece's call for a bail-out that is not...

Push has come to shove, worst has come to worst - Greece has officially thrown in the towel asking for a bail-out under a different name.

The figures set forth speak for themselves and no-one should be in any doubt that yesterday marked the beginning of something new in Euroland.This is unchartered territory where the starting point is now known but the finishing line is way too far and blurred to warrant anything other than a feel of unsettling uncertainty.

This is a temporary fix in any case.

So far the non-believers, the sceptics, those who saw it coming and financial markets that refused to bow to tough wording from politicians have been proved right.
Greece's PM who for months had been going around talking to peers in the EU and elsewhere trying to drum up support must be at great loss in his tight spot.
From his viewpoint it will have been either a successfully accomplished political ploy or a complete failure to tame the faceless, nameless actions of powerful moneymen ruling the financial markets.

Greek society and government must now get real and effective turning the country's fortunes around for the right reasons.
The latest raise to the country's 2009 fiscal deficit will have been the last drop for the simmering markets.

For the rest of us powerless onlookers there are many more questions than answers as to Greece rising up to the adjustments that lie ahead.

sexta-feira, 23 de abril de 2010

TEc "The importance of not being Greece" Portugal and the financial markets onslaught

Where does Portugal go from here(?), appears to be an all-pervasive unanswered non-question in this country today.

It is an established fact that Portugal and Greece are different enough for financial markets to take notice.Not because the government or whoever says so but because such is the nature of things as they evolved since both countries joined the Euro.
Significantly, right from the start Portugal was deservedly one of the single-currency's founding members. Greece was not.

What went wrong thereafter is mentioned in the article.
A double whammy brought about by the EU's eastward expansion adding 10+2 poorer countries (a couple of exceptions) to the then EU15 and cut-throat competition from Asia in an increasingly globalised world.

Portugal being a small open economy with several yet unaddressed structural problems immediately felt the strains.It was ill-equipped, if at all, to face those 'shocks' by moving up the value-added chain.
The country still managed a short-lived upswing on improved footing just prior to the infamous financial meltdown.
The general collapse of most Western economies was the final blow that knocked down every hope of Portugal returning to higher export-led growth.
2009 ended with the economy shrinking by 2.7%, an appalling setback in the aftermath of a long period of internal adjustment to get public finances under control.As referred in the article a few important reforms were partly accomplished too during this period from 2005.

Portugal's main and toughest challenge is to get the economy to grow meaningfully, regaining lost competitiveness and export market-shares.
How that is to be achieved remains a million-dollar question that may only get answered over the years to 2013.

In the meantime financial markets should give the country some respite.
Portugal's track-record provides conclusive evidence that every cloud has a silver lining.

TEc "Asia sunny, Europe cloudy" On IMF near future economic forecasting

The IMF, just as every other international organisation, has had a chequered record forecasting countrywide economic performance.

The weight of the institution whose work is backed up by reputed economists awards it immediate relevance nonetheless.
Perhaps undue, when not an exaggerated one at times.

The world is distinctly split between the emerging large economies led by China, India followed by Brazil, Russia, Mexico and OECD economies whose grouping is further split up from within.
While growth and growth potential in the former two remains big, Brazil, Russia and Mexico have entered a second phase of fast-but-not-so-fast growth from more mature positions.
The US and Canada trailed by Japan are expected to do quite well considering their long achieved developed rich-economy status.

What is truly despiriting and worrisome applies fully to the laggards in Western Europe.
The underlying issues facing most European economies loosely grouped in the EU need tackling quickly.
How, when and what needs doing is an ongoing challenge governments and businesses across Europe must find innovative ways successfully dealing with.

Even if these IMF forecasts should prove not entirely accurate - they are exactly forecasts - they do project into the near future results already confirmed in the near past.

Asia being sunny and Europe definitely cloudy then the Americas, Japan and much of the rest of the world fall somewhere mid-season in between.
With many sunny spells, blue skies interspersed with beautiful harmless white clouds.

Hopefully the next IMF report, all other forecasts remaining equal, will show a brighter weather outlook for Europe.

TEC debate motion "GDP growth is a poor measure of improving living standards" Why I disagree...

I would say this is quite a bold proposition coming as it does from a newspaper dedicated to the economy in the broadest sense.

I voted assertively against the motion knowing that GDP and GDP growth were never meant as the only all-encompassing measures gauging economic activity and well-being in societies.
What I am in no doubt about is that standing GDP and GDP growth sustained over a time period unfailingly mean rising living standards.

I could mention any number of economies from yestercenturies to now in support of such overpowering evidence.
In fact, GDP growth and improving standards seem to go hand-in-hand.
A large economy and one that is getting ever larger is the only route to increased prosperity.
This holds true within an organisation/company with rising turnovers.It remains valid for a country/society.
GDP growth assesses reasonably well the availability of increased economic resources in a society.
Whether or not such resources are going to benefit a majority or a minority is an altogether different issue.
In the latter case the UN's HDI is a much more useful indicator of social well-being multiwise.

There is no single country with a low standing GDP, low GDP growth rates and decent average living standards.
Yet there are a huge number with comparatively not very large GDPs but with hefty growth rates witnessing rapidly rising living standards.If not for most surely for vast layers of society.
In the developed world there are wide disparities too but it cannot be denied that in each and every country GDP growth brought massive improvement in living conditions.One need only think of post-WW2 Europe.
Then there are the odd cases like many African nations starting from very low bases.Despite robust growth registered lately overwhelming majorities remain mired in poverty.
Even such desperate cases have never seen such good reason for raised hopes.
If only due to the trickle-down effect.

GDP growth coupled with standing GDP are truly a good measure for overall economic activity and trends.
Ultimately they are a solid starting point to gauging living standards and their direction in any given society.
All other indicators may add to them providing detail according to intended depth of analysis.

quarta-feira, 21 de abril de 2010

BBC Blog asks: Is the election a three horse race? - A personal view

It certainly is a three horse race from a national share of votes standpoint. From the narrower local level winner-take-all perspective - on which the British electoral system is based - it is clearly a two horse one.
Unless a big swing is witnessed right across the country's counties' constituencies that radically alters long observed voting patterns.

Nevertheless, should the replication hold true it would call into question the virtues of a system that produces a winner with the least votes nationally.
The LibDems have long been more popular than their presence at Westminster suggests.
The party would stand to gain the most if ever the electoral system were changed to proportional representation.

Nick Clegg stood out in the groundbreaking first ever threesome TV debate.
His was the more comfortable position politically and he made sure to make the most of it.
I do not think that necessarily translates into votes on polling day.

The political debate is bound to heat up.
The three main parties have a lot of convincing to do.

segunda-feira, 19 de abril de 2010

TEc "The trillion-dollar club" BRICs' coming of age as I view them

A spot-on cleverly written article that explains everything there is to know about the BRICs.

The imaginary bloc was concocted by a Wall Street expert who, like most bright Goldman Sachs' financiers, saw the rise of an otherwise unlikely combination of second tier large economies as a potential financial risk/opportunity.
All he then did was band them together under an easy-to-read-and-pronounce-acronym to sell that upcoming 'product' to the world.
It does make sense mainly but not only for the size of each of the four's economies and their increased importance multiwise.

I do not think Germany's and Japan's post-WW2 rise to economic prominence bears a comparison to this grouping and the individual ambitions of each.
Germany and Japan were the two defeated nations of a protracted military conflict both initiated.Perhaps unknowingly both still bear a few scars not entirely gone, 65 years on!
Their uneasiness with guns and uniforms and self imposed relatively low profile on foreign affairs is fully traceable to the aftermath of that tragic historic period.

None of the BRIC nations have any such hangovers.
On the contrary, emerging economies as they are to different degrees - coming from very diverse backgrounds - each is keen for international recognition and increased say in world matters.

In the larger scheme of things I believe it does make sense to consider the BRICs as a bloc.
Not because the acronym is now conveniently used ad nauseum to refer to those countries in a bundle.
It is simply the realisation that indeed there are trillion-dollar economies on a steep climb in the up until recently tightly labelled group of developing nations - Russia in the odd ambiguous position here.
And each of the foursome is vying for greater influence worldwide.

Despite overwhelming differences between them they share more than a few overlapping interests too, especially vis a vis the traditional established economic order and one-sided view of the world.

sexta-feira, 16 de abril de 2010

TEc "Hard to handle" - Toyota bashing as yet another brand-name Lexus hits the gutter?

Not a day, a week or a month goes by without the odd news that another problem has cropped up involving Toyota's brand-names.
Could it be that the dash for sales volumes caused a sudden loss of attention to detail by a company-name hitherto closely associated with quality and reliability?
There appears to be a missing link somewhere in this longstanding headline-grabbing story involving Toyota.
The common denominator is most troubles started when the company reached the top spot of world car sales.
I do not know how well Toyota fares regarding safety compared to say Volvo.
Quality and reliability should sufficiently cover safety as well I would assume.

TEC "Time to rebalance" - On American economy moving away from consumption

Good news that a structural shift away from excessive consumption achieved through debt - should I say consumerism - to production for export and greater savings is taking place.

If the trend proves correct over the coming years it will broadly confirm the upside of this one-of-a-kind crisis that wreaked so much havoc.
A confirmation that the old path to growth was unsustainable, ill-gotten and unhealthy.
A model based on cheap and easy credit fuelling exacerbated demand doomed to run out of puff.

Indeed this is welcome rebalancing not without huge costs to many but ultimately leading to a more sound overall economy.
Interesting to note that the US and China were on opposing routes to growth, China clearly on a better footing.
The very different stages of development, social expectation and consumption needs in either society/market playing a vital role too.
If by the end of Barack Obama's mandate the United States is up and running with an economy that is more rational then only can victory be claimed.

In a mature economy macro-economics does matter.

The route that led to financial meltdown should be remembered as a road down to hell.
From a political standpoint it must be said that two successive Republican Administrations hardly bothered to check that route.On the contrary they ensured the removal of every 'stumbling block' just so the 'fiction' could play out in full.
They did it to masterful perfection throwing so many economic variables off-balance only made even worse by the recession that followed.

Just over a year since the country got new leadership and direction these are very positive signs indeed.
They also show the United States to have many underlying strengths.

If The Economist's Greg Ip gets it right, the US is moving closer to the German way of balanced economy albeit without the same level of social expenditure.

TEc "Bangs for bucks" Arms sales and top performers

BAE Systems' turning to the American market has paid off.

An overgenerous defence budget whose personnel expenditure to total defence budget is among the lowest cannot be overlooked for bountiful opportunity.
Nevertheless, BAE Systems top rank is remarkable for having displaced the incumbents likely to be the prime beneficiaries of Washington's largesse.

Out of the top 20, 14 are American companies clearly reflecting how lopsided defence spending has become.
Since European countries simply gave up on meaningful investment in the armed forces.
Speaking on relative terms of course.

There's also the Middle East and some Asian countries on varied buying sprees.

TEc "Tragedy in Smolensk" - Polish President and entourage killed in air crash

This air accident bears all the hallmarks of avoidable tragedy.

A tragedy that befalls the Polish nation just as the country finds itself living through one of its finest hours.
President Lech Kaczynski was a proud Pole who will be remembered mostly for being a true nationalist.

Intransigent defending his viewpoints he made sure to carry the main traits of his character to Poland's public life.
Poland will pull through yet another trying time as nations must.
Its institutions are solid enough to overcome a sense of sudden beheading and loss.

TEc "Farewell, free stuff" - The elections in the UK

Bagehot makes it read like this will be a watershed election.

Whatever the outcome there are more than a few uncertainties looming in Britain's horizon.

Going by the old saying "known devil is better than unknown good" an electorate would not vote for change ever, but then what would Democracy stand for really?
A changing of the guard - if that is what the British people decide upon - could itself induce a new spirit to the nation.
Despite the main contender being called an unknown quantity.
For all I know most previous leaders around the world had not been tested until they were given a chance to prove themselves worthy.Or not.

Britain is the oldest working parliamentary Democracy with a battle-hardened tradition of delivering for the people through times fat or lean.
No matter how dark the clouds and how shallow the majority, if any, it is up to the country's leadership to lead.
Displaying maturity and showing the way forward by tackling the problems of the day from a longer-term perspective.

TEc "The laager is almost derelict" - South Africa's racial woes

What South African society needs is to permanently set its eyes on building a more equitable social order.On the knowledge that it takes decades of policies rooted in principle and sound judgment to get there.

The wrongs of the past cannot be righted by committing new wrongs in the present.
In fact, there's every reason to believe South African society can overcome those just as it put together the world-first truth and reconciliation process in the near-past.

Occasional flare-ups, localised racial tension under very specific circumstances must not be allowed to overshadow the big picture.
To my mind, despite current uneasiness, South Africa still remains a resounding success story.
Displays of outright race-based anger, inflammatory language used on public platforms have to be condemned, indeed banned by all political forces.But especially so by ruling politicians for many years to come.

This is so because the country will continue to go through the very delicate process of nation-building.
Without achieving a level of cementing between all South Africans - blacks of different ethnic groups, whites of many origins, coloureds/mixed race people, people of Indian stock and other Asians - the country will remain internally prone to misgivings and ugly incidents with a powerful overblown destabilising potential.

I still prefer to look at the glass half-full.

These words may flow rather easily compared to daily reality on the ground.
No sound policy or practice, however, can emerge without sound ideas and reasoning.
Some may call it philosophical!

TEc "Britain's choice" the upcoming general election in the UK

With less than a month to go the UK is up against an important election at a defining moment.

However lukewarm the political debate has been The Economist is right in calling for far greater detail from the three main contenders.
If the pressing issues of the day may win or lose votes no less important is to draw larger longer-term challenges into sharp public scrutiny.
As the economy staggers out of recession the British people ought to be told how the country will get back and stand on its feet in the years ahead.

There's hardly a word missing from the article which renders a repeat in my comment absolutely useless.Because a repeat it would be.

Radical or not a vision for Britain is needed as much as reining in public finances in the short-term.

TEc debate motion "Germany is too dependent on exports for growth" Again, I don't think so...

Nearly two weeks on if I had to cast a second vote as this insightful debate draws to an end I would confirm the first one firmly against the motion. Germany's success, or the Netherland's, as an exporter did not come overnight by government decree.
It is the result of decades stretching back nearly 2 centuries of development policy as happened in that part of the world.

In an increasingly globalised economy we sometimes tend to easily skip taking stock of very relevant social and economic history in exchange for ready-made theories.
Then a snapshot is taken and instantaneously subtitled.
The 27-member EU or the more exclusive 16-member Eurozone provide excellent territory for in-depth analysis of intra and inter trade flows then explaining surplus and deficit economies.These seem to fit in like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle except that Germany's trade with countries worldwide is massive too.

Therefore successful exporting powerhouses like Germany and Japan used their internal strengths in the post WW2 era to add up to national wealth.
Every other country around the world aims for increased exports too as a path to growth.

The strains now felt within the Eurozone have much more to do with structural weaknesses of some of its members than with the longstanding strengths built up in the German economic set-up.
If on top the country could still attain a decade-long of wage restraint to further boost competitiveness, praise rather than rebuke is due.

The case is yet to be made for Germany to be considered excessively export-dependent.

quinta-feira, 8 de abril de 2010

TEc debate motion "Germany is too dependent on exports for growth" I don't think so...

I have had to vote against the motion for it makes excessive export-dependency look like a negative.

To beginwith there is the need to acknowledge Germany's economic miracle since the end of WW2 to be directly linked to its exports.
Secondly it is not clearly determined from what GDP share are exports deemed overwhelming.

The country managed to develop a powerful economy based on a mix of small, medium and large companies whose quality products made Germany a brand-name that sells on its own.Competitively priced quality goods - capital, intermediate and consumer - assured world market success creating additional wealth as reflected in the country's growth rates over decades.
Isn't that the point?

Germany is for quite sometime a highly developed country with a comprehensive transport, energy, telecommunications infrastructure fully built up.
Housing, public and private buildings across every domain cater to the needs of the entire population.
Germans generally enjoy a high standard of living with consumption patterns way above basic needs.
Germany continues to send the highest number of tourists trotting the globe.

Manufacturing for export is a consequence of the country's prowess and resilience across multiple sectors in the face of aggressive competition from low-cost producers now felt strongest.
Unlike China and India still possessing massive internal market potential to different levels - having made a late start from very low volumes and per capita consumption - the German home market is mature and responds like one.

The last thing to do is turn issues on their heads.
Deficit countries with structural weaknesses must become stronger by improving governance, management practices and getting overall priorities right.
A surplus country like Germany may reach out as has been the case within the EU framework.
It should not, however, lower self-imposed standards that have served it right.

Germany is therefore neither a euro-saint nor euro-sinner.
It is mostly a nation that has triumphed by dint of organised work, social dialogue and good government.
While many countries are figuring out which sectors will drive growth Germany has a natural one ever ready to take advantage of an upswing in the world economy.
The government may boost domestic consumption marginally if it sees fit because there is that leeway.
It may run parallel to the export contribution to growth not at its expense.

For all that's said above there remain some deep and troubling questions about the single-currency.

Irrespective, I believe no country is ever too dependent on exports for growth.
Not Germany, not The Netherlands - an even bigger export addict.

quarta-feira, 7 de abril de 2010

TEc "A good squeeze" - Why budget balance and debt to GDP must be checked

It is known that there are no rules so rigid as to apply evenly across the full spectrum of economies to produce intended results.
What cannot be dismissed is that every economy demands safe accounting and good housekeeping permanently.
The rules of sound governance with realistic targets to aim for are universal.

If evidence suggests debt burdens cut down growth or have the potential to seriously undermine it then debt necessarily needs to stay checked.
Whether the goal is 60% to 90% or more of GDP is a matter to be determined by responsible government in full knowledge of implications to future generations.
Japan can sustain its exceptionally high debt level.This is owed to a number of reasons not applicable to say Greece.
Yet Japan's rate of growth was severely handicapped over a 20-year period.
But it might be argued that the country was by then a mature economy, its sluggish growth not entirely debt-related.

While co-relations do not always match, small to medium economies overburdened with debt are likely to experience far greater pain than big ones.
Besides I would imagine that running up debt is only feasible - indeed welcome - if it should lead to accrued wealth generated within an economy.
There have been instances in many a country's history when there was hardly a choice.Economies had to grow, societies stabilise and debt to GDP peaked to gradually start falling.
If, on the other hand, debt is used to finance a costly, inefficient profligate State - that has got its spending priorities wrong - at some point in time it becomes unsustainable.

Most countries - large, medium and small - mainly the OECD grouping of rich economies have rightly targeted budgetary adjustment as a priority lasting several years.
This is simply to check revenues against spending.
Debt to GDP ratios are set to continue rising to peak at different levels.

The squeeze forced itself in which if well managed, might prove a winner.
Most governments are now tasked to do what would otherwise not get proper attention and follow-up.
Cutting fat, doing the same or more on the same budget or less.
In short, every department must be asked to be pound-wise while at best affording to be penny-foolish.

Concurrently private business must be encouraged to expand and invest where whichever growth engines are identified.
When meaningful growth rates finally return then only current gloom and doom will start fading away.
A tough balancing act that will see a number of economies doing much better and faster than others.

The race is already on.

segunda-feira, 5 de abril de 2010

BBC Blog Network "Will Terreblanche's death lead to instability in SA?" my views

Early indications are that this will have been another crime committed in a crime-ridden society whose ghosts of the past live on.

Eugene Terreblanche was the embodiment of one such ghost, himself unable, unwilling or simply too hardened a personality to begin to contemplate the complete end of racially based prejudice.

Even if some of his concerns regarding the plight of the Afrikaner white tribe might find a degree of reasoning from an historical, sociological, numerical standpoint, his methods, actions, symbols and speech would never help advancing whatever cause.
Not in South Africa, not anywhere.

It is a sad fact that his violent passing away should have occurred now.

For many years to come nation-building, a bonding between South Africans of all extractions is vital to the collective success of the country across every sphere of daily activity.
I don't think his death will increase instability as most South Africans never took him and his followers seriously anyway.
That said, the connection being made between farm killings and apartheid-era lyrics openly sung by ANC members should prompt the government to take a stand based on sound judgment.
Inflammatory language whoever used by in public should be banished in a society that successfully accomplished truth and reconciliation far beyond an optimist's best expectations.

"He who lives by the sword dies by the sword" appears to fit in tightly as Eugene Terreblanche's trajectory is brought to an abrupt finish.
As an individual he won't be missed by most.

The larger issues South Africa is permanently challenged with remain.

sábado, 3 de abril de 2010

TEc "The president says it has failed" South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment comes under scrutiny

After listening to what Moeletsi Mbeki had to say on BEE I am left with no option but to come back with a fresh comment.MM's verdict is so overwhelming on the failings of BEE from inception to practice that there is hardly anything going for it.
I am in no position to begin to contradict meaningfully for lack of insider knowledge ever pervasive in Mbeki's damning assessment.

Given the starting point and the very nature of things I would still wish to believe BEE to have an upside.
Mainly I would like to know whether or not it has genuinely helped a large enough number of educated blacks to move up the social ladder by gaining access to qualified jobs that would otherwise have been denied to them.
If it is only a front for white business to entice and buy ANC politicians as MM convincingly declares then BEE should be revised if not scrapped altogether.
Maintaining such a scheme to suit the interests of a politically classed black minority will only fuel resentment amongst the vast majority.
With the potential to backfire fiercely over time.

TEc debate motion: "Has New Labour failed?" Here's how I see it.

My opinion expressed here may only be judged as that of an outsider looking in.
I do not live in the UK but did spend around a year there between 1999-2000 besides a permanent interest in the country.

Unfortunately I have to agree with the motion and stress that the rose has wilted badly.
It is not about Iraq (failure) or Sierra Leone (success) or any other policy undertaken at home or abroad.
The full picture must be rolled out encompassing every relevant policy detail on it - by omission or commission - to assess on balance.
New Labour swept back to power after a long 18-year 'break' riding on a massive wave of support and sympathy.
Having dealt with the left-wingers from within - who had noticeably lost touch with what might be summed up as the workings of modern economy - New Labour had every gloss and glamour heaped on its rising star Tony Blair not least.
13 years on the UK is only just beginning to emerge from its deepest recession ever following a period of unprecedented unbroken growth constantly portrayed as exemplary.The triumph of free-wheeling capitalism under New Labour's stewardship.Britain could even stand tall compared to continental laggards like France or Germany.

The recession is of course not to be entirely blamed on the government of the day - anywhere for that matter - but surely over the years New Labour did everything to broadly confirm a free-for-all type of handling of the economy.This led to Britain's clearly overblown financial services sector becoming the main driver for worthless speculation-based paper growth rather than tangible wealth creation.
Which probably directs us to structural problems that would have needed much greater attention.

Here's the big catch however: how to find a proper balanced role for government and public policy in a country whose two main parties basically shared the same view regarding minimal State intervention?
In principle I too share such a view but never to the extent that even regulators, institutional whistle-blowers and entities who by definition should exercise their authority when seen fit became excessively complacent and very much part of the problem instead.
In actual fact should such bodies have delivered on their duties and banking, finance and the economy might not have sunk to the depths they did.

The free-market economy is a marvellous invention, one that has proved to work best towards wealth creation.
Just as important is the existence of a system of checks and balances necessarily put in place by government on behalf of the much wider interests of the public.

New Labour's upside and achievements are there for the British people to determine.
It would seem to me that more was to be expected of a renewed Labour government.
Against such high hopes a sizeable delivery shortfall exists no doubt.

Lastly, there is a perception that New Labour exhausted itself in power unable or unwilling to inject new energy into British society.
Perhaps a stint in the opposition will help it recover breath and fitness.

quinta-feira, 1 de abril de 2010

TEc "Not playing their games" Britain's relationship with the EU

Excellent in-depth analysis of Britain's uncomfortable relationship with the European Union, the whys, the ways pursued so far and future prospects.Especially if the Conservatives are returned to power after a long 13-year absence.
I have often thought over years of watching British dithering that there will come a point in time when that ultimate decision will have to be made:
Shall we stay in or shall we leave?
The question if crudely put to a referendum would perhaps deliver a majority vote for quitting.
The establishment, however, realises no matter how grudgingly that the country cannot afford it.
The thought is recurrent and public sentiment appears unchanged since long.
Politicians on this particular issue reflect accurately popular feelings rooted in those three factors neatly explained in the article.

Anyhow, the Tories are likely to be considerably more vocal in their mistrust of Brussels when in the opposition.
Should they win office in the upcoming elections their leadership will inevitably get more realistic.
The UK is one major European country that has played a pivotal role in shaping Europe's (and the world's) history over the centuries.
In this new age of economies of scale - in the broad sense - to rise up to overwhelming challenges coming from different quarters it would seem natural for Britons to stake their future within a sized-up bloc of nations.
That is the only way for European countries - large, medium and small - to acquire some clout, each standing alone from Germany to Malta is woefully lacking.

Greater European political integration is a slow process dotted by any number of highs and lows.Has been so in the past will remain so in the years ahead.It was never meant to be plain smooth sailing.
At the end of the day all things considered - pros and cons weighed in - Britain's best bet remains the EU project.
Despite the rebates, opt-outs, cries against Brussels bureaucracy, fouls of Eurocrats and nagging doubts that won't go away...
Inside the EU Britain can influence the bloc and has done so, make a unique contribution and on balance stand to gain.
Outside, it would become an island nation adrift in search of a safe mooring which is simply not there anymore.

I have come to understand Britain fully well, their reasoning often in need of finding echo in Brussels.
However, Britain's political leadership must also display greater commitment to the European political project.It it should genuinely believe that's where the country's national interest is best protected.

Explaining that to backbenchers of either party would follow suit and then cascade down to the nation at large.

Expresso - Trocadilho ao apresentar o PM - What's in a name?

Se eu não conhecesse bem as graçolas, as baboseiras, as brejeirices e outras que tais de que tanto gostam tantos quando se pretende atingir, diminuir, apoucar alguém ou até desvalorizar a discussão séria das coisas sérias e não daria qualquer importancia a este trocadilho.

Simplesmente dou, seja quem for o PM desta República ou de outra qualquer que não as que definitiva e irremediavelmente pertencem ao domínio das bananas por direito próprio!

Espero que o speaker(?) - apresentador de meia tigela - tenha pelo menos tido a decência de se desculpar directamente junto de José Sócrates depois de desligados os microfones e apagadas as luzes.
É o mínimo que mandam as boas maneiras quando se comete um erro perante o PM como perante um qualquer Zé Ninguém.

Que é sempre Alguém.

TEC "The president says it has failed" South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment comes under scrutiny

BEE has failed if and only if anyone was ever naive enough to believe that it would dent those skewed ratios relevantly in the short-run.
It simply cannot and would not, such is the nature of things when a skewed society was built over many decades.

BEE is at best an attempt - a valid one - to start reversing a consequence of the old social order.
Under this light it might even be seen as a moderate success, excluding those black noveau-riche flaunting their wealth acquired by dint of cronyism or misplaced feeling of entitlement.
South African society has started to change by taking a first important step in the right direction.

People who hold public office or have any level of responsibility in the country should know that it will take decades for significant ratio changes that gradually reflect a new more balanced society overall.
Stress should be permanently placed on education for all South Africans, especially those who were neglected in the past.
As growing numbers of qualified, educated blacks come on to the job market so will their numbers in qualified employment rise steadily.

Time is key to it however politically and socially despairing.
Favouring entitlement over abilities would only exacerbate the problem - creating new ones - and is no solution to legitimate aspirations of the black majority.In fact, it seriously undermines those aspirations.

In the meantime the South African government should do everything in its power to retain skills in the country regardless of all else.
More wealth is created by a more skilled workforce which in turn is going to provide more employment to a better educated population.

Enlightened public policy is called for taking full account of time and circumstance despite wishful thinking.
Politically a hard act to balance - a very tough one indeed - but an inescapable challenge for responsible government.

It will be successful in the long-run.

TEc "Great exportations" Top 11 exporters and trade in 2009 going forward

Many notes can be made from this chart on rank achieved by the countries on it, large and small areawise and populationwise.

China's main hit is that coming from very low levels only a decade ago it grew to become number one, a confirmation it joined the world's club of leading manufacturing powerhouses.

2009 having been an 'obnoxious' year mostly for Western economies is perhaps not definitive on relative positions.As and when economies pick up Germany remains a strong contender for the top spot.
Japan too is likely to rebound strongly riding along the China-led Asian boom.
The US still retains formidable strengths in multiple sectors.
Tiny Netherlands and Belgium show the world that you may be small and exporting SuperPowers at the same time - leaving the majors proportionally trailing far behind.
South Korea's rank is impressive by any measure, more so if its starting point is considered.

It is be hoped world trade does recover strongly from 2010 on.