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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

sábado, 29 de maio de 2010

BBC BlogNetwork "What do you think of response to Gulf oil spill?" Not enough information to go by...

Well over a month since the platform explosion oil is still gushing out from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico to pollute an ever larger expanse of sea and coastline area.

Too few technical details as to what did indeed fail with the cut-out valve and other devices - that should have worked - make it difficult to produce a balanced comment.

Going by media reports the response has been massive but underachieved badly in its primary objective: capping the well-head to stop oil streaming out into seawater.
The whole operation depends so much on technical capability and expertise that politicians can hardly do more than talk tough and closely monitor the work underway.
I wonder if BP should have asked for help from specialist companies. Or another oil giant such as Petrobras known for their offshore/deep sea drilling technology and experience.
Given the scale of the unfolding environmental disaster and consequences to the shoreline no effort should be spared drawing from others who might contribute towards the principal objective.

The main lesson is to acknowledge the limitations of existing technology to cope efficiently with a catastrophic chain of events that led to the oil rig sinking and to rupture underwater pipelines.
It follows that a great deal more attention needs to be paid to safety equipment design and placement.

All devices that should have kicked in but failed to due to malfunction or any other cause in this particular case.

The granting of deep-sea drilling licenses by the respective authority - importantly, enforcement of safety requirements - must come under sharp review with as-quick-as-possible practical consequences.

The future of deep-sea drilling is not likely to be affected.The world economy, especially the US in that region, is too reliant on oil to waive such a vital oil production source location.
Indeed more offshore drilling is due to come on line in several parts of the world in the years ahead.

A number of very serious accidents have happened in the past, most notoriously the North Sea Piper Alpha platform with a huge loss of life.

Continuous improvement to existing technology, better enforcement of technical and safety requirements as per the terms of drilling permits is in my view the way forward.

As from day one since the accident the main priority remains stopping that massive leak.

quarta-feira, 26 de maio de 2010

TEc debate motion "This house believes the Euro area will fragment over the next ten years" - My thoughts short and brief:

I beg not to agree or disagree with a motion that bluntly states what was up until a few days ago a catastrophic theoretical possibility.
It remains so surely for a few Euro countries - catastrophic but no longer a far-fetched possibility(?).
The disarray and scale of economic and social devastation would be such that the mere thought sends shudders down the spine.
However, the way and speed with which the Euro crisis has evolved leaves wide room for all types of questions.
The only underlying and overwhelming certainty is uncertainty itself.
This is why I am not persuaded to vote.It would not be a honest vote.
Besides I do not wish to confound wishful thought with an unfolding reality that has shattered any semblance of institutional reference.
Politicians have overstated their reach basically demonstrating they can only do so much.Grandstanding and talking tough simply won't do the trick if indeed entire economies and societies are not seen to be getting recycled and growing.
Problem is none of this can be sorted out overnight.
The question that troubles me, even if it sounds awfully academic, is why did so many allow this predictable situation to develop over many years of laissez-faire, laissez-passer?

segunda-feira, 24 de maio de 2010

BBC BlogNetwork "Will Wall Street reforms work?" Where there is a political will there should be a way.

The question is too complex in substance while generic in framing to be answerable in straightforward mode.
Granted President Obama's primary policy objective is to guarantee taxpayers will never again be 'blackmailed' by "too big to fail", then there is every reason to believe the new regulation will work.

To the best of my knowledge much of the old regulation which once existed had been gradually dismantled over many years of financial bliss, swagger and overconfidence. Importantly, connivance between the political establishment and financiers too keen on ever greater demands for complete deregulation took center stage.
In the hour of dire need those with the highest level of responsibility for the mess as it unfolded itself were only too happy to seek and grab the State's saviour hand.

It is to be hoped that the new regulatory agency will be staffed by people who will know exactly what their duties are.
Especially who they ultimately owe their allegiance to.
Predictably there will be considerable argument in favour of and against whatever regulation now stands approved.
However, no-one sensible enough would deny the very requirement to have a working watchdog permanently in place.Not to hamper financial dealings and innovation but to make absolutely sure it does not get hijacked by the few in pursuit of self-interest.

Perhaps it is not even desirable to fully regulate financial markets.
What became paramount is the need to exercise oversight through regulation that is flexible and efficient enough.
The main goal being to prevent wild irresponsible activity by those pulling the strings from behind the scenes in the world of finance.

BBC BlogNetwork "Will the Euro survive?" - It would better...

It is easy to playdown the Euro or dismiss it as a declining currency - literally - at a time when inbuilt weak points became so thoroughly exposed.
I am not knowledgeable enough on the specifics of daily financial market practices to be able to judge whether or not the German short-term selling ban is right.
Having been decided upon by well-versed government officials I assume they did it for valid reasons aimed at producing the intended outcomes.
On the other hand, markets appear excessively jittery and irrational perhaps a reflection of their own ways and workings.

So far, despite the astonishing events of the past two weeks, there is at the very least a hazy atmosphere surrounding the Eurozone.
The financial crisis has got to be solved.It should therefore not beg the question if it can but of when it does.
The stakes have been upped to a level that does not allow for the possibility of failure.

I am in no position to grasp how powerful markets can bear forces down on sovereign debt - despite all assurances now in place - that they might still inflict greater damage to the Eurozone.
The looks of the unfolding saga point to a continuing test the Euro cannot afford ultimately not to pass.
The pace of events has been so quick that a final say is no more than a wishful thought revealed.

Insiders should by now hold clearer views but they won't share them with us shedding some light on what's going on.

I do live in Portugal, a founding member of Eurozone along with 10 other European Union countries.

BBC BlogNetwork "What should foreign powers be fighting for in Afghanistan?" Difficult question to which there's got to be an answer.

NATO military chiefs, diplomats, heads of government and the Afghan government in touch with all tribal chiefs in their fiefdoms will sooner rather than later need to break out from an essentially deadlocked conflict.
Western forces by the very nature of things cannot remain in the country indefinitely fighting an elusive enemy that wages a dirty war of insurgency in its own terms.
Successes scored by NATO military one day are sidelined the next by some bomber whose movements cannot ever be fully tracked.

There is no denying the fact that a lot is at stake in the remotest areas of the Afghan/Pakistan border.
For the people in the region and the larger world beyond.
The nature of the territory and the history of its inhabitants - for whom nationhood is still a far cry - makes it extremely difficult to find a final solution for extremists.
Yet this is the one and only worthy justification for continued foreign presence.

Reports indicate the Afghan government is ineffectual and corrupt, unable to deliver for the Afghan people in ways that would permanently undermine Taliban influence.

Against such a backdrop it would seem to me that just about everything remains a priority in the country.Nearly nine years on since the intervention began.
Troops are there mainly to provide security worldwide from a specific hot spot.The governments who sent them in have a responsibility towards the reconstruction effort as well.
As expected this has proven much harder to achieve.

Lasting security will be forthcoming when extremism has been severely weakened by muscle power and soft power exercised nearly simultaneously.
A multiple tall order that rests on a vision for the future that matches present military operations to civilian efforts in a particularly tough environment.
NATO should also try to garner support from countries in the region and further afield.
Indeed every organised State sharing a common desire to rid the world of religious fanaticism should seek to help out finding a way to fix Afghanistan permanently.

TEc "They're called tough choices for a reason" - on the UK's spending cuts

A fitting title that says everything.
Good government is about making decisions based on choices.Sometimes these can be painfully hard to identify, harder still to implement.
Yet the biggest choice of all has already been made for any government inheriting a legacy of debt and deficit.
Whatever the reasons that saw them run up to current levels.
The very absence of choice - because there is no penny left in the kitty - makes it compelling to choose where to cut and by how much.
While front-line services are understandably spared they should come under permanent scrutiny nonetheless.
During the years that saw ever ever larger budgets allocated to whichever department it is likely that some 'fat' built into the system too.It may be about more than just waste...
Streamlining services and efficiency savings have to go around every department relying on public finance.
The second semester will provide conclusive evidence as to the government's determination and future direction.
The ConLibDem administration is only just beginning to get down to business.

TEc "The workout begins" balancing the UK's public finances - a huge challenge

It is evident that the UK has fared worst than everyone else in the big league on fiscal deficit and economic growth.
The scale of the imbalance presents a huge challenge to the coalition government.Its speedy formation and resolve remain the best hope to date that all problems are being faced head-on.
Ring-fencing front-line services from the onslaught of spending cuts is a political choice as much as it is a social requirement.
Nonetheless, wasteful spending detected in ring-fenced departments should get mercilessly axed too.
The need of the hour is to reinstate sound practices of management, governance and efficient allocation of resources across the board.
At the same time close attention should go to avoiding a double dip recession which would inevitably throw a few more variables off balance again.
Given the lukewarm response from the private sector so far, itself overburdened in more ways than one, a very fine balancing act is in the offing over many months (and years?) to come.
The determination displayed by the duo now leading the UK is very encouraging indeed.
No stone should be left unturned in the quest for wise spending of taxpayers money and balancing the books of public finance.
The upcoming June budget will be the governments's first and most powerful test as to how it aims to achieve widely consensual multiple goals.

TEc debate motion "This house believes the Afghanistan war is winnable" why this is not a yes or no issue:(2)

Eventually I did not cast my vote but if I had it would have been a disgruntled no.
Eight and a half years on, substantial investment in blood and treasure have produced too little too motionless.
Whether the right word is stalemate or wear and tear or war of attrition to define a conflict essentially deadlocked is frustratingly hopeless.
It also delivers a powerful message as to the limitations of conventional military might.
The upside is that the Taliban have remained relatively contained, their reach apparently severely restricted.
The main battle however is to get Afghanistan and its many lordships to work together towards achieving social and economic progress for the people.This is of course the hardest part where results have been mixed at best.
Otherwise the Taliban will continue to exercise influence and operate in fertile breeding ground to spread their fundamentalist ideology and recruitment drives.
There being no ready-made fix to this particular type of war, every option must be explored to greatest effect militarily.In tandem a political solution to a fragmented society of divided loyalties must be relentlessly pushed forward despite recurrent setbacks.Seeking valuable contribution from all who might share a common desire to rid Afghanistan and the world from the threat of backward fundamentalist hate-preaching forces.

sexta-feira, 21 de maio de 2010

TEc "Too timid by half" France is not rushing to lower the deficit. And it does not face market wrath...

I believe this brief comparative analysis fully backs my long held view that size matters.
The French economy being the second biggest of the Eurozone is "too big to fail", using an expression that became a byword for the American financial meltdown.
Inevitably smaller economies' sovereign debt quickly turned into soft targets for financial markets. Irrespective of relative positions on an array of macro variables.
Then also France's economy looks more promising than Spain's regarding growth prospects and overall standing.
The French have always had a penchant for the State - quite rightly to a large degree - time and again displaying collective unwillingness to let go of its built-into-the-system excesses. Wrongly.
Unless the country's economy resumes meaningful growth over the coming years it is hard to see how some of their cherished social benefits will remain sustainable.
In a nutshell France chose to remain defiant pursuing its own path to balance the books leisurely without upsetting society too much.
If they should succeed - and I believe they will - evidence will mount that the proud (some would call it chauvinistic) French way is alive and kicking.

terça-feira, 18 de maio de 2010

TEc "The Tehran tango" on the latest attempts by Lula and Erdogan...

What this picture suggests is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has more friends around the world than some would wish him to.
They don't do the tango in Brazil nor in Turkey nor in Iran nor does it take three but only two to dance it away!
And it must be a male-female couple no less.
The serious business though is that the world would be safer if Iran were left alone to exercise the fullness of its sovereignty.
Without a nuclear intent for military use.
This is what his friends should be telling MA convincingly.
Also, he should be made to come out clean on the Holocaust publicly and unequivocally acknowledging historical facts.
Likewise for each and every other denier holding public office anywhere.
That said, applying economic sanctions should be a last resort if all else fails.
Iran is an old and proud nation that will resist getting pushed around.
Its closest neighbours including Turkey can play a meaningful role defusing a potentially dangerous regional escalation. It ought to be encouraged to.
To this end the West must tone down some its ready-made rhetoric that has so often turned out counterproductive.I believe the US under this Administration already has.
Iranian leadership should take notice and cooperate if indeed it is not seeking to hide what it claims it is not hiding.

TEc debate motion "This house believes the Afghanistan war is winnable" why this is not a yes or no issue:

I am saving my vote for a later day when the debate has provided greater insight into the conflict.
There is now more detailed information in the media about battleground action than before. Nevertheless, I find it very difficult to give a yes or no answer to an ongoing war of many complex and intricate variables.
I am not at all sure - looking back over other wars fought recently - that this kind of conflict is winnable strictly on military criteria.
A victory would be achieved if and when the Taliban threat is finally removed by Afghans themselves.
As it stands, however, there appears to be no real option but to take the fight to them.
From a distance it looks like Western troops are bogged down in a scenario that remains mostly unchanged.A stalemate with bloody outbursts that could drag on without an end in sight.

The Afghanistan conflict may begin to get settled should neighbouring Asian countries also pitch in to defeat the Taliban.
Assuming of course the vast majority of the Afghan people of all tribes already rejected the lot.

sexta-feira, 14 de maio de 2010

TEc's debate motion "Is fair trade more important than free trade?" - a final comment as the motion is carried 55 to 45

I am glad that the motion was carried by a difference large enough to get noticed.

The arguments for free trade are many and were once upon a time much more pressing than today.

The best evidence to this is found looking at the shelves of department stores and supermarkets around the world.Or the vehicles on the roads or hardwares, electric and electronic gadgets, etc.
Global trade flows were never as intense in both volume and value as in 2007/8 before the US-led financial meltdown.
No single country, however, made greater inroads just about everywhere than China.

When competing economies differ so much in overall cost structures - ranging from pay to safety standards to environmental controls - the case MUST be made which way entire societies are headed to.
Unless of course we should all be happy to buy from China from pins and needles to printers and eventually aircraft.
They don't do the latter large scale yet but could very well at a lower price than the likes of Boeing and Airbus.
What about other costs that  never got factored in?
One example that should compel many to figure out what the consequences and implications would be. Especially if industry - or entire industrial sectors - were completely wiped out from the traditional industrial nations of the world.
Which is exactly what would follow over not many years of all-out free trade to full effect.

A definition of fair trade is hard to get because decades were spent pushing relentlessly for free trade.
Some may argue there is no such thing as fair trade.
They have a point.
Nevertheless, a balance of some sort between trading partners is to my mind essential to the very definition and notion of free trade.
Trade presupposes a two-way flow.
It is nearly as if fair trade should be made intrinsic to free trade.

But how to achieve that?

That's exactly the ongoing challenge from clearly understood simple concepts.
If employment, wealth creation, production, social balance, safety and environmental protection standards should all be deemed relevant in societies.

If not, free-for-all would be a better fitting definition to free trade.

TEc "Emergency repairs" - The fixing of the Euro as I see it from Portugal

A welcome respite it is.Wisely used could in the end prove a blessing in disguise.

Long time ago there was ample evidence to suggest that the running of these economies was not sustainable.
The US financial meltdown that quickly spread to Europe and left here a much deeper scar sped things up.The last couple of weeks but especially the last few days finally brought everything to its climax.

Blame it on financial markets and investors?
Speculators living up to their 'raison d´etre', doing what they know best?
ECB turning hardened policy-based views to accommodate the unfolding market rage before the fire grew out of control?
Sitting PM's and finance ministers changing opinions - like professional turncoats would not(!) - in a matter of days after a scolding from Brussels?

There was a little of everything packed in a week (or two) that made the Euro look so different.
Shaken to its foundations there was hardly a choice for the Eurozone.
The deal eventually pulled off may have just about averted substantially broader trouble.

I have been impressed how quickly governments acted to launch further measures to raise revenue and cut spending tangibly.
As if they had suddenly been jolted into action by a threatening monster.
One who swore he would definitely dry up foreign finance if the boys misbehaved back home.

Not a word is missing from The Economist's prose.
I hope that in my country the political leadership - government and opposition parties aspiring to govern - are startled enough (and remain so) to rise up to the challenges ahead.
For the right reasons.

They would better realise the country must cover the extra mile.
This time bringing public finances under control isn't good enough.
Hopefully next door neighbour Spain will do what it takes too.
Omens are it will.

Early next year we will know whether or not we've become wiser...

segunda-feira, 10 de maio de 2010

BBC Blog Network "Will the EU stability package work?" the unfolding saga of Eurozone...

It has been such a roller-coaster ride for the Eurozone that any answer to this one question is premature.
The figures put forth are so impressive that if financial markets don't take notice then it is pretty much anybody's guess whatever will.

Hardly a day goes by that does not derail the previous day's seemingly brave attempts by EU politicians to contain the spread of the rot.

I would hope to see the Eurozone finally stabilise and the EU engage in a multi-pronged attack aimed at propping up growth and growth prospects across Europe.This is truly the underlying structural weakness plaguing European economies.
It is obvious to the naked eye even to observers who are least keen on such matters. It got disguised over years of excessive consumption-led growth imploded by the financial meltdown and deep recession that followed.

Going forward economic growth on a changed model from the recent past is the biggest challenge of all.
Unless growth is restored to meaningful levels sustaining itself in the future, it is hard to see how the more heavily indebted economies will cope.
This is what credit rating agencies suddenly discovered following years of merrily conniving with many a government's borrowing binges in pursuit of questionable development and pay policies.

I certainly expect the latest moves to plug the problem allowing countries, especially the ones hit hardest, to cling to the lifeline now thrown.
Hopefully the extra time will be used to efficiently rein in public finances as well as kickstarting the economy to take it up to sounder footing.
If both objectives should fail then some EU members - within and without Eurozone - are condemned to irreversible economic decline and social fraying.

domingo, 9 de maio de 2010

TEc debate motion "This house believes that making trade fairer is more important than making it freer." - why it should be both free and fair:

Time for a second comment on a debate that has become livelier.
A shift in the vote has taken place perhaps as readers get better acquainted with the topic.

JB makes the often-mentioned point that China and India lifted hundreds of million out of poverty since opening up their economies to join the world of free trade.
Fair enough, there is no doubt those two emerging economies whose potential remains vast probably profited the most in recent years.More so China than India on specifically trading matters as its economic growth has been  far more foreign-inward-investment reliant and export-driven than India's.
In fact to a degree India still maintains a significant level of untapped potential on trade volumes and value.As its economy grows bigger and strengthens itself across multiple sectors so is it likely to increasingly blend with the world's.So far India's growth hinges mainly on domestic consumption.

China has already made a loud and clear international statement but wisely relied on domestic consumption to avoid the pains of the latest worldwide slump.Indeed looking at the two countries' economic data for the past 2 years the obvious reading is that both pulled through largely unscathed.
At worst a marginal slowdown took place that may have been beneficial putting back overheating that is likely to set in at some point down the line.

There is much more going for free trade than the generally welcome universally accepted idea might suggest.Applied to full effect it produces different results in structurally different economies.
Free trade for the US does not mean or impact the economy in the same way as Bangladesh's.

Outdated concepts such as proteccionism and dumping need to be phased out in exchange for a fairer deal that takes account of a wide range of factors.
This is why I remain steadfastly supportive of free as well as fair trade.
The fact that the latter is harder to achieve or 'nebulous' to define does not detract from its paramount importance creating a more balanced world.

sexta-feira, 7 de maio de 2010

BBC Blog Network "What does a hung parliament mean for the UK?" Here's my answer

This is of course very much an unfolding story.Symbolically the last seat is yet to be declared.

Having listened to the statements made by the constitutionally sitting PM and the two contenders now in  post-election posture, I think it is fair to say a great deal of common sense has been displayed so far.

It is still early days but I would highlight Nick Clegg's decisive stand on who should form the next government and why.
David Cameron's reaching out to the LibDems fully backs his view to the need for stable and strong government to take the tough decisions required in the near future.
Gordon Brown and Labour did put up a brave fight and are left with a score that does justice to them as well.They faced overwhelming odds stacked up over many years but especially in the last two.

However, it won't be long before he acknowledges that the British people have voted them out of office.
In an uncertain time they were not prepared to confidently vote the Conservatives in, or award the LibDems their promised prize.Not just yet.

I see no reason why in a mature Democracy with strong institutions a coalition government or a minority government with parliamentary backing from other party/ies should not work.
The electorate has collectively produced a wise result that demands engagement and commitment from all across the political spectrum.

BBC Blog Network "Greece and the story of George and Angela" Greece's troubles in my view

As far as I am concerned this is another of your thoughtful insights to the Greek financial crisis in the larger setting of Eurozone and the European Union. For the time being - following every step of the path footed down to get to this point - it would seem that the can has been successfully kicked forward.

Greece - the government and society at large - has been given three years of financial predictability.
No small gain for a country that willfully wreaked so much havoc over many years thinking it might get away with it endlessly.
Deceiving itself and deceiving others as well.

My criticism is directly proportional to the notion of what an organised State should be, whose roots lie firmly in that land.
Greece also gave the Old Continent its name millennia ago and is the proud birthplace of Western civilization.
I am still unsure whether or not this may have been an argument traded at closed-door negotiations to favour the country's entry to Eurozone...
May be not.
Greece was so unprepared back then that the sudden turnaround left me nagging to this day.

Well, hardly 9 years on - in the aftermath of a major financial meltdown started in the US and deep recession - everything came to the fore.
No matter what backstage deals made as the 2000's dawned, it is crystal-clear Greece should not have been taken on board.
Irrelevant point now but one that should be carefully looked into by the ECB, the European Commission and Council and political leaderships across Europe.
There are still 11 EU countries outside Eurozone.Joining is not enticing at the moment but the future will take care of itself.
The EU could use some broad-minded teaching from current woes.

I wish Greece a great future in the knowledge that an adjustment within its society and its governance is long overdue.
There was never a time so ripe for such changes to occur.
Politicians call them reforms.
Greece's massive budget overrun - shared by many other countries to different levels no doubt - is a consequence and a symptom of many unresolved problems built up over years of loose ways.
Its growth prospects are now shattered - so are those of many other countries across the EU - but there was always a Greek twist to things that made it so special.
The IMF - the single biggest contributor to the bail-out - and the remaining 15 Eurozone States - from Germany to Malta - have every right to expect Greece to rise up to its obligations.

The challenge is financial as much as it is cultural.

TEc "Fear spreads" - Portugal is now tested by financial markets? - a short comment

It is regrettable to see Portugal hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.

It is even more regrettable when it does so by being unfairly dragged by none other than Greece.

This is a combination of extraordinary factors that converged to make a bad situation, Portugal's no doubt, much worse than it ought to be.
There is however no getting away from it when countries expose themselves excessively to lenders.
In the good times, irrespective of underlying structural weaknesses that have always been there, lenders/investors are only too willing to feed governments' insatiable borrowing needs.
During such times credit rating agencies happily go along and seem not to take notice of any undercurrents.When and if they do, they choose to profitably look the other way.Letting the party go on.

When the going gets tough a change in mood arrives by stealth sending politicians scrambling for moves to quieten the unnerving financial markets.Too late.
Words may flow but by now the markets have gained the upper hand and will use it regardless.

Since joining the Euro Portugal has mostly played by the rules.
The country has long lacked a permanent strategy for sustained growth though.This has been an enduring problem felt more acutely since the start of the decade.

Could it be that rating agencies only took notice of it now just when a breathing space is most needed?
For a small constrained economy to begin to recover?

quarta-feira, 5 de maio de 2010

TEc debate motion "This house believes that making trade fairer is more important than making it freer." - On fair trade, read on...

Years ago I would have voted wholeheartedly 'no' but today I'm afraid to having no option but to vote 'yes'. Which I did.

I would feel much more comfortable if the motion statement were rephrased to replace "...more...than..." by "".

I do share a strong belief in free trade but that does not blind me to the shattering fallout of it not being fair.
While it may not be easy to draw the line between proteccionism and fairness in practical ways, the need for a semblance of balance in trade flows cannot be disguised.
High-pitched rhetoric in support of freer trade is not a panacea to resolving economic problems within a set economy.
Many economies now reaping the greatest benefits from free trade underwent long decades of outright proteccionist policies and practices.
In hindsight can they ever be blamed for having nurtured their incipient fledgling industries by adopting policies that shielded home markets just as a mother would her baby?

Once countries have established a productive base then only it makes every sense to take on increased competition from abroad.
This is because the starting points for economies across the world were/are very very different indeed.
Had they not pursued such defences in the past and many of their now booming industries would have been killed off at birth.
A few countries spring to mind: the former Soviet Union, China, India, Brazil and Portugal in the 50's and 60's.

It boils down to permanently aim for a level playing field whereby free and fair trade create mostly winners over time.
The benefits arising from free trade can only begin to show once economies offer something in exchange of.
It is a fact of life that cost structures, social rights and expectations vary widely.
In such a markedly sharp context my view is that it simply isn't good enough to call out for ever freer trade.
There is much more to it that might find adequate definition in the word 'fair'.
Often those countries that stand to gain the most from freer exchanges of goods shout the loudest for it.
They do so from a priviledged position at the outset.

Free and fair trade is a higher call demanding a great deal more from all parties concerned.

domingo, 2 de maio de 2010

TEc "Things could only get better" Labour's message of hope in 1997, an evaluation of 13 years

A fair-minded assessment of Labour's track-record in government during the combined 13 years of its tenure.

10 under Tony Blair and 3 with Gordon Brown at the helm.

I would say that not a word is misplaced or a sentence incomplete to accurately portray Labour's achievements and failures exercising power across all domains during this period.
Underpinning every wishful thought on broad ranging public policy is the realisation that delivery is so often far more complex than goodwill and commitment.
This is a basic teaching in Political Science no doubt.

That said, a as-much-as-possible balanced evaluation is inevitable when an election comes due.
Indeed after winning three consecutive terms no party - even under the best of circumstances - can expect to push on unscathed.
The Tories did manage 18 years but theirs, as is always the case, was a different political, social and economic setting.
Eventually Conservative rule came to an end through a crushing and painful electoral defeat.

The pollsters indicate no such landslide in the reverse is expected on May 6th.
This owes much to the rising star of British politics, Nick Clegg no less.He has challenged and outsmarted the 'established establishment' and may just succeed introducing a power-sharing third force to the UK government.
Contradictory as it may seem the LibDem's appeal is a reflection of Labour's Third Way's own failures nearly as much as its successes.The latter are impressive by any measure but left too huge a bill for future governments to pick up.
A bill that was added up over the years from 2003 only to balloon dangerously in the past two.