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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

terça-feira, 20 de julho de 2010

BBC Blog Network "How important is philanthropy?" - Welcome, but the State cannot depend on it.

Philanthropy was, is and will continue to be important in every society particularly poorer ones yet boasting a sizeable number of super-rich citizens.
Examples abound from around the world whereby wealthy individuals left their fortunes to set up and fund institutions that have become household names.
For the most part these institutions provided major help addressing the needs and promoting the lives of many. Or simply advancing science and technology in whichever field. 
Put on top the multiplier effect over the years and we're doubtless faced with one of the best ways of giving back to society at large that which ended up in the hands of a few.

That said, a State cannot hope wealthy citizens to address the social problems of the many other than through willful contribution over their lifetime and especially after death. 
Charitable giving is exactly that which it means.
It is an optional, not an obligation.
Clearly no State can hope, least of all expect, to meet financing shortfalls it created through philanthropic contributions.

The 30% financing gap quoted for the UK - at nearly one-third of total funding requirement - seems to me unacceptably high .
The government cannot hope the rich to pay up other than what their regular proportional-to-income taxes going into State coffers already implies.

Philanthropy is a different domain of authentic generosity and caring for fellow humans.
Of wishing to make a difference and having the means to do so.

Not to be mixed with only too often overspending or misspending of State money generating revenue imbalances that are hard to fill.

BBC Blog Network "What will be the legacy of World Cup 2010?" - On balance it should be a good one.Read on:

Besides the additional infrastructure South Africa has acquired from transportation to sporting venues the main legacy is one of CAN-DO nation.
South Africa put Africa on the world map as a country that may efficiently organize major events and bring them to successful finish.
The world at large has also had an opportunity to learn about Africa's regional power, its weaknesses as well as its strengths.
Above all, every community inhabiting the land has had a chance to tune in to the reality of the new South Africa.
An ongoing massive project underway still far from completion but which has now received further impetus.

I have followed the World Cup as much as Portuguese television would allow it through the matches aired.
Enough of them to afford a pretty decent view of the entire tournament.

Performances ranged wildly from the dismal to the superb.
From the absurdities of the mundane to the excellence of the focused on football for football's sake.
It is therefore no coincidence that the final should kick off in three hours time pitching Spain against The Netherlands.
Arguably two among the best teams in the event.

Football is not, never was, never will be about the size of nations - it is about 11+11 players doing their best on the field, during full 90 minutes of them!
A number of smaller countries outdid bigger ones by a long shot.
All down to quality team football and luck as required of every sporting event too.

FIFA does need to review some of the game's rules and allow use of existing technological tools to aid fairness at implementation.
This is the main shake-up I would envisage in support of sporting justice to all inside and outside the pitch.

BBC Blog Network "Will talks improve relations between Israel and the US?" - Mildly strained yes, hardly a relevant dent. - I am in no doubt he was!

Relations between the US and Israel have never really deteriorated but only strained a bit as Obama'a Administration settled in and asserted itself.
Israel for its part has from day one been prodding the not-so-new-anymore American leadership sensing all along it might not be taken for granted as previous ones had been.
President Obama already made the point that his approach to the Middle East is more insightful, perhaps broader in scope than many Israelis would have liked.
His Administration will also have realized by now that the world's most intractable trouble spots are wrapped up in thick layers of built-in inertia.This is what makes it so very hard to move forward on key points Israel in particular is so adamant meaningfully discussing about.

The easing of restrictions on the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip is not to be seen as a concession or a goodwill gesture.

In essence US-Israeli relations remain friendly and mutually engaged at a high level when checked against a timeline.
They should so remain without meaning the US nodding Israel's every action.

The core issues in the Middle East, however, will only begin to get sorted when statesmanship such as displayed by Menachem Begin-James Carter-Anwar Al Sadat three decades ago is again forthcoming in the region.
By all principal actors and parties to the conflict ushered by the US, the UN, the EU and Russia.

BBC Blog Network "How will the trade pact affect China-Taiwan relations?" - Positively, of course.

Welcome news indeed that two strayed neighbours whose kinship needs no proof should aim higher in their already hefty trading relationship.
That the figure mentioned for two-way trade can still build up from bears evidence to the resilience of both economies.

The trade pact should work out a win-win for both 'Chinas' as big Mom seeks greater medium-to-long-term political gain from the offspring by offering sweeteners.

TEc "Speak softly and carry a blank cheque" - Brazil's growing profile gets noticed. No surprise to me.

As a sovereign country Brazil has every right to decide, set and act upon its own aid agenda.
The main highlight of this article is it presents a different view over a major 'developing nation' whose profile has changed fast in a fast changing world.
Piecemeal or not the very fact Brazil chose and was able to afford giving aid to poorer countries around the world underscores the thinking of the current administration.
I am pleased to note that at least some of the aid will have been awarded through development projects.
The shape and form of aid is, matter of factly, more important than aid itself, if it should produce lasting gains in recipient societies.
Whether or not Brazil is seeking to nurture political sympathies ahead of its ongoing UN Security Council push becomes secondary in the face of highly commendable aid initiatives.
Increased influence and clout come naturally when a country rises economically and extends a helping hand to less fortunate ones.
Brazil's role in Haiti prior to and in the aftermath of that devastating January earthquake seems to me exemplary. But the multiple needs and complexities of Haiti are such that it all reads like a drop in a huge ocean of miseries.
In a better balanced world Brazil remains a strong contender and player.
To this end I find whatever aid the country is now channeling to be very encouraging indeed.
Sound politics in international bilateral relations too.

TEc "Take it off" - Syria signals it does not like the burqa at school - Could I agree more?

A step in the right direction taken by the government of a country that lies in the heartland of the Muslim world.
School is where it all starts in any society.
If Syria's present government is mindful of the advantages of a State's secular values, the unwritten order to affect the teaching body is highly commendable.
More measures should follow to free women from their oppressive enclosures.
Awfully ugly too.

TEc "José Saramago" on the writer's passing away a remarkable obituary tribute

A befitting beautifully written obituary to a highly controversial figure in his own country.Not uncharacteristically though given his strongly held and voiced political and religious views, both still dealt with undue bias in Portugal.
His rise from humble beginnings to prolific writer and Nobel laureate eventually earned him appeasement from some of his earlier strongest critics.
The world moves on - as it always does after each one's passing - none the darker, hopefully a little more enlightened.
Upon his return home from Lanzarote where he chose to live a partial self-exile since 1994 official respects were paid delivered by praiseful speeches.

Like all writers Saramago lives on through his vast collection of books.

TEc debate motion "This house believes that industrial policy always fails" - It is not a clear-cut case besides other powerful considerations

I might have been tempted to agree with the motion statement if it were not as assertive as to include "always".
Like any other government sponsored policy directed at whichever sector, industrial policy may or may not succeed depending how well or ill devised and tracked it is.
There is enough evidence from around the world pointing to success stories as well as to monumental and costly failures.Whether or not the latter is in the majority - thus being representative - is the key question.
I believe a policy of some sort is indispensable for the industrial sector if only to set out strategic priorities or help retain existing industries in a country.
Unless of course it should be left wholly to markets to decide the fate of entire nations to go happily down the lane of irrelevancy.
To my mind it is all about striking the right balance between every controllable variable.
Germany is the best example of how a high-cost-structure economy, with social values, has succeeded keeping the industrial and engineering base largely intact.
German multinationals have production facilities worldwide but retained substantial production at home too.
The cumulative result of sound management practices by the private sector, the benefits of the social contract and last but not least formal industrial policy in place.
Or informal and unofficial yet largely enforced.

segunda-feira, 12 de julho de 2010

TEc "Lemon aid" - The German machine is up and running again

I still find it amazing that Germany should all too often come under criticism for its own healthy strengths.
Toeing an editorial line dating back to many years The Economist remains suspicious of the EU's powerhouse and its stingy(?)ways.
There's no question the Euro area will have to move towards better balance between chronic spenders and unrepentant savers.
Can anyone truly reproach Germany for exporting its way out of recession to eventually retake a position the country filled naturally through the quality and competitive pricing of its goods?
Its engines never stopped revving up and are now roaring again as indeed was to be expected of a fundamentally sound economy.
The other Euro area countries need to play catch-up each in their own way according to whatever built-in strengths and revised policy.
The first half of the year does provide some hope but confirms varied performance.
Only a consequence of hugely different economies, work ethics and collective culture.

TEc debate motion "This house believes that the English speaking world should adopt American English" - I do not! (3)

The debate is ever richer but the core arguments going for and against the motion have hardly shifted.
Having made my point abundantly clear in earlier posts I would still hammer lightly in a closing one best summed up as enforceability.
If ever the attempt were made to push American English as the standard in the English-speaking world I believe it would be doomed to failure from the outset.
Not out of any civil resistance or organised mass protest.
Simply because the geographic spread of English is such that variants are by now strongly rooted from within living communities from Canada to New Zealand.
Would they ever care to trade their streak of English for American English?
In an unnatural process imposed from the top initiated by who knows who and why?
No way!
An 'administrative' imposition would not achieve that which decades of American cultural prominence via films, music, fast-food and dress have not.
Whatever inroads made by American English came about naturally through those.
While largely welcome inducing harmless Americanisms they never really threatened the established English variant of any English speaking country.
A different tale might be told of non-English speaking societies.

TEc debate motion "This house believes that the English speaking world should adopt American English" - I do not! (2)

Fellow debaters have thrown in considerable argument generally against the motion.
Indeed most people who've given it some thought are led to the conclusion that English is far richer in diversity.
Languages are living entities, dynamic, open to inputs, ever-changing over time but not structurally changeable.This is exactly what makes any attempts at standardization appear forceful and artificial.
Yes native speakers of variants of English may need some adjusting before they feel comfortable communicating confidently.
Non-native speakers may even have an edge in that they would more easily pick up whichever variant.
As the debate rages on I am glad to notice that an overwhelming majority oppose the motion.
From scholars to common folk most agree that the future of English lies in the wealth of diversity.
I love the sound and challenge of every accent of spoken American, Canadian, Irish, British, South African, Indian, Australian and New Zealand English - and many more numerically minor but nonetheless relevant variants of the language.

TEc debate motion "This house believes that the English speaking world should adopt American English" - I do not! (1)

As far as I am concerned this is such straightforward matter that no amount of witty, practical or pragmatic argument would ever persuade me away from a loud NO.
Will not dwell on excessive rhetoric to back up my firm belief in diverse forms of speaking what is and will forever be the same language:
English, written and spoken in different modes according to latitude and longitude.So what?
But the undeniable fact and evidence is the English language originated in England, the communication and cultural tool and expression of the English nation.
That was before that nation spread it far and wide across the world.
English later received new inputs from other peoples and cultures that mingled together particularly in the USA.
In this age of globalization not everything should get sacrificed to disguised pragmatism or, more often than not, to commercial profit.
A return to sound basics should still matter.
Where precedence, logic, diversity, linguistic flair, flavour and richness should be highly valued.
To Americanize English would be tantamount to overriding the English roots of the English language.
Shakespeare would not have approved of it.
I certainly do not.
And it does not call for more than one rock-solid argument to back it up.