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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

quinta-feira, 30 de setembro de 2010

TEc debate motion "The Obama administration has been good for business" I have no reason to disagree.

Looking into America from outside allows for unbiased opinion if commentators should strip themselves of ideological leanings.
Inheriting an economy in tatters overshadowed by a dysfunctional and shy financial system following the momentous events of 2008/9 would challenge any Administration/Government to the brink.
Nearly two years on I believe the US has on balance made a remarkable turnaround.
Obviously it will be a considerable while before the economy returns to a footing that impacts the job market relevantly.Lag times cannot be leapfrogged out of wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, GM's case - the long-standing flagship of American business and symbol of its now fading industrial might - is perhaps the best example that the Obama Administration has been/is unfailingly pro-business.
It is not just for government but also for America's business and investor circles to decide how they want to make money in an ever changing globalized world of multifold challenges.
To even suggest Obama is somehow unbecoming towards business is defeated by overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Mending America after its close brush with financial and economic collapse was never going to be quick and easy.

TEc - "The winner doesn't take it all" On the strong showing of Sweden's far right

Following years of loose policies on immigration bordering on political correctness for correctness's sake Sweden is the latest country to experience a backlash from a section of its electorate.

In a Democracy radical opinion is always bound to surface at some point and must be heard by the overwhelming majority.
It is for the politics of moderation to reclaim support from most - including those who stray into radical fringes - by carefully understanding the root causes.Especially to ensure that the far right is never allowed to rear its ugly head too high.This calls for permanently addressing the issues they so often capitalize on.From a balanced perspective on the fundamentals of any society.

The emergence of the SD is not of itself a problem rather a consequence of many decades of progressive policies that need to be reviewed.
Including the ever sensitive question of immigration controls.

TEc - "Meeting targets" Millennium development goals come under scrutiny

There's quite something to cheer about looking at this chart and information contained therein.

Every indicator of social development has markedly improved from 1990.
Given that most of the quantified progress reflects China's giant leap across the board followed by a distant India it is clear that the developing world is now further divided than ever.

Setting broad development goals is worthwhile if governments - and the societies they lead - are ambitious enough to make them into working public policies.
What stands out is that China's ability to deliver owes much to its stable, monolithic and authoritarian system of government.
It assures continuity and policy implementation.
By 2015 a much sharper picture will emerge as to why some countries surpassed those targets others made progress but not enough while others still, will have failed miserably.

TEC debate motion "Promoting maths and sciences education is the best way to stimulate future innovation" Pretty straightforward.

Innovation in the technical sense surely calls for technical minds only shaped through knowledge of maths and science.

If this is the type of innovation at issue then I believe agreeing with the motion follows suit.

Indeed should a a pool of past 100 real-world changer innovations and their creators be sampled and it would confirm the technical educational background of most if not all.

As might be reasonable to expect it takes a good deal more than creators to turn their innovations into marketable tangibles that do sell.The such is the work of bold and smart entrepreneurs willing to put up with start-up risks by seizing on a winning idea turned sales winner.
Strictly speaking about the accomplished technical innovation there is no denying the absolute relevance of maths and science education.


On reading CM's well thought out comment I feel compelled to soften my earlier one.In the broadest sense that which triggers innovation is a sharpened set of observational skills more likely to be innate.
The thought process for its part is doubtless stimulated by as broad an educational scope as an individual might absorb.On the whole it would appear that societies that priviledged maths and sciences in their national curricula over many decades did produce the greatest number of innovators/innovations.Lastly, common sense and practical judgment make a powerful contribution towards innovation too.

Innovation in other fields would in any case demand more than basic grasp of maths too.

quarta-feira, 8 de setembro de 2010

TEc - "The retiring type" Reform of France's pensions system is under fire from society

Pension reform in France is about much more than Nicolas Sarkozy and the
current plan vehemently fought against in the streets, as in the past.France as a whole must realise the time has come to openly discuss every issue related to the sustainability of its cherished social security system.

It is no use in the medium to long run to keep sweeping under the carpet some very hard yet unavoidable all-encompassing policy decisions.This is increasingly a problem that has got to be tackled head-on by as wide a social and political consensus as achievable.From a higher platform of fact and evidence brought on by the country's own success.
Broadly, pension reform in most countries has become an urgent need dictated by structural transformation taking place in the economy coupled with demographics and increased life expectancy.However hard the Unions, especially cosied-up public-sector Unions, may find explaining it to their members I believe the sooner a serious debate on this question is staged in French society the better.The real issue is linked to hard sums that must add up if the social security net - pensions system included - is not to implode at some point down the line.

Who would then wish to run for Président de la République Française?

TEc - "By the skin of her teeth" Julia Gillard scraped by and is now poised to form the next government.

This is political high drama at its best with independents forcing the majors begging(?) for their support.And leaving the Canberra establishment and Australians holding their breath wondering for over two weeks!Now they have made their minds up choosing sides a new era, however brief, has dawned on Australian politics.It will be a challenging time for Julia Gillard to see her to-be-formed government through the second mandate for Labour until the next general election comes due.Predictably a period of negotiation and compromise.It also spells the best ever chance for the now influential 'duo' and the Green MP to throw their weight around standing up for the causes they espouse and for their constituents.Could the ministry job offered to one of them be one such indication?Or the first display of Julia's tactful political skills?
Anyhow, a lot of good can come from a minority government in a mature democracy with a strong economy.
Reform of the voting system not least.It does sound quite undemocratic that a party receiving over 11% of the vote nationwide should only hold a single seat out of 150 in Parliament.
An electoral system that clearly favours 'bipartisanism' to the woeful detriment of every other political expression may have (had) its advantages.Perhaps the time has come to bring it under review.
Australians may now sigh with relief that a new government is soon to be...

domingo, 5 de setembro de 2010

TEc - "Hard travelling" The plight of the Gypsies lately branded as Roma...

There is one common denominator between Roma communities settled in just about every country within Europe - East, Central or West:

Integration into mainstream societies - if ever that should be the goal - has failed for the vast majority.There are, however, minorities within Roma - I would imagine in most countries - who have beaten a different path from their origins and thus succeeded individually.
This seems to indicate that there is nothing intrinsic to Roma people to suggest theirs is a totally shut-in, self-run social group fully impervious to mainstream society.
The persistence, however, of long held views embedded in mainstream society has overwhemingly contributed to carry through down the ages a stigma against Roma that is very hard to remove.
Stereotypes largely prevail only to be confirmed by daily life interactions, with the occasional extreme flare-up grabbing headlines everywhere.

I do not know the extent to which governments have over the years decidedly sought to 'win Roma over' by pursuing broad-ranged public policies specifically targeting them as a minority with own characteristics.Any attempts made have for the most part failed.This has further added to the general notion of 'them' as a hopeless 'them'.Perhaps Canada's mosaic approach to immigrant communities would best fit the Roma if they should indeed be classed as an entirely separate culture social group.
The next unanswered question is whether or not Roma will adhere - or be made to adhere - to that basic tool and requirement of social inclusion and evolution understood as such and taken for granted by every other social group anywhere: academic education.To break the vicious circle that so far placed Roma at the bottom rung of European societies much more needs to get done than merely stating the facts.While acknowledging the complexities the only way forward is in my view to get Roma children to go to school.And stay in school for as long as it takes to at least finish full compulsory education.If the next generation should be better educated than the former - and so on - chances are Roma will improve their lot in a relatively short timespan.

So will the perceptions - real or not - mainstream societies have of 'them'.

TEc - "Clearing up the climate" The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has a rough ride

There's a great deal at stake when climate change is the subject matter of

The IPCC - despite every shortcoming in its organigram, make-up, scientific work, reviewing/editing methods and failings so far acknowledged - is a great institutional project in the making.
Its studies, assessments and findings should be exclusively based and guided by fundamentally sound scientific principles and data retrieved and processed to objectively reveal the extent to which the climate is indeed changing.
How much is owed to human activity and most importantly what can be done to mitigate the impact or even reverse or delay the nastier consequences.
There can hardly be two ways to look into this pressing issue.This is what makes the IPCC's credibility of utmost importance at all times.
In the 'real' world there remain predictably any number of parties interested in downplaying whatever 'unsuitable' findings may surface.The scientific community may also disagree on some key points but I would imagine a convergence there based on science, evidence and fact much more likely to set in.Irrespective of any external influences, however, the IPCC on collecting the analysis and field work developed by the working groups - duly reviewing them - must be able to produce summed up conclusions that are sharp and insightful.Depicting the reality about our climate as it presents itself.Not as straightforward as might be expected but the twenty years of solid experience in its track-record is relevant enough.
The InterAcademy Council report should impact the IPCC in exactly the way that it was intended for.
The vast majority of anonymous inhabitants of Planet Earth, nearly 7 billion of them, expect the scientific elite - necessarily a small group of highly qualified individuals - to speak the truth and nothing but the truth once they have finalized their labours.And the IPCC tells it loud and clear to governments and rulers of the day.Wherever.Whoever.Whenever.

TEc - "A 100-year war of words" On Japan's messy past relationship with Korea.Hopes for the present and future rests on trade.

It is a well known historical fact that Japan's violent meddling in the internal affairs of the Korean peninsula has to this day left deep scars on the collective memory of the Korean people.

Despite both countries - Japan and South Korea - being socially advanced, economically highly developed to different levels and democratic, the burdens of a troubled and particularly traumatic past for the Koreans weigh in every move towards friendlier neighbourly relations.
Japan cannot avoid approaching the two governments in the divided peninsula differently, such is the chasm between their political systems and ensuing implications.
From the Korean perspective, however, this must be the one issue that unites them all vis-a-vis Japan.
Thanks to that chequered past of subjugation and humiliation.
Also, levels of development north and south of parallel 38 are overwhelmingly different.
After taking stock of population size the North is hardly relevant for its diminished economic activity.
Nevertheless, nations and countries have no option but to start anew every time and move forward building bridges or repairing existing ones to mutual advantage.
South Korea's own rapid rise - initiated long before China and India's - to become one of the world's biggest economies still growing relatively fast has given it the profile to stand its ground and command greater regional respect.
Including that of the former dominant power, militarilistic, imperialistic and bully.
North Korea is a tougher bone to crack for no sane country - the southern brethren as well - knows how to handle its rulers.
At least for as long as North Korea doggedly remains a pariah State in so many ways.