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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

segunda-feira, 27 de dezembro de 2010

TEc debate motion "The language we speak shapes how we think" - It exercises influence but does not bound up thought.

What an exciting debate this is that I rush to comment wishing I could vote for both sides of the argument.

Thought and thought processes are triggered in multiple ways by any number of inputs.
While languages certainly make a great difference on the outwardly expression of thought I am not so sure that thought has been framed by language, mother-tongue I assume, upstream.
There is bound to be an interplay between the two which makes people meaning basically the same thing say it differently in different languages according to usage types and expressions of their particular culture.
That said I am led to believe that this is not a straight clear-cut motion statement defined by yes or no.
I just had to drop these lines even before reading what the guests and the moderator are saying.
But I'm afraid I will have to come back later.


As the debate moved on it has only become harder for me to make up my mind. Not being into philology puts me at a disadvantage with those who may easily grasp the influence of languages on thought.

But what does emphatically come first: thought or language?
Or both simultaneously, or is there any precedence at all?

I remain as hesitant as ever for there is doubtless an interplay more acutely verified in some languages relative to others.
English is a good case in point.The very language we are using writing in on this debate.
English is a particularly versatile and practical language that delivers in short sentences - written and spoken, briefly and to the point.
In my native Portuguese it generally takes many more words to produce the same content.
That, however, does not alter my thinking the least bit.

Whatever my abstract thinking on a given subject matter will then be released in the required language.
The form, the style, the fluency will be determined by command of the language rather than any alteration to the essential thought.
While some languages do make it easier to sum things up and may indeed shape the way we think practical, I cannot accept that they are the main driver.
Do the Japanese and the Chinese with their painfully exquisite plentiful characters and sounds think entirely different from us in a Western mindset speaking Western languages?
To some extent yes but would that be enough to concede that thought is shaped by language?
I have thrown up a few questions here but at the end of this linguistic journey I am now more confident to disagree with the house motion.
Even if I may partially agree, and I do, on language influencing thought it does not go as far as considering that the latter is actually formatted by the former.

TEc - "Save the date" - Predicting China's rise to unseat the USA. Is it no longer an if?

The economy is not an exact science, leaving ample space for variation.

Going by economic history for the past 2 decades, more so the last one, the trends for China and the US are very nearly cast in stone.(?)
The multiple reasons for growth and growth potential in either country too.
The logic of full-blown American invented capitalism - free capital flows, free markets, free trade, free banking and finance - all now favour China not the US.

If, however, an unforeseen event or circumstance crops up that alters current assumptions then those trends can head off in a different direction.
Right now that seems unlikely though.

Japan, the previous runner-up failed badly to fulfil predictions made earlier on in the 80's.

It is not difficult to find sensible answers.

China, however, even if it were not racing along at breakneck speed is an altogether different story.
Need I only mention the country's size, demography, iron-fist rule, still untapped potential and apparent collective focus?
For "The Economist" it is no longer a question of 'if' but 'when'.

sexta-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2010

TEc - "Pushing back" - India and China have scars from 1962 but are bound to get along.

No matter how big their disagreement and suspicion resulting from past wars India and China have come a long way.Ultimately they are bound to get on with each other from current levels of mutual interaction.

Neighbours tend to hold grudges of multiple sorts, there being many examples around the world.
What India and China share in common is their demography - with significantly divergent dynamics - fast economic growth, millennia-old cultures and a legitimate ambition to ever greater world prominence.
More than enough to keep both countries focused, showing respect for each other's sovereignty and deepening their relationship across the board.
Save a few more common points they are relevantly different multifold from political set-up down to the chores of daily living and activity.
Yet, both remain essentially interested in getting up to ever higher levels of material development.
An aspirational desire as much as a dire requirement for all the needs still vastly pervasive given the low starting points of not many years ago.

India and China face daunting internal challenges and any number of priorities to busy themselves with in the foreseeable future.There is hardly a gain to be had in stoking mistrust between the two from unresolved issues left by history.Both peoples would profit nothing from raised border tensions and would certainly stand to lose a fair deal.

quinta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2010

TEc - "No safe harbour" Australia's uneasiness with boat would-be immigrants

Unless Australia changes the way it views these would-be-immigrants I'm afraid there is no solution for them.

It being mainly a humanitarian issue with wider social, economic and political implications, Australia remains woefully uneasy about how best to handle it without losing face(?) or its own straight self-image(?).
Or jeopardize a hot theme for its internal politics that has long nurtured negatively the overblown idea of a country swamped by boat people arriving from populous countries to the north.
Doubtless I deem it as a difficult question particularly if these people are not being smuggled - in the darkest sense - but only making a genuine desperate dash to improve their living conditions.
Getting a second chance, perhaps a first to many - that which brought so many now full-fledged Australians to Australia after all.

Immigration should be a controlled process as pursued by the Australian State. An objective made easier to achieve given the mainland's island condition albeit with a huge coastline.
Perhaps the Australian State owes it to those who perished against the rocks of Christmas Island a review of the country's current policy.
Perhaps even going as far as opening a little window to them.
Despite the challenges posed by such a bold move.

These people were brave enough to knowingly undertake a perilous trip.Most did not make it to live to Christmas 2010, relevant to them or not.
Their ordeal is over.
Australia, however, will likely remain at odds with boat people.

TEc - "The best or the rest" British teenage students are falling behind many from other countries according to the Programme for International Student Assessment-2009 tests.

I cannot assess the criteria used in selecting schools and pupils to undergo the PISA tests.

Assuming that groundwork is made to produce representative and comparable samples is the starting point to the credibility of the entire exercise.

However, I am in no doubt that final rankings do provide an insight into the general standards of a country's educational system that allows for a fairly meaningful comparative analysis.
General perceptions are broadly confirmed for each country standing alone.
Their performance relative to others also seem to match.

Overall the PISA tests are a gauge to the delivery of an educational system.
If the same schools are tested in 3 years' time producing markedly improved results then it follows, cheerfully, something positive has happened.
The reverse is also true only far more worrying.

segunda-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Has the International Criminal Court outlived its usefulness?" - I think not.

I would need to know a great deal more about the ICC's work and output to make an informed comment.

Save that key weakness I must say, nonetheless, that the world does require one such institution permanently.
Those of us who believe in the rule of law and on justice being served on Earth cannot but approve the efforts of an International Court despite every shortcoming it is charged with.
Leaders anywhere who act as if they are virtually immune to prosecution everywhere - after commiting the foulest crimes against humanity - should be aware that their hour of reckoning might only be a flight away after all.

I would leave the budgeting and other equally relevant issues to the experts to bring under control on balanced terms.

TEc - "Friends, or else" China's rise and wider implications

Why does China now command so much attention that the Western press seems transfixed by it?The question is deliberately rhetorical.Many answers could be readily provided though - and they would be right in all likelihood.China's fast rise across the board has caught much of the world by surprise.Yet it should be mainly welcomed as a normal occurrence that the world's most inhabited country is (again) acquiring greater prominence.The US through its President and Administration of the day will have to find clever ways of accommodating China while diplomatically seeking to exercise influence in favour of democratic freedoms and respect for individual human rights.
I do believe that increased social and material development will inevitably lead to greater demands from within by the Chinese themselves. These demands will have to be met when a critical tipping point is reached.The communist party will then no longer resist maintaining its self-notion of a closed-tightly-controlled society indefinitely.Just as the demise of the Soviet Union was never predicted until it riped and started unravelling so too will China's moment of openness eventually arrive.
The United States and the European Union have a lot of home work to do which is to repair, redress and rebuild their faltering financial, economic and production systems.It calls for a new approach that on many counts should take these countries back to basics and fundamentals.
The US can hardly stall China's rise nor would that be acceptable ever.
What it needs to do is to focus on the causes of its relative underperformance multifold.If China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Asian countries in general are on top in school achievement then Education surely requires much greater focus from the nation and its institutions.

The world is on the move and China is making sure it is one of the drivers.

sábado, 11 de dezembro de 2010

BBC Blog Peston's Picks: " Brown states 'We have a major crisis in the euro area' " - He is right but it is unravelling directionless

It is important to listen to what former chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown has to say on the Euro Zone.The views of the likes of him are of added value because of their now inherent condition as non-ruling politicians.Relieved of public office they can freely speak their minds up...
Furthermore, GB knows full well the dire consequences a Euro implosion would have on the UK's economy too.
Which brings us back to square one and the absolute need for the EU to iron out a deal - in whatever shape, form or size - that effectively seizes initiative away from the markets. Leaving the markets yearning to invest in government debt at discount rates.
Instead of the current piecemeal approach that has had mixed results at best.
I understand the complexities of such a deal but as each day goes by the Euro Zone as one single currency area looks headed for further upsets coming from weaker links going up to other not-so-weak links as well.
Germany and France have vowed to uphold the Euro.
Truth be told they have been doing so at their own discretion thus far.
The financial markets though remain defiant choosing to target and test each weak member one at a time before going for bigger fish.
Which they will when their turn comes up.

The Euro Zone moves into 2011 under the spell of uncertainty.
Very few have the power to influence its course and this minute it is not known whether they will want to use it.

quinta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2010

BBC Blog Network "What is John Lennon's legacy?" - Music with a powerful message

Have always been a fan of the Beatles - therefore of John Lennon as well - and will forever remain so.
His/their songs were so inspiring that no one could ever possibly stay indifferent to the music and lyrics, the rhythm and style, the genuineness and youthfulness.

I think John Lennon's enduring legacy is one of permanently striving for universal peace as an absolute value to be shared by all human beings.
It may just be that he did not appreciate the need to, on occasion, make war to attain Peace.But that's beside the point in this 30-year homage.

His music will always remain relevant prompting us all to permanently IMAGINE a better world - a world at peace with itself.

BBC Blog Network "Is Wikileaks right to release secret documents?" - Disguised voyeurism with serious implications

The main issue here is that diplomatic cables have been made public when they are supposed to be private communication exchanges between a government and those who represent it in foreign countries.
If one should want to go down the road of voyeurism in different guises then anything goes really.
Indeed it may get pretty funny to know the kind of language used between high-profile public figures when privately referring to each other!

It is disgusting enough that so much of what goes on around us smacks of third-rate soap opera that we would do fine without the latest intrusive leaks made to look like of high value to the general public.

terça-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Do hard-line Republican terrorists represent a serious threat to peace and stability in Northern Ireland?" A threat maybe but Peace has many more backers now.

I believe radical Republican nationalism may still represent a threat in Northern Ireland but not a serious one any more.
The people, north and south of the border and in the mainland have known 12 years of near blissful peace in NI following the random, senseless violence brought on by the 'troubles' from the late 60's to 1998.
It is likely that the new political modus vivendi between the two communities in the North - even if still defined by many divisions in larger society - is seeping in to consolidate the case for lasting peace.
While many of the hard-liners, especially from the Republican side, will not rest intellectually until Ireland is finally reunited their means to that ultimate end have hopefully changed permanently.
Sooner than many expect they may win through demography and democracy that which they never would through strictly sectarian barbarism.

TEc "Conquering the Complexo do Alemão" - A vast favela is at last claimed back by the State but the hard work starts now.

A huge step in the right direction is an understatement to label the operation now underway in Rio's notoriously ugly backyard.
Political will has finally been displayed to start tackling an endemic social problem that has plagued beautiful Rio de Janeiro for decades.
Whether or not the trigger is the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games is next to tertiary in the face of the scale of the problem and urgency to deal with it.
Once the Brazilian State through its armed branches has firmly and permanently secured the territory - every square inch of it - a massive investment plan should follow to address infrastructure, housing and community facilities throughout the favelas.
This will require great vision from planners, builders and all involved who may only share one and the same objective to achieve over a realistic timeline.
Political will and funding cannot waver to finally rid Rio from that which has haunted it for so long depriving hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants from that most elementary of rights: citizenship to freely exercise daily in the most basic ways.

segunda-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2010

TEc asks "Will the Euro-zone break up?" - A disturbing question whose answer defies prognosis

It is troubling enough that we should have this question asked.More so to realize that as I vote one third of respondents agree a break-up will come about.Much has been said and written on Euro-zone woes since the beginning of 2010. So many the delays, dithering and apparently contradictory moves by European politicians that a learned comment is not easy to construct.Especially one that does not mix wishful thought with pragmatic evidence.
However, taking after every in-depth analysis made by reputed economists and The Economist it would seem that the case to keep the Euro-16 is one of the lesser evil.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this applies to countries/economies on far ends of Euro-zone.
The single currency was never meant to arrive at such a critical crossroads.
It may now sound academic but I still cannot quite figure out whether Euro designers did not think through every weakness that might eventually undermine the currency.(!?)
On the other hand - should a country leave the Euro to regain competitiveness - I have always believed currency devaluation to be nothing but a quick fix.
It does not address core problems or force governments/private sector to plan and implement medium-to-long-term development/company policies to prop up and strengthen an economy lastingly.It is very much the opposite, an easy exit route likely to make weaker an already weak economy in the longer run.
Anyhow the stakes are too high that even the best analysis look constrained when not stone-walled by a powerful political/economic/social combination.
To my mind summing it all up it would appear that the case to make Euro-zone work is by far the stronger one.
Contemplating its downfall is indeed reason enough to double common efforts to undertake every institutional change that will ensure its survival.
To this effect the ECB's decisions no matter how grudgingly made are as bold as they are required.
Governments in afflicted countries now have to rise up to the tough choices and challenges.
Making the most of available time and lifelines thrown to fulfill the internal adjustments needed while pursuing economic growth as well.

TEc "Will Spain need a bail-out?" - The question may be asked. The answer would better be no.

I think not.I imagine not.I believe not.
But mainly I wishfully think - mostly I expect - Spain will manage to muddle through.
The stakes are awfully high when it comes to the world's ninth largest economy, the EU's fifth, the Eurozone's fourth.
Financial markets will remain watchful and the tug of war with politicians promises to liven up or gradually die down.
Uncertainty is the only sure bet, truly.
Which renders any additional words next to useless.