abril 27, 2010

Votação do acordo com a Rússia sobre a frota no Mar Negro gera ‘caos no parlamento da Ucrânia‘ in BBC

Chaos has erupted in the Ukrainian parliament during a debate over the extension of the lease on a Russian naval base in Ukraine.

The chamber's speaker had to be shielded by umbrellas as he was pelted with eggs, while smoke bombs exploded and politicians brawled.

But the debate continued and the chamber ratified the lease extension.

Kiev has prolonged the lease on the Sevastopol base by 25 years in return for cheaper supplies of Russian gas.

The deal, which came amid rapidly improving ties between Russia and Ukraine following the election of Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, has been bitterly opposed by Ukrainian pro-Western opposition politicians [...].

Ver notícia na BBC

‘Economia portuguesa: a importância de não ser a Grécia‘ in Economist

Forget slogans about golden beaches or vinho verde. What the Portuguese government wants the world to know is simpler: Portugal is not Greece. Far from having the next sovereign-debt crisis, as predicted by several economists, politicians are painting Portugal as a well-behaved member of the euro, in no way comparable to wayward, mendacious Greece.

Portugal is doing better than Greece in its budget deficit (9.4% of GDP in 2009, compared with 12.7%) and public debt (85% of GDP this year, against 124% in Greece). Unlike Greece, its public accounts are credible and it has a record of taking tough fiscal measures when necessary—between 2005 and 2007, it cut its budget deficit in half, from 6.1% of GDP to 2.6%. A four-year austerity programme to chop the budget deficit again, this time to 2.8% of GDP in 2013, has been adopted.

Again unlike Greece, the centre-left government of José Sócrates is a pioneer of reform. It has linked pensions to changes in life expectancy and introduced incentives for later retirement. According to the European Commission, age-related public spending will rise by only 2.9% of GDP in Portugal over the next 50 years, compared with a euro-area average of 5.1% and a startling 16% in Greece. Despite some public-sector protests, opposition to spending cuts is less noisy than in Greece.

So why are markets fretting over Lisbon’s debt burden (yields on two-year bonds have risen to 4.8%)? And why have such figures as Simon Johnson, a former IMF chief economist, and Nouriel Roubini, a New York economics professor once labelled Dr Doom, said that a Greek-style crisis could infect Portugal? [...]

Ver artigo no Economist

abril 21, 2010

‘Confusos sobre o Irão‘ in Washington Post

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was the focus of one of those curious Washington kerfuffles over the weekend in which a senior official makes headlines by saying what everyone knows to be true. According to the New York Times, Mr. Gates dispatched a secret memo to the White House in January pointing out that the Obama administration does not have a well-prepared strategy in place for the likely eventuality that Iran will continue to pursue a nuclear weapon and will not be diverted by negotiations or sanctions. Mr. Gates quickly denied that his memo was intended as a "wake-up call," as one unnamed official quoted by the Times called it. And that's probably true: It is evident to any observer that the administration lacks a clear backup plan.

President Obama's official position is that "all options are on the table," including the use of force. But senior officials regularly talk down the military option in public -- thereby undermining its utility even as an instrument of intimidation. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered more reassurance to Iran on Sunday, saying in a forum at Columbia University that "I worry . . . about striking Iran. I've been very public about that because of the unintended consequences."

Adm. Mullen appeared to equate those consequences with those of Iran obtaining a weapon. "I think Iran having a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. I think attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome," he was quoted as saying. Yet Israel and other countries in the region would hardly regard those "outcomes" as similar.

We are not advocating strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. But the public signs of the administration's squishiness about military options are worrisome because of the lack of progress on its two-track strategy of offering negotiations and threatening sanctions. A year-long attempt at engagement failed; now the push for sanctions is proceeding at a snail's pace. Though administration officials say they have made progress in overcoming resistance from Russia and China, it appears a new U.N. sanctions resolution might require months more of dickering. Even then it might only be a shell intended to pave the way for ad hoc actions by the United States and European Union, which would require further diplomacy.

And what would sanctions accomplish? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Financial Times last week that "maybe . . . that would lead to the kind of good-faith negotiations that President Obama called for 15 months ago." Yet the notion that the hard-line Iranian clique now in power would ever negotiate in good faith is far-fetched. More likely -- and desirable -- would be a victory by the opposition Green movement in Iran's ongoing domestic power struggle. But the administration has so far shrunk from supporting sanctions, such as a gasoline embargo. that might heighten popular anger against the regime.

All this probably explains why Mr. Gates, in his own words, "presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision making process."

"There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries," he added, "that the United States is . . . prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests." If allies and adversaries are presently confused, that would be understandable.


abril 15, 2010

‘O próximo problema global: Portugal‘, por Peter Boone e Simon Johnson

The bailout of Greece, while still not fully consummated, has brought an eerie calm in European financial markets.

It is, for sure, a huge bailout by historical standards. With the planned addition of International Monetary Fund money, the Greeks will receive 18 percent of their gross domestic product in one year at preferential interest rates. This equals 4,000 euros per person, and will be spent in roughly 11 months.

Despite this eye-popping sum, the bailout does nothing to resolve the many problems that persist. Indeed, it probably makes the euro zone a much more dangerous place for the next few years.

Next on the radar will be Portugal. This nation has largely missed the spotlight, if only because Greece spiraled downward. But both are economically on the verge of bankruptcy, and they each look far riskier than Argentina did back in 2001 when it succumbed to default.

Portugal spent too much over the last several years, building its debt up to 78 percent of G.D.P. at the end of 2009 (compared with Greece’s 114 percent of G.D.P. and Argentina’s 62 percent of G.D.P. at default). The debt has been largely financed by foreigners, and as with Greece, the country has not paid interest outright, but instead refinances its interest payments each year by issuing new debt. By 2012 Portugal’s debt-to-G.D.P. ratio should reach 108 percent of G.D.P. if the country meets its planned budget deficit targets. At some point financial markets will simply refuse to finance this Ponzi game.

The main problem that Portugal faces, like Greece, Ireland and Spain, is that it is stuck with a highly overvalued exchange rate when it is in need of far-reaching fiscal adjustment.

For example, just to keep its debt stock constant and pay annual interest on debt at an optimistic 5 percent interest rate, the country would need to run a primary surplus of 5.4 percent of G.D.P. by 2012. With a planned primary deficit of 5.2 percent of G.D.P. this year (i.e., a budget surplus, excluding interest payments), it needs roughly 10 percent of G.D.P. in fiscal tightening.

It is nearly impossible to do this in a fixed exchange-rate regime — i.e., the euro zone — without vast unemployment. The government can expect several years of high unemployment and tough politics, even if it is to extract itself from this mess.

Neither Greek nor Portuguese political leaders are prepared to make the needed cuts. The Greeks have announced minor budget changes, and are now holding out for their 45 billion euro package while implicitly threatening a messy default on the rest of Europe if they do not get what they want — and when they want it.

The Portuguese are not even discussing serious cuts. In their 2010 budget, they plan a budget deficit of 8.3 percent of G.D.P., roughly equal to the 2009 budget deficit (9.4 percent). They are waiting and hoping that they may grow out of this mess — but such growth could come only from an amazing global economic boom.

While these nations delay, the European Union with its bailout programs — assisted by Jean-Claude Trichet’s European Central Bank — provides financing. The governments issue bonds; European commercial banks buy them and then deposit these at the European Central Bank as collateral for freshly printed money. The bank has become the silent facilitator of profligate spending in the euro zone.

Last week the European Central Bank had a chance to dismantle this doom machine when the board of governors announced new rules for determining what debts could be used as collateral at the central bank.

Some anticipated the central bank might plan to tighten the rules gradually, thereby preventing the Greek government from issuing too many new bonds that could be financed at the bank. But the bank did not do that. In fact, the bank’s governors did the opposite: they made it even easier for Greece, Portugal and any other nation to borrow in 2011 and beyond. Indeed, under the new lax rules you need only to convince one rating agency (and we all know how easy that is) that your debt is not junk in order to get financing from the European Central Bank.

Today, despite the clear dangers and huge debts, all three rating agencies are surely scared to take the politically charged step of declaring that Greek debt is junk. They are similarly afraid to touch Portugal.

So what next for Portugal?

Pity the serious Portuguese politician who argues that fiscal probity calls for early belt-tightening. The European Union, the European Central Bank and the Greeks have all proven that the euro zone nations have no threshold for pain, and European Union money will be there for anyone who wants it. The Portuguese politicians can do nothing but wait for the situation to get worse, and then demand their bailout package, too. No doubt Greece will be back next year for more. And the nations that “foolishly” already started their austerity, such as Ireland and Italy, must surely be wondering whether they too should take the less austere path.

There seems to be no logic in the system, but perhaps there is a logical outcome.

Europe will eventually grow tired of bailing out its weaker countries. The Germans will probably pull that plug first. The longer we wait to see fiscal probity established, at the European Central Bank and the European Union, and within each nation, the more debt will be built up, and the more dangerous the situation will get.

When the plug is finally pulled, at least one nation will end up in a painful default; unfortunately, the way we are heading, the problems could be even more widespread.


abril 12, 2010

‘A China procura impor o seu ponto de vista sobre o mundo‘ in Courrier International

La Chine mène depuis quelques années une politique de développement de ses médias en langues étrangères en direction de la communauté étrangère en Chine et à l’étranger. Une version anglaise du Huanqiu Shibao, quotidien spécialisé dans l’information internationale, paraît ainsi depuis 2009 sous le nom de Global Times. Sensiblement différente de la publication en chinois, à tonalité volontiers nationaliste, elle en traduit cependant une partie du contenu. C’est le quatrième journal en langue anglaise en Chine. Le China Daily en a été le précurseur. Lancé à Pékin en 1981, il devait contribuer au développement des échanges économiques avec l’étranger. Il a été suivi par le Shanghai Daily en 1999, pour répondre aux besoins d’une communauté étrangère grandissante, et par le Shenzhen Daily, créé en 2001.

L’offensive médiatique concerne aussi la télévision, avec le lancement en août 2009 d’une chaîne en langue arabe. Emanation de la chaîne de télévision centrale CCTV, elle s’ajoute aux versions anglaise, française, espagnole et russe. Ces chaînes sont accessibles soit par Internet, soit par satellite dans le monde entier. Sur la Toile, la plupart des médias officiels, comme Xinhua Wang, de l’agence de presse Xinhua, Renmin Wang, de l’organe du Parti communiste chinois Renmin Ribao, China.com, du gouvernement, ou encore CRI Online, de Radio Chine Internationale, proposent depuis des années des contenus en anglais et en diverses langues étrangères, dont le français.

L’ensemble des opérations médiatiques récentes constitue une politique destinée à proposer au monde extérieur une “perspective chinoise sur l’information”. Il s’agit d’“expliquer la Chine au monde”, souligne le quotidien pékinois Xin Jingbao. Les autorités chinoises veulent clairement prendre place dans le concert médiatique mondial et y apporter une perspective chinoise, en particulier dans le traitement des informations sensibles pour le pouvoir central. Pékin avait fortement critiqué le traitement des émeutes au Tibet en mars 2008 par les médias occidentaux. Mais la presse chinoise avait été avare en informations et, surtout, les médias occidentaux n’avaient pas été autorisés à s’y rendre. Ayant entendu ces critiques, les autorités chinoises ont changé de méthode. Lors des affrontements meurtriers entre les différentes communautés ethniques au Xinjiang en juillet 2009, la presse officielle chinoise a été dépêchée en masse. Elle a ainsi pu fournir d’abondants articles et reportages qui ont été repris par le reste de la presse chinoise, mais aussi étrangère.


abril 06, 2010

‘Grécia lança solução para a disputa sobre o nome Macedónia‘ in EU Observer

A senior Greek official has indicated that Athens is ready to accept the name 'Northern Macedonia' for its northern neighbour, in a development that could bring an end to the 19-year-old title dispute that has hampered Skopje's EU membership ambitions.

"The name 'Northern Macedonia' fits with the settlement as envisaged" by Athens, Greek deputy foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas told national media on Monday (5 April).

Should Macedonian leader Nikola Gruevski reject this proposal "he will have to explain to the Macedonian people why he is depriving them of their European prospects," Mr Droutsas added.

Currently referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in official terminology, Athens is strongly opposed to a shortening of the country's name to simply "Macedonia," a title already used by a northern province in Greece.

The jealous guarding of the regional name has lead Athens to campaign against international recognition of its northern neighbour under the title of Macedonia, an independent nation following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991.

The Greek administration also insists that the issue must be resolved before Skopje can enter into EU accession discussions, a process that requires unanimous support from the bloc's full complement of members.

An indication that a potential solution was being worked on came in late February when senior UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said Athens and Skopje shared grounds for resolving the dispute, suggesting any future name for FYROM could include a "geographical determinant." [...]

Ver notícia no EU Observer

‘Rebeldes maoístas mataram 40 soldados indianos em emboscadas‘ in BBC

At least 40 soldiers have been killed after Maoist rebels launched a series of attacks on security convoys in central India, police say.

Rebels first attacked paramilitary forces engaged in an anti-Maoist offensive in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state early on Tuesday.

Police said that two subsequent rescue missions were then ambushed by rebels. Clashes are still ongoing, reports say.

Thousands have died during the rebels' 20-year fight for communist rule.

The Indian government recently began a major offensive against the rebels in several states.

Repeat ambushes

At least nine soldiers were also injured in the Chhattsigarh attacks. Officials say that the rebels initially attacked a convoy of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Talmetla area.

RK Vij, a spokesman for the CRPF, told a news channel that about 80 soldiers were attacked by some 1,000 rebels.

He said the convoy was returning to its camp after a military operation.

"The injured troops have been evacuated by helicopter. More reinforcements have been sent," Mr Vij said.

The rebels then attacked a convoy of troops which had been sent to rescue their colleagues. A third rescue party was also attacked by rebels, police said, adding that clashes were still ongoing.

It is unclear how many soldiers were killed in each attack.

The rebels have warned that such attacks would intensify unless the government halted its offensive against them.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has threatened to intensify the offensive if the rebels did not start talks by renouncing violence.

The Maoists have said they would agree to talks if four of their senior leaders now in jail were released and the offensive was halted.

Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India's "greatest internal security challenge".


abril 02, 2010

‘Supertempestade na investigação sobre o aquecimento global‘ in Der Spiegel

Plagued by reports of sloppy work, falsifications and exaggerations, climate research is facing a crisis of confidence. How reliable are the predictions about global warming and its consequences? And would it really be the end of the world if temperatures rose by more than the much-quoted limit of two degrees Celsius?

Life has become "awful" for Phil Jones. Just a few months ago, he was a man with an enviable reputation: the head of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, an expert in his field and the father of an alarming global temperature curve that apparently showed how the Earth was heating up as a result of anthropogenic global warming.

Those days are now gone.
Nowadays, Jones, who is at the center of the "Climategate" affair involving hacked CRU emails, needs medication to fall sleep. He feels a constant tightness in his chest. He takes beta-blockers to help him get through the day. He is gaunt and his skin is pallid. He is 57, but he looks much older. He was at the center of a research scandal that hit him as unexpectedly as a rear-end collision on the highway.

His days are now shaped by investigative commissions at the university and in the British Parliament. He sits on his chair at the hearings, looking miserable, sometimes even trembling. The Internet is full of derisive remarks about him, as well as insults and death threats. "We know where you live," his detractors taunt.

Jones is finished: emotionally, physically and professionally. He has contemplated suicide several times recently, and he says that one of the only things that have kept him from doing it is the desire to watch his five-year-old granddaughter grow up. [...]

Ver no notícia no Der Spiegel