GRANDE doc sobre o Bruce Chatwin! Dirigido por Nicholas Shakespeare, o biógrafo de Chatwin, vai aos sítios por onde ele andou e entrevista aqueles que se tornaram em personagens dos livros dele :



Smart and stupid ways to deal with inequality

AMERICAN Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz was recently in town, and commented on the local economy’s prospects. According to the influential economist, who was named by Foreign Policy magazine on its list of top global thinkers, income inequality is a major challenge for the government to tackle.
“If a society makes someone like Bill Gates richer and richer, it does not mean it is performing well,” he said.
Macau is certainly capable of creating billionaires, but there are doubts regarding the sustainability of its middle class, not to mention the growing low-wage workforce (especially if we include the non-resident workers, since it is not conceivable to argue that the gov’t is ruling only for the wellbeing of the residents, ignoring a significant part of the population).
Chui Sai On has been trying to deal with inequality by increasing the cash handouts (in the last policy address it was announced that they were raised to MOP9,000 and 5,400 for permanent and non-permanent residents respectively) and subsidies targeted at the more fragile groups, such as the elderly. In this regard, it was announced that the elderly will see their pensions increase to MOP3,000 per month, with a subsidy of MOP7,000 a year. A social security scheme that allows some reassurance for residents’ older years is also being implemented.
Are these measures enough to keep the problem of inequality from growing to scandalous proportions? It seems that Mr Stiglitz didn’t have a take on that. It’s a pity, since the reply is so complex that a Nobel laureate could help.
The inequality problem is, of course, part of capitalism. As the humorist George Carlin said: “Capitalism tries for a delicate balance: It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.”
Recent examples in Switzerland and Venezuela showcase, respectively, smart and stupid ways to deal with the problem of inequality. In Switzerland, citizens are asked if companies should limit executives’ salaries to 12 times that of a company’s lowest paid employee. The referendum happened after public outrage over the levels of pay and bonuses for top management positions. As expected, according to Bloomberg, “Swiss corporations and the government have joined forces to oppose the so-called 1:12 initiative.” The proposal was rejected yesterday.
In Venezuela, South America’s biggest oil producer, President Nicolas Maduro initiated an “economic war,” using special decree powers to set a 30 percent cap on profit margins for businesses. Facing an annual inflation rate that has almost tripled since the start of the year, Maduro blames the “parasitic bourgeoisie” and has encouraged the looting of shops whose owners didn’t abide by the limits on profit margins.
Hugo Chavez’ successor has also announced other new measures, like the “early Christmas” in Venezuela starting Nov. 1. “We want happiness for all people,” he justified, informing  workers in the country that they will receive most of their bonuses and pensions nearly a month early.
But, Mr Maduro, what will happen when the real Christmas comes? Perhaps the oil exports will help – as the gaming slots surely help here – but will there still be money to distribute or shops to loot when Santa Claus comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve (the real one)?
Here’s a good question to be answered by Joseph Stiglitz or, even better, by the Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness, created in Venezuela to oversee anti-poverty missions.

(by PB, published in MDT)




“ORTODOXY means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
George Orwell 


INTERESSANTE entrevista com Joaquim Viera, um veterano do jornalismo português. Macau é referida várias vezes e nunca por bons motivos (financiamentos partidários ilícitos).



On the state of democracy

1. What´s happening in Portugal´s political system is a good example of what´s happening in many other countries. It should cause concern and serve as an example for citizens all over the world.
After democracy was restored in 1974, several of the most well-prepared figures of all fields of knowledge made themselves available to civic participation through politics. They played key roles in successive governments, moved by the desire to lift the country´s standard of living.
This scenario has changed dramatically with the institutionalization of democracy. The representative system became the ideal place for opportunists and careerists. The best and the most competent, in most of the cases, have given up on politics, disappointed with the prevalent mediocrity and irresponsibility (and with the dirty game usually needed to pass the close scrutiny of both party and media to get elected). Some of them sought refuge in the university or managing businesses; others limit their civic participation to attending rallies or writing protest articles and books; others still have left the country, as the Portuguese always did (“Thro’ seas where sail was never spread before”).
Meanwhile, the political power has quietly and progressively been taken by people that have nothing else on their resumes other than being members of the political youth organizations (see the Portuguese PM and the opposition leader, both of the same fabric) and/or the freemasonry.
The neo-liberal spirit has taken over. The idea that the people’s impoverishment is a necessary thing and will regenerate society is making its way.
The political parties have become specialized in influence peddling and in maintaining the privileges of those who are, in one way or another, linked to those parties, including the influential families.
The outlook doesn’t get better if we look at the opposition, where demagogy abounds, mixed with unrealistic and “magical solutions”. This occurs in such a way that the Communist Party, which once supported the putsch aimed at overthrowing Gorbachev and that doubted if “North Korea is not a real democracy”, is gaining ground.
Considering all this, one must conclude that the fallacious Portuguese democracy is becoming a hoax. There’s no other way to put it.  As a result, the country lost its sovereignty, accepting all the diktats from its creditors. And this is happening in other countries too.
In my opinion, reversing this perilous situation is only possible with a healthier democracy, where politics is not a career and civism is effective. More authoritarianism and “fiscal terrorism” are not good ways, but that’s what (indirectly and through non-democratic means) we currently have.

2. In the outcome of the Legislative Election in Macau, a TV debate and several newspaper columns focused on the possibility (or not) of democracy here. On one side, Hoje Macau director Carlos Morais José doesn’t suport universal suffrage in Macau because, he says, there isn’t a local citizenship: “This is a migrants’ land and their sense of belonging (not to mention identity) to Macau is scarce. Considering the half million inhabitants, I estimate that about 10% have their profound roots here and those, probably, don’t even vote. The low voting turnout demonstrates the lack of interest for the public cause. Universal suffrage to elect what, or worse, whom? In fact, having universal suffrage would mean a huge risk in seeing some newcomer being elected to CE whose relation to the region is vague and strictly concerned with financial reasons,” he wrote. Morais José further argued that Macau’s gaming-based economy “can’t and shouldn’t be controlled by the first person that manages to buy more votes.”
On the other side, commentators like Paulo Rêgo and Frederico Rato stressed that they would prefer some democratic perversities to a dictatorship.
One question remains to be answered: Is a democratic system viable in such a small and sui generis place like Macau? Or, even after democracy is instituted following Hong Kong, will it remain a mere formality or become a real democracy?
(by PB)

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O Guardian insiste - e bem - nesta história que se passa no Qatar. Autêntica escravatura moderna...


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