Os corvos que para aí anda

Storyboard - The Birds - Crows on the PlaygroundLer este artigo do PÚBLICO: http://www.publico.pt/2020/03/31/mundo/opiniao/-corvos-ai-andam-1910183?fbclid=IwAR2bgvDb_tmevZ5upR0E_MXFlgVg-wkU8lCyPPtt7NYcZ25FHDhvrMoziW0


A luta contra a  pandemia não é uma pausa na vida democrática, não fez desaparecer a ameaça existencial que a extrema-direita representa para a liberdade, nem o vírus nacionalista, como vimos nas “repugnantes” declarações do governo holandês.

Pelo mundo inteiro, milhões de cidadãos vivem confinados. Os pássaros de Hitchcock tornaram-se realidade. Os corvos, que aparecem por todo o lado, têm agora o nome de um vírus; os outros corvos a que o filme alude, e que são hoje os do neofascismo, aguardam a sua vez.

Na macabra contabilidade dos número de mortes, anunciada como as cotações na bolsa que as acompanha na queda, o medo vira terror em noticiários sensacionalistas. Na rua onde estou confinado, a vizinha da casa da frente — de onde me chega o som em contínuo da televisão —, com a terrível idade da população em alto risco, como somos lembrados constantemente, alerta-me:  “Vizinho, veja a televisão, que medo, é terrível!” Medo do vírus, mas cada vez mais de um futuro de miséria, na maior recessão desde a que devastou os anos 30. 


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Debate on-line: “Política(s) em tempo de pandemia”

Decorreu, no passado dia 27, o debate “Política(s) em tempo de pandemia”, um debate on-line organizado pelo Forum Demos. Com este debate, o Forum Demos procurou promover uma reflexão acerca do momento único por que passamos. As diferentes reações governamentais à crise, bem como cenários para o nosso futuro em comunidade, foram temas abordados. Estarão as limitações à nossa liberdade a irem longe de mais ou são aquelas que se impunham? Terá a UE futuro, caso não mostre a tão necessária solidariedade interestadual? E os populismos? Terão aqui uma decisiva rampa de lançamento? Eis algumas das questões abordadas. O debate foi moderado por Álvaro Vasconcelos, fundador do Forum Demos e introduzido por João Relvas, Investigador principal na IBMC.INEB Associate Laboratory; Pedro Bacelar de Vasconcelos, Deputado e Docente Universitário; Marcela Uchôa, Investigadora no Instituto de Estudos Filosóficos – IEF – UC; Boaventura Monjane, Ativista social, jornalista e académico moçambicano e Renato Janine Ribeiro, Professor Titular de Ética e Filosofia Política na Universidade de São Paulo. O link que dá acesso à sua gravação é o seguinte: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=01tGge7mmMY&feature=emb_logo

COVID-19 Fiscal response: What are the options for the EU Council?

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, and now that Europe has become one of its epicentres, voices are raised among EU countries in support of a common and significant European response to deal with the health situation and the related economic crisis currently unfolding.

Many options are currently discussed in policy and academic circles: ESM credit lines, ‘corona-bonds’, a euro-area Treasury, and even one-off joint expenditures. But, at this stage, those various options are relatively fuzzy, and they sometimes mean different things to different people. This blog post aims to distinguish and explore the pros and cons of each of these possible options at the current juncture.

Option 1: Hoping that the status quo will be sufficient

Euro-area countries finance their necessary expenditures to fight the health crisis and the resulting economic crisis, through a significant increase in national borrowing (now unconstrained by the EU fiscal rules). This is supported by massive ECB QE to ensure that all euro area countries have an easy and cheap access to market funding.

With its announcement of the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) on March 18, the ECB has already put in practice this first option. As a result, spreads have substantially decreased on the next day and stabilised at a lower level since then.

Given the significant size and flexibility of the programme, it is possible that it will be sufficient to convince financial markets that the ECB is ready to honour its 2012 promise to do whatever it takes, and ensure that countries can finance themselves cheaply.

The main potential issue of this option is that, if markets were to try to test the limits of the ECB’s readiness to do whatever it takes, the ECB’s Governing Council might be reluctant to make the asset purchases of national sovereign bonds through its QE programme fully unlimited (as the Fed did on 23 March). In fact, the political pressure on the ECB that its current PEPP programme might go too far is already there.

Option 2: Using currently available ESM credit lines combined with OMT

The solution in that case could be for euro-area countries to apply to ESM precautionary credit lines. Given the need for a unanimous approval by the ESM board of governors (ie, the Eurogroup), that would provide the ECB with a political validation to implement unlimited and targeted OMT. An ECB OMT programme should be sufficient to ensure that countries can finance themselves easily and cheaply.

But countries facing higher funding costs than the ESM could also draw on their ESM credit lines in order to benefit from lower rates. At the end of February, the ESM issued a 10-year bond with a 0.01% coupon rate and could pass this low funding cost to all countries with a relatively small fee. In addition, the maturity of ESM loans could probably be longer than what the market could offer. As a result, the combination of those two elements would slightly improve the sustainability of the debt and reduce the roll-over risk.

This is the option currently pursued by the Eurogroup which on 24 March proposed to the EU Council to offer Pandemic Crisis Support (PCS) credit lines from the ESM to individual countries. The current Enhanced Conditions Credit Line (ECCL) would serve as a basis for these credit lines.

Nevertheless, we see three significant drawbacks related to this option.

The first problem would be the relatively small firepower of the ESM (€410 billion currently, and the Eurogroup proposal mentions an even smaller 2% of GDP, around €240 billion, dedicated to the PCS for the moment). This would drastically limit its capacity to reduce the debt service of euro-area countries on a significant scale.

The second issue is that resorting to the ESM might not even reduce the funding costs of many countries. At current yields, and taking into account the minimum fees charged by the ESM, an ESM loan could be financially beneficial only for Greece (given its yield stands at 2.4% at the time of writing), Cyprus (1.6%), Italy (1.5%) and, maybe, Portugal (0.9%) and Spain (0.7%).

The third, and probably the most important problem, is that the mere mention of the ESM, of an MoU or of conditionality (which are both requested in an ECCL and thus probably in a PCS credit line) are politically toxic in most of these countries.

Option 3: A common debt-management office for the euro area

A third option would be to put in place a euro-area debt-management office for all borrowing related to the crisis. This could be done through a new agency, but given that the ESM has the advantage of being up and running, it could also be repurposed to this use. It would represent a mutualisation of the borrowing costs.

For that, the three issues described above would need to be solved. First, to avoid any potential stigma, countries should all be the recipients to this ESM credit line, and there should not be any conditionality (as argued before). Second, the size of the ESM would need to be increased significantly so that it can issue bonds on a large scale, say €1 trillion. For the ESM to be able to do this, its callable capital would need to be increased significantly and some changes to its legal base would probably be required. The money raised would then be distributed to its member states based on the ESM capital keys, and the ESM would charge its member states an identical rate, ie its funding cost plus a small fee (preferably smaller than the current ones applied so that it becomes financially advantageous to most countries).

This ‘beefed-up ESM’ solution would have two main advantages.

First, since this would be joint-and-several borrowing (within the debatable limits of Article 8 of the ESM treaty), funding costs could be lower, and if the ECB was a massive buyer of these bonds, rates would probably be even lower.

Second, and more importantly, such a European debt instrument would be politically easier for the ECB to buy than national debt, as possible fiscal risks related to the holding of national debt would be borne by the ESM. In fact, the issuer limit for supranational institutions like the ESM is already larger, ie, 50% compared to 33% for euro-area governments, which suggests that the ECB is more comfortable buying these supranational bonds. Increasing massively the volume of ESM bonds available for purchase would thus also allow the ECB to significantly enlarge its PEPP programme without the usual political controversy surrounding asset purchases of sovereign bonds.

If necessary, this could also make it easier for the ECB to decide at a later stage to keep the debt securities purchased during the crisis on its balance sheet permanently (either because these bonds would be perpetual or because they would be rolled over indefinitely)[1]. This could indeed be the cleanest way to monetise part of the euro-area debt through a European institution with enough democratic legitimacy to ensure that there is a strong political agreement about this plan among European countries.

What would be the main shortcoming of that option?

The issuance of joint and several bonds by the ESM to allow countries to finance themselves at a lower and similar rate would provide a first form of mutualisation. However, ensuring low funding costs to countries is necessary but might not be sufficient to deal with the legacy issue that it would entail, ie multiple significant countries of the euro area might come out of this crisis with debt-to-GDP ratios above 150%. In other words, tax payers of the individual countries would still be liable to the burden for their part of the joint borrowing. There would be no cross-border insurance/transfers.

It could be argued (as Blanchard or Krugman did) that in the current low rate environment these levels of debt can be considered sustainable (as the Japanese experience also suggests). However, given the inherent fragility of sovereign debt in the euro area due to the prohibition of monetary financing (and even if massive ESM loans would reduce roll-over risk and ensure lower rates), our main fear is that, even if euro-area authorities do whatever it takes during the crisis, they might end up applying austerity after the crisis in order to reduce their debt burden. The results would be either a double-dip recession like the one that the euro area suffered in 2011-2012, or a deep and long slump.

Option 4: One-off joint debt issuance to finance common expenditures related to the corona crisis

An alternative solution to avoid this issue is to mutualise fully the costs of the crisis. In practice, this means that the additional debt issued to fight the health and related economic crisis does not remain on national books and that the burden is shared with the whole community. Put differently, while pay-outs would depend on where the shock is strongest, the fiscal burden of the new debt would fall on all euro area tax payers depending on their capacity to pay taxes.

Such insurance makes sense economically if “moral hazard considerations are not warranted here” as Eurogroup President Centeno declared after the Eurogroup. Politically, it would show that the EU is capable of unity and solidarity in these dreadful times.

This approach could be pursued through an amended ESM. But other avenues are possible. Using Article 122.2 of the TFEU, the creation of a new dedicated instrument could be envisaged to “grant […] financial assistance [to a] Member State […] seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control”. This instrument, which could take the form of a fund, would issue one-off corona-bonds to finance expenditures related to the crisis (which could also be purchased by the ECB, as highlighted by ECB President Lagarde in the Eurogroup) that would in the end be repaid by all European taxpayers.

The exact scope of such an insurance scheme should be well defined. It could be relatively small and circumscribed to the health expenses directly related to pandemic, but its scope could also be broader and for instance cover the cost of a Danish-style temporary lay-off benefit system (or a German-style ‘Kurzarbeit’) in order to avoid actual lay-offs and protect the solvency of viable companies during the lockdown. Contrarily to the previous option, the geographic distributions of expenditures would be based on the needs of each country to fight the crisis.

The main challenge, of course, is that an agreement would need to be found on what its exact scope would be, how much money to devote to this initiative, how to fund it and under what rules decisions would be taken. As an insurance against an exogenous shock, contributions to repay the debt later could be based on the population and GDP of the countries (as in the ECB or the ESM’s capital keys). This would involve ex post transfers between taxpayers of different countries, but in an insurance mechanism this would be a feature not a bug. If such an ambitious option was chosen by policymakers, it would thus be preferable to put it in place as soon as possible under a relative veil of ignorance rather than wait for later when it is revealed who will need this insurance the most. It would also be crucial that there are clear decision-making rules that ensure democratic accountability. De facto in the current treaty framework, unanimity might be needed on all major decisions which could also limit the effectiveness of the instrument.

If policymakers really want to avoid creating a new instrument, the ESM could play that role and issue the joint debt. However, contrarily to the previous option, the money raised would be distributed to member states based on the severity of the shock while the fee charged to member states would be related to the ESM capital key. Transforming the ESM in such an insurance in which costs would be shared but benefits would accrue to countries particularly strongly hit by the crisis would nevertheless represent a radical change of the ESM and of its original function and would require a complete overhaul of its legal base (even if the instrument is temporary).


Overall, the experience of the euro crisis showed the need for European policymakers to be pro-active and not reactive. After a mishap, the ECB has delivered on 18 March to ensure that euro-area countries can finance themselves easily and cheaply in the market during the crisis.

Now, it is time for the EU Council to make quick progress on the fiscal front and announce something as soon as possible to show that it has taken full measure of the severity of the situation. Letting every country respond only on its own with only ECB backing could prove an insufficient response, and late fiscal action would likely be more expensive than getting ahead of the markets. Announcing some form of mutualisation would send a strong signal of unity to the world in these difficult times – but it is also fundamental that it is done with strong democratic legitimacy and broad public support. This blog post has aimed to explain the options. It is up to elected officials to see what is democratically feasible and desirable.

[1] This permanent, and possibly significant, increase of the money supply could in the end generate some inflation, but it may not even be the case as the Japanese experience of the last two decades suggests. But, anyway, if it were the case, this consequence might even be welcome if it helps the ECB bring back inflation towards the ECB’s target, especially if the crisis ends up being deflationary.

Este texto é da autoria de Grégory Claeys e Guntram B. Wolff. Foi originalmente publicado em bruegel.org – https://www.bruegel.org/2020/03/esm-credit-lines-corona-bonds-euro-area-treasury-one-off-joint-expenditures-what-are-the-options-for-the-eu-council/

Debate Forum Demos: Política(s) em tempo de pandemia*


O combate à pandemia global do novo coronavírus não faz desaparecer o debate político, nem as ameaças que pesam sobre o futuro da democracia. Na Europa líderes da extrema-direita, como Salvini, começaram por acusar os imigrantes africanos de serem portadores do vírus; nos Estados Unidos, Trump, ridicularizou os que alertavam para o perigo do, como lhe chamou, “vírus chinês”; no Brasil, Bolsonaro, relevando a sua incompetência e obscurantismo ao denegrir a ciência, de uma forma monstruosa, põe em risco sério a vida dos brasileiros, e na China combateu-se a pandemia usando instrumentos, incluindo reconhecimento facial, de um Estado autoritário.

Pelo mundo fora os governos democráticos tentam conter o vírus, tomando medidas no quadro constitucional e procurando minimizar o impacto social da crise económica. Do seu sucesso, depende o futuro da democracia.

Será o modelo chinês a melhor resposta para vencer a pandemia? Quais são os bons exemplos democráticos? Como lutar contra o vírus, garantir a defesa das liberdades e a justiça social?

É com o intuito de debater estas questões que o Forum Demos convida todos os seus membros para mais um debate, desta vez dedicado ao tema “Política(s) em tempo de pandemia”.

O debate será realizado via ZOOM, pelas 18:00 horas de Portugal Continental e pelas 15:00 horas de São Paulo (Brasil), e será realizado em português.

Esperando contar convosco, para efeitos de organização do debate, solicitamos a todos os que pretendam intervir a respectiva confirmação através do e-mail: forumdemos.geral@gmail.com

 *O ID da sessão será facultado, oportunamente, aos participantes.

O futuro da democracia e Covid 19 – Um surto de solidariedade?*

Por Pedro Bacelar de Vasconcelos*

*Textos originalmente publicados no Jornal de Notícias, respetivamente, a 12 e a 19 de Março de 2020.


O futuro da democracia

A crise de representação democrática está diagnosticada. O enfraquecimento global das soberanias estaduais e a sistemática decepção de expectativas dos eleitores perante o desempenho de sucessivos governos, aprofundaram o fosso entre governantes e governados e acentuaram o descrédito das instituições públicas, com a perda da confiança indispensável à legitimação das hierarquias sociais. A dissecação das causas do contínuo crescimento da extrema direita e da popularidade das suas propostas, explicam a decadência das formações políticas tradicionais. Tornou-se claro o esgotamento das fórmulas habituais de organização política das democracias mas não será por ignorância ou distração que não surge remédio para a cura…

A fragilidade dos sistemas de representação democrática agravou-se com a decadência dos mecanismos habituais de mediação que as novas tecnologias da informação dispensaram, apoiadas por uma ilusão de transparência e participação alheia aos procedimentos clássicos. A simplificação aparente dos critérios de escolha iria alterar de seguida os critérios de destituição: uma resposta desastrada, uma suspeita de conduta indevida, a ausência, a omissão ou qualquer indício verosímil de fracasso. A tentativa de destituição do ex-presidente Bill Clinton é o exemplo mais notório mas abundam os “incidentes” de demissões devidas a mera fanfarronice, convites para espetáculos desportivos, omissão de um dever declarativo, uma suspeita, uma notícia insidiosa. Assim, a fixação de um nexo de responsabilidade objetiva acabou por dispensar o esforço de ponderação das circunstâncias e motivações subjetivas, por irrelevantes, a culpa tornou-se um arcaísmo inútil e, por fim, a responsabilidade política e a prestação de contas transformou-se num jogo de sorte ou azar. Continuar a ler “O futuro da democracia e Covid 19 – Um surto de solidariedade?*”

Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation

We share with you Silvia Panizza’s article, a Teaching Fellow at the University College Dublin, published by The Conversation on 17 of march.

Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation

“I am facing 14 days of self isolation and I find the prospect terrifying. Chances are it will continue much longer too, as we may soon face lockdown. But I also wonder whether it may be good for us to slow down and reflect on the human condition. Could this pandemic help us change how we think and act for the better?” Dan, 44, Southampton

“They say when trouble comes, close ranks.” So begins Jean Rhys’s novel Wide Sargasso Sea. When the novel coronavirus started spreading in Europe, my first impulse was to travel home, to Italy, to be with my family. Lesson number one learned from the virus: you remember what matters to you.

Rhys was, of course, talking about racial tensions in colonial times, not families vs other commitments, or humans vs viruses. But she knew that there are good ways and bad ways of closing ranks. It seems to me we are now experiencing both. As a philosopher in lockdown in Piedmont, I am trying to take the opportunity to think about what the outbreak can tell us about ourselves – and our planet.

One way to think about the pandemic is in terms of humanity coming together to fight a natural threat in the form of a virus. I find this thought both inspiring and absurd. The reminder that we are all similarly vulnerable, similarly worried, and that we need concerted action across the globe to address this disease, brings some hope. On the other hand, while this threat is impersonal, we know that whenever a “we” is formed, there is a “they”.

Continuar a ler “Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation”

COVID-19, uma janela de oportunidade

Todos estamos bem cientes da gravidade da crise com que nos deparamos. Nada mais há a acrescentar nesse campo, restando-nos, enquanto seguimos as recomendações das autoridades competentes, aguardar, pacientemente, por melhores dias. Quero, contudo, refletir acerca de um aspeto potencialmente positivo deste flagelo. Acredito que em todos os eventos, mesmo nos mais catastróficos, é possível encontrar algo, por muito ínfimo que seja, de positivo. Que sirva esta crise para trazer à superfície da nossa sociedade, de um modo duradouro e consistente, um sentido de fraternidade, de entreajuda, que há muito se vinha perdendo. Que a noção, que hoje todos estamos a ser forçados a assimilar, de que o bem do todo depende da soma do bem individual, se estenda pelos anos vindouros. Que, quando a crise sanitária passar, se perceba que as desigualdades e a exclusão social são vírus que minam o organismo chamado sociedade e que, portanto, importa combatê-los com o mesmo vigor com que, hoje, se combate o COVID-19. E isto é igualmente verdade na dimensão do cuidado que devemos ter – UE – a resolver, de uma forma humanista, o flagelo das migrações. No entanto, a completa falta de informação, na comunicação social presentemente monotemática, acerca da desgraça que está a ocorrer na fronteira turco-grega, já é merecedora de reparo e de preocupação. Enfim, esta crise é a última a evidenciar que o destino de um homem ou de uma mulher, de uma cidade, país ou continente é indissociável daquilo que se passa na porta do lado e que as soluções para os grandes problemas só podem ser alcançadas numa lógica multilateralista. O mundo não vai acabar. Não acabou com a gripe espanhola nem com as guerras mundiais. Estamos a ser desafiados uma vez mais e saberemos responder à altura. Que a sociedade que venha a sair destes dias de apreensão e de mágoa seja uma sociedade mais sábia, uma sociedade melhor. Coragem e boa sorte!

The virus of humanity

By Álvaro Vasconcelos


In addition to the medical and socio-political consequences now on our horizons, the pandemic caused by Coronavirus is also going to be a challenge for our own sense of humanity. Amidst our fears of being contaminated ourselves and the anguish of seeing those dearest to us also affected, will we still be able to treat others as part of the same humanity as ourselves? And will we, in consequence, have the time and space not only for our own problems but also to be moved by, for example, the fate of the refugees who will now inevitably disappear from the pages of the newspapers we read or the news programmes we see or hear?

Symbolism and sensationalism

Yet, in the midst of our own fears and anxieties, we should recall that here is a literary  premonition of what could happen. Albert Camus’s novel, The Plague, describes what happens when a deadly epidemic contaminates a city, the Algerian city of Oran.  The city is locked down and quarantine camps are erected, but the book’s hero, Bernard Rieux, a doctor, fights professionally against the epidemic but also seeks to affirm the moral values of solidarity and common humanity within a colonial environment.  He denounces those who have come to see “the other” as the evil symbolized by the epidemic, the environmental threat, the “foreigner” who should be slaughtered.

Continuar a ler “The virus of humanity”

O vírus da nossa humanidade

Por Álvaro Vasconcelos


O Coronavírus é um teste à nossa humanidade. Será que, no meio da angústia de podermos ser contaminados ou de vermos os mais queridos afetados, seremos capazes de olhar para os outros como parte da mesma humanidade? E será que além de pensarmos no nosso problema, teremos tempo para nos comover com a sorte dos refugiados que vão desaparecendo das páginas dos jornais?

Como não nos lembrarmos neste tempo de angústia do romance de Camus, A Peste, sobre uma epidemia mortífera que contamina uma cidade? A cidade é fechada e campos de quarentena são erigidos. O herói do livro, o médico Rieux, luta contra a epidemia ao mesmo tempo que afirma os valores da solidariedade e da humanidade comum, denunciando os que passaram a ver “o outro” como o mal, a ameaça, o “estrangeiro” a abater. Para Rieux, a resistência e a indignação são a forma de aproximar os seres humanos e de fazer emergir o “que têm em comum: o amor, o sofrimento e o exílio”.

Continuar a ler “O vírus da nossa humanidade”

The Outcomes of 2011

By George Joffé


In the midst of the generalised disappointment about the outcomes today of the Arab Awakening in January 2011, now a year short of a decade ago and at a time of profound political disruption in Algeria and incipient civil war in Libya, it may be worth asking what that outcome has really been.  One possibility, other than outright despair, might be, to echo Chou En Lai in his apparent response to the street protests in Paris in 1968, that it is still ‘too early to tell.’   After all, democratic transitions elsewhere have been imperfect and often long delayed, as the continent-wide experiences of 1848 in Europe – and more recent experiences in the twentieth century – have demonstrated.  Furthermore, authoritarian resilience appears to be more tenacious and sophisticated in exploiting its vested positions than was realised in 2011.   However, it is also the case that what we really mean by ‘democratic transition’ – the presumed outcome of those events nine years ago – is also not so obvious.

At its most banal, the phrase provides a label for the transformation, within the state, of the governance process from one dominated and exclusively controlled by an elite to one in which popular participation becomes the means by which that process is accepted as legitimate by the community to which it applies.  Yet, despite widespread received opinion, particularly in Europe and America, there is no single model that automatically qualifies as generating an inevitable outcome of such popular legitimacy.  Nor is it simply a matter of institutions, such as constitutions and parliaments, for the widespread experience of institutional failure in the post-colonial world throughout the past half-century has demonstrated their fragility.

After all, beyond the widely-accepted superficial meaning conventionally attributed to the phrase, it is only when an essential political culture underpins those institutions and invigorates them, thereby giving them meaning and purpose, that they become truly representative of popular aspirations.  But, as current experiences in Europe demonstrate, ‘culture’ is inherently problematic, impermanent and unpredictable; thus undermining De Tocqueville’s confidence in the ‘habits of hearts and mind’ on which he set such store.[i]  Positive outcomes of the events of 2011, then, could have guaranteed no teleological certainty of success at the time, let alone today, despite the confident assumptions of the participants.  Those could only result, instead, from a paradigmatic shift in social and political engagement, itself the slow, disjunctured iteration of past attempts at developing viable political cultures to inform democratic practice and institutions.  They demand, therefore, constant and conscious renewal before they can become internalised and, thereby, permanent – if, indeed, this is ever a realistic possibility.

Continuar a ler “The Outcomes of 2011”