Un Coup de Des
“Le Monde.” Mercredi. 16 Novembre. 2011
One alarm follows another in the markets. On Monday the 14 November, the spectre of catastrophe in
Italy and Greece only just having been averted with the departure of Silvio Belusconi from the Italian
government and the arrival of a new prime minister in Athens, investors immediately began to speculate
about a Spanish collapse.
Marking this concern, returns on Spanish ten year bonds reached a new high on Tuesday morning, at more
than 6 . 2 %, they differed by 4 . 44 percentage points from German bonds, at 1 . 75 %, which represents a
record variation in the history of the Euro zone.
“Europe has sacrificed two democratically elected governments, but still it is not enough.” “El Pais”(the
Spanish daily broadsheet) remarked on Tuesday.
The nervousness of investors over Madrid reflects a more widespread insecurity.
“Until the European Central Bank (ECB) agrees to underwrite government debt, the markets will penalize
weaker countries,” said Gilles Moe c, an economist at Deutsche Bank. However, despite efforts to reduce its
debt, Spain remains in the danger zone. According to experts the Madrid administration is likely to run out
of cash soon.
Are they right? For Fernando Fernandez, economist at the IE business school in Madrid, it is clear that the
country cannot fulfil its commitments: according to his calculations the deficit that is supposed to drop to
6 % of GDP this year, from 9 . 2 % in 2010 , is more likely to climb to 7 . 5 %. Although his forecast may be more
pessimistic than those of his peers at Deutsche Bank, UBS or Oddo, who all predict a deficit between 6 . 6 &
7 % of GDP, they all agree that, due to varying factors, Spain won’t get back on track easily.
With only a few days until the general elections on the 20 th November, even the prospect of seeing a new
right wing government emerge with the clear majority it needs to implement necessary reforms isn’t
enough to tilt the balance.
Growth, the essential tool to clear up debt, isn’t on the cards. This is partly due to austerity measures
within Spain, but also because of the generally sluggish economic situation in Europe.
“Between June and September the Spanish economy has stalled, and it can only get worse” advises Sr.
Fernandez. Whilst unemployment (already at nearly 22 % of the active population) rises dramatically, the
country will sink into recession by the end of 2011 , or the beginning of 2012 . The scale of the downturn
remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: the projected GDP growth of 1 . 3 % for this year and 2 . 3 % in
2012 that the state posits is not realistic. The European commission has itself placed Spanish growth at,
barely, 0 . 7 % for each of these years.
Off the Tracks.
The Popular Party (PP) which is fully expected to prevail on the 20 th , has promised to act: increase austerity
measures, accelerate employment reforms, clean up the Spanish financial sector which is saturated with
toxic loans… But Mariano Rajoy & his team are going to come up against one notable obstacle: how to get
the regional authorities back into solvency?
Already, by midyear, three quarters of them had already overspent. Altogether, the total deficit of the
seventeen “Autonomias” represented 1 . 2 % of GDP by the end of June, against an intended target of 1 . 3 %
for the end of the year. This means that their deficit will surpass 2 . 2 % or 2 . 6 % by the end of the year,
according to the experts at UBS.
In the short term this detour may seem containable but certain regions, such as Catalonia, which
represents almost 20 % of the Spanish Economy; Valencia, or Andalusia, seem to be on a downward slope.
Partly responsible for healthcare & education financing, these autonomous regions profited enormously
from taxing the construction sector during the building boom. “They blew the proceeds, thinking that it was
going to last forever,” explains Sr. Fernandez. Once the construction bubble burst their revenue dried up.
To avoid history repeating itself, “the economic & financial relationship between the regions & the central
government will have to be modified.” Sr. Fernandez concludes; a challenge for Spain & an added worry for
the euro zone. Yet another one…
[…] postconsumerist la decroissance economique edactaLa Tesis de EnriMallarme […]
All prospective parents are concerned over the possibility of their child being handicapped and society tends to seek to reduce the occurrence of birth defects. Maternity is increasingly monitored with high-tec instruments: the home birth without access to the operating theatre or anaesthetic is actively discouraged by the health service, although it was the norm less than a century ago. Embryo selection, and the elimination of abnormal foetuses have become acceptable processes.
It seems that we are already applying eugenic principles without having realised it. Down’s syndrome is about to be eradicated: 97% of affected foetuses are terminated. It would indeed be difficult for any parent to resist the social pressure to eradicate this handicap. Until now, genetic procedures have only been able to spot a handful of abnormalities, however the complete decoding of the embryo’s genetic code, that is the three million pairs of complementary chemical bases that make up its genetic identity, will radically change the game. From now on it is possible to realise a complete genetic analysis of the foetus simply by giving the mother a blood test: with no need for an amniotic fluid test.
One of the final restraints on the acceptance of prenatal testing, the fear of miscarriage which follows in between 0.5 and 1% of cases after amniocentesis, has been removed! A powerful computer program, perfected by professor Dennis Lo, specialist in genetic abnormality at the University of Hong Kong, can distinguish the DNA sequence of the unborn child from that of the mother. Thanks to the drop in the cost of DNA sequencing, divided by three million in nine years, this technology will become widespread before 2020. Thousands of illnesses could be systematically screened for during pregnancy without any risk to the child.
In thirty years we have almost eradicated Down’s syndrome, despite the fact that those affected are pacific, have a normal life expectancy, and do not suffer. Why would we not do the same with other abnormalities? Politically, how can we dissuade prospective parents from preferring “beautiful and gifted children”; given that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a matter of choice, whatever the condition of the foetus, and that abortion in the case of mental handicap (with Downs at the top of the list) is legal, socially acceptable and encouraged by the administration?
Will we continue further: from the prevention of the worst to the selection of the child? It is a short step that will be blithely taken. Soon parents will be offered the option of a designer child. If pre-natal testing permits us to root out abnormalities, aborting the foetuses that present malformations, pre-implant testing enables us to select “the best.” The testing of embryos obtained by artifical fertilization will easily meet with the approval of the parents given that this would signify the end of any risks associated with the process. Morally it is easier to terminate an embryo that is still in the test-tube than it is to abort a foetus from the womb. The return of eugenics is an ethical and political time bomb, which has passed unnoticed. Which is why neither M. Holland or M. Sarkozy have ever referred to the subject of DNA sequencing.
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