Pakistan excepted, the world’s most humiliated governments are those of the debt-stricken outliers of the European Union. Some have had bailouts they can’t afford to pay back while German taxpayers resent lending them the money in the first place.
This has led to a continuing series of standoffs that has destabilised world financial markets for the past year and can be blamed for rising oil prices and other economic ills we like to blame on foreigners.
The Greeks, Irish, Portuguese and Spaniards are not much different; they also like to blame their banking ills on the profligate German bankers that lent property developers too much money when they didn’t need it and now want it back when they no longer have any.
Most disastrous was Ireland, where the government and its central bank provided guarantees for both depositors and lenders that could lead to the Irish people facing a collective debt as high as €250 billion (a quarter of a trillion) by 2014.
The estimate is that of University College Dublin economist Morgan Kelly, a man known as “Dr Doom” and who, contrary to impression, says little over time and gives few interviews. But when he does occasionally speak out, as he did last weekend, everyone takes notice. The result was this op-ed in the Irish Times, a brilliant exposé of the bank guarantee scheme and the bailout negotiations.
Mr Kelly urges a solution that he knows politically won’t work: to “walk away from the bailout” and let the lenders take their losses. Just as Iceland has done. Once the lenders have been cut loose, and take their losses, a country is on its own; just like a company that goes into receivership.
Of course, Mr Kelly’s plan is not without its drawbacks, as it requires an immediate cut in the government deficit and borrowing. It’s as if next week’s New Zealand budget did not borrow $16 billion and instead suspended suffiicient state servants' salaries and other entitlements for a period. But, as Mr Kelly says,
...it sends a signal to the rest of the world that Ireland – which 20 years ago showed how a small country could drag itself out of poverty through the energy and hard work of its inhabitants, but has since fallen among thieves and their political fixers – is back and means business.
Voters say No
Humiliation has also been heaped on the UK’s Liberal Democrats, the centrist party that pushed for electoral reform and the abolition of the first-past-the-post system on the basis that it would give them a permanent role in government.
They already have it as the junior coalition partner in the Conservative-led government of David Cameron, who campaigned against change in the referendum, which was about a switch to AV (alternative or preference voting).
This system, as commonsense tells you, results in the least objectionable candidate coming through, as happened in the Wellington mayoralty.
The Daily Telegraph has applied mathematician Edmund Harriss' model, which uses assumptions for people’s second and third voting preferences, to the 2010 election. The outcome would have reversed the actual result under first-past-the-post, the Telegraph says...
…the Liberal Democrats would have won 60% more seats than they currently hold. The Conservative Party would have lost nearly 20% of their seats, with Labour gaining 9%, putting them above the Conservatives, but still short of an overall majority. The increase in Labour and Liberal Democrat seats would have made a Lab-Lib coalition in 2010 much more likely.
But British voters didn’t want a bar of it and firmly rejected AV by a majority of two to one. Supporters of MMP, which comes up for a review in a referendum at the end of this year, said the British weren’t offered a fair choice. Their point is that MMP offers a truly proportional result, with each vote counting toward a party’s representation; not just the choice of a majority government, which preferential voting and FPP usually deliver.
This is the point: MMP is aimed at giving small parties the balance of power and offers no choice of a majority government. Other voting systems do. That is what the MMP referendum is about – not that you are likely to hear about it.
Kiwis can do at Cannes
The heyday of New Zealanders kicking up large at the Cannes film festival are long over. This year, the NZ Film Commission is again staging a token presence, even as it is now becoming a part-funder of overseas productions.
Tracker is one of them and has drawn criticism for playing it fast and loose with this country’s geography and a lacklustre script (I haven’t seen it yet). A forthcoming one is The Devil’s Rock, a World War II horror film set in the Channel Islands and directed by Paul Campion.
This will be the commission’s single feature on display at Cannes (but not on the official programme). The synopsis says it is about two Kiwi commandos, who are sent to destroy German gun emplacements on the eve of D-Day to distract attention from the Normandy landings. They “discover a Nazi occult plot to unleash demonic forces to win the war.”
The commission is also co-developing a project with Welsh writer Jeff Murphy on a film called Moifaa, a New Zealand-bred horse that won the 1904 Grand National at Aintree, near Liverpool, by eight lengths and was later bought by King Edward VII. According to Wikipedia, a popular myth has developed that Moifaa...
...had been thought lost when the ship transporting him to England was shipwrecked. The horse is supposed to have swum a distance, in some extreme version of the story, up to 25 miles to make it to the Irish coast where he was found days later. The shipwreck did happen, but to a horse by the name of Kiora…
Meanwhile, an enterprising Kiwi film company, headed by producer-writer Lance Morcan in Tauranga, says the first low-budget feature made by Aucklander Amanda Phillips, Desired, which will screen at the Cannes Marche Du Film on May 17. She will also be pitching her next film in association with Morcan, Silent Fear, described as a claustrophobic thriller set in a university for the deaf.
Cannes remains the world’s premier film market with some 10,000 participants and 1500 screenings.
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw has surveyed the past decade’s Palme d’or winners for films in competition and finds only four them were deserving. They include last year’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives from Thailand, a barely watchable film that was far eclipsed by Of Gods and Men, which admittedly Mr Bradshaw said was an equal “should have won.” (Both screened here at the 2011 World Cinema Showcase.)
For the record, Mr Bradshaw picks Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room (2001) as the "Palme of Palme" winner of the decade. It was last seen here on TV3 at 12.45am in 2008. I’d say try and get it from a DVD store as no local online supplier has it.