Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

Heads, not hearts, must guide UK drug policy. We must decriminalise now.

16/12/2013, 09:17:20 AM

by Callum Anderson

The decision by the Uruguayan government to legalise the production, sale and consumption of marijuana – becoming the first country in the world to do so – has been widely reported in the media. With this in mind, how governments all over the world tackle drug use and drug addiction has been thrust back into the spotlight. Indeed, it is one of the most emotive and polarising issues in politics.

Many experts, including the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy have concluded that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ cannot be won. Indeed, I believe that the time has come for drug policy to be led by our policy makers’ heads, and not their hearts. Drug use and drug addiction must primarily be treated as a public health (and an economic) issue, not a criminal one.

It is an indisputable fact that drugs affect all of us, whether directly or indirectly. There are many of us, who have witnessed the stranglehold that drugs can have on an individual. It is, of course, a somewhat more painful experience if that individual is a relative, a friend or a partner. The seemingly unstoppable unravelling of ones life. The growing disconnection between the addiction and what really matters – family, work and friendship – is truly agonising.

In addition, there are indirect costs. Research by the Home Office has found that the economic and social costs of drug use are estimated to be around £15.4 billion a year in England and Wales alone, with drug related crime constituting 90 per cent. These facts are reflected in the Ministry of Justice’s figures, which show that the custody rate for drug offences have risen from 16.9 per cent in 1993, to 17.3 per cent in 2011, with the average custodial sentence rising from 28.3 months to 31.3 months in the same period. This has resulted in 14 per cent of prisoners being incarcerated due to drugs.

I do not deny that the case for decriminalisation is a tough sell to the British public: recent polling suggests the majority of people support the current law, which criminalises the sale, possession and use of drugs.

What then, does this all entail?

Well, let’s take a look at Portugal.

In 2001, the Portuguese (centre-left) government took the step of decriminalising the possession and use of drugs including cocaine and heroin. Instead of seeking to diminish use by punishing users, the new measures considered drugs illegal, but no longer treated drug consumption as a criminal offence. In addition, Portugal’s drugs reforms included a wide range of measures such as prevention and social education to discourage the use of drugs, as well as providing treatment for drug dependent people and assisting their reintegration into society.

So, what happened to drug usage rates in Portugal?


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Why the government is PIG ignorant on economics

06/03/2012, 02:12:07 PM

by Stuart Rodger

The world is transfixed by the Greek Tragedy unfolding before our eyes. It is increasingly clear for those on the left that what is being foisted upon the Greek people by the IMF, EU, and ECB as we speak is nothing less than a form of economic ‘shock therapy’: the labour markets must be ‘liberalised’, large public assets are to be sold off (at rock bottom prices), and banks are to be re-capitalised but maintain their “managerial independence”.

The Golden Dawn – Greece’s equivalent of the BNP – is on the verge of winning representation. In a recent Newsnight report, one unemployed, professional Greek citizen spoke of “civil war”. The place where democracy was born is turning out to be the place where democracy goes to die.

But far from being an irrelevant calamity at the other end of Europe, the economic crisis unfolding may have some important lessons for us – David Cameron et al, after all, routinely bring up the examples of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece as warning signals for what could happen to Britain should it not cut its way out of its deficit, with the price of debt spiralling up and growth stalling.

But a cursory reading of the news made me wonder if austerity is in fact exacerbating their problems, and is in fact the root cause of their problems in the first place.

So I decided to dig into the statistics to see if my theory was true. So, is David Cameron’s government PIG-ignorant? (see what I did there?). The following fiscal and growth statistics are all from the Eurostat and World Bank websites respectively, unless otherwise stated (measures of inflation have also been taken from the World Bank).

P is for Portugal. This country is important because it has been held up by David Cameron as his response to the Labour Party’s proposals to halve the deficit over the course of this parliament, rather than try to eliminate it entirely.

What policy did they follow? Initially, they increased spending moderately and the result was a moderate recovery. But in May 2011 they announced cuts to public spending and then, six months later, Portugal was reduced to “junk” status, with Eurostat estimating moderate contraction in 2011.

The lesson from Portugal is that spending brought recovery, and cuts promptly killed it off, worsening their debt problems. Crucially – punishment by the bond-markets came post-austerity. By citing Portugal, Cameron cites an economic experiment which proves him wrong.


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