A carta de Intenções do FMI

 Does the next Portuguese government will meet the conditions it signed with the troika?

Groucho Marx: Now pay particular attention to this first clause, because it's most important. There's the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part. How do you like that, that's pretty neat eh?

Chico Marx: No, that's no good.

Groucho Marx: What's the matter with it?

Chico Marx: I don't know, let's hear it again.

Groucho Marx: So the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.

Chico Marx: Well it sounds a little better this time.

Groucho Marx: Well, it grows on you. Would you like to hear it once more?

Chico Marx: Just the first part.

Groucho Marx: What do you mean, the party of the first part?

Chico Marx: No, the first part of the party, of the first part.

Groucho Marx: All right. It says the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part, shall be known in this contract - look, why should we quarrel about a thing like this, we'll take it right out, eh?

Chico Marx: Yes, it's too long anyhow. Now what have we got left?

Groucho Marx: Well I've got about a foot and a half.

Ashley Crossland: Contracts: we love them, even when we don't understand them. Governments love them for doing as much as possible of what governments used to do. Contracts have a whiff of simplicity about them: two parties coming together to negotiate an agreement as free agents. And if one party doesn't keep their side of the bargain, well you just take them to court. What could be easier?

Groucho Marx: Now what's the matter?

Chico Marx: I don't like the second party either.

Groucho Marx: Well, you should have come to the first party, we didn't get home till around four in the morning. I was blind for three days.

Chico Marx: Hey look, why can't the first part of the second party be the second part of the first party, then you'll get something.

Groucho Marx: Well look, rather than go through all that again, what do you say?

Chico Marx: Fine.

Groucho Marx: Now I've got something here you're bound to like, you'll be crazy about it.

Chico Marx: No, I don't like it.

Groucho Marx: You don't like what?

Chico Marx: Whatever it is, I don't like it.

Groucho Marx: Well don't let's break up an old friendship over a thing like that. Ready?

Chico Marx: OK. Now the next part I don't think you're going to like.

Groucho Marx: Well your word's good enough for me. Now then, is my word good enough for you?

Chico Marx: I should say not.

Groucho Marx: Well I'll take out two more clauses. Now the party of the eighth part --

Chico Marx: No, that's no good, no.

Groucho Marx: The party of the ninth part --

Chico Marx: No, that's no good too. Hey, how is it my contract is skinnier than yours?

Groucho Marx: Well, I don't know, you must have been out on a tail last night. But anyhow, we're all set now, are we? Now just you put your name right down there, then the deal is legal.

Chico Marx: I forgot to tell you, I can't write.

Groucho Marx: Well that's all right, there's no ink in the pen anyhow. But listen, it's a contract isn't it? We've got a contract, no matter how small it is.

Chico Marx: Oh sure. You bet.

Ashley Crossland: Or how small the contractor is. Even five-year-olds these days are signing contracts with their teachers about behaviour in class. Background Briefing today peruses some Marx Bros style legal agreements, and manages to keep a straight face. Hello, I'm Ashley Crossland.

While there are no 'parties of the ninth part', you'll learn to negotiate a maze of legalese and lawyerly subtlety. Phrases like 'privity of contract' and 'private job service provider'. But you don't have to be a QC to listen, and you don't have to be a High Court Judge to understand what's going on. When government signs a contract to provide you with a service, you're more often than not cut out of the legal loop. And as you'll hear today, the contracts which governments sign are often so full of legal uncertainty that no-one, least of all the policy makers, know what powers private contractors wield, or whose job it is to find out.


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