João Pedro Santos: It is essential to be capable of educating and holding both journalists and politicians accountable, ensuring that a separation between both spheres remains in place. In Portugal, the pressure exerted by politicians on journalists is all too evident, leading to a decrease in press freedom and the consequent lack of transparency in journalism. Our society requires free and independent media outlets willing to hold power accountable, beyond ideologies and agendas.
Manuel Serrano: Portugal has the sixth-highest level of inequality in the European Union, according to Eurostat. Do you think we are doing enough to tackle this issue? Do you believe initiatives such as yours could raise awareness about economic issues beyond deficits and surpluses?
João Pedro Santos: The first step to combat inequality is to understand it. Accordingly, promoting knowledge of economic phenomena is the first step to enable the population to understand how economic laws behave, how and why inequities are generated, and how equity and social balance can be promoted. The best way to reduce inequities is to provide decent opportunities for education and training for young people, championing social mobility through knowledge.
Manuel Serrano: Economics is often perceived as authoritarian. It tends to explain way differences, ignore culture, and champion reductionism. Can initiatives such as the Economics Olympiad bridge the gap between economist and ordinary citizens? What have you learned from previous editions?
João Pedro Santos: The experience of the first six editions is incredibly positive. We try to get young people to think about economic phenomena and not to accept them dogmatically. The choice of topics such as the Social Economy or the Economy of Happiness is beneficial for this purpose, as young people are encouraged to see the world from a distinct perspective. We have had positive feedback from the participants, and even today, some of the first participants are still involved in the project.
Manuel Serrano: Are economists prepared to address issues such as inequality, globalisation and find more efficient ways to tackle climate change? Are economic curriculums adapted to our times? Some argue that we need new journalists and politicians to address the problems we face today. Do we need new economists too?
João Pedro Santos: Definitely, we need new economists. Economics education is still adjusted to the reality of the Industrial Revolution, believing that Labour and Capital behave similarly, and that the growth of production is the sole objective of society. Today, it makes no sense to continue to think about the economy as we did 200 years ago. For that, we undoubtedly need new politicians and new journalists, but also new teachers. The transformation of the educative system is fundamental to understand that the current logic does not make sense anymore. We believe that this change, although slow, is already taking place.
Manuel Serrano: initiatives such as yours argue that we need to increase economic literacy to empower citizens to take part in a debate about our collective future. Nonetheless, this year’s International Economics Olympiad will take place in Kazakhstan, hardly a democratic and free state. Isn’t it troublesome to champion a debate about a better future for our societies in a country that does not seem interested in empowering its citizens?Print