Monocle goes island-hopping this month and visits Iceland, Curaçao and Guam. Remote they may be, but they’re not to be overlooked, as they stretch their business muscles and raise their strategic voices.
You might notice that our April editorial line-up is a little more adrift than usual as we’ve dispatched correspondents and photographers to some of the world’s more remote islands to look at how they’re faring in choppy economic and political waters. A little over a year ago, we sent our Ann Marie Gardner to the streets of Reykjavík to get a live take on how the country was dealing with the worst economic and political crisis in its history. Fourteen months on, Gardner returned to talk to the new prime minister, some of the people she met when the nation was thrashing about in its darkest hour and a new group of players who are trying to bring their countrymen back down to earth.
Our man in Washington, Sasha Issenberg, landed a more seasonally sympathetic assignment when we packed him off to the Caribbean to report on how various Dutch outposts see their future – sandwiched between the opportunities of North and South America while being economically and emotionally detached from their masters in the Netherlands. In Curaçao he found a youthful exuberance as the island grapples with the challenges and benefits that greater autonomy will give the leadership in Willemstad.
And finally, Danielle Demetriou, our Tokyo correspondent, got the best assignment of all when she boarded a Continental Micronesia flight for Guam to look at how this speck in the Pacific is bracing itself for the arrival of a massive deployment of US troops who’ll relocate from Japan in 2014. All over the island developers, contractors and entrepreneurs are laying foundations, signing contracts and brokering deals to ensure they’re fully prepared to exploit the boom that will come with thousands of fresh boots on the grounds – and hopefully a fresh wave of Chinese and Russian tourists in flip-flops too.
While each territory has its own set of challenges and unique opportunities, all offer a certain sense of promise that comes with their manageable scale and unique positions between continents. In Iceland there’s talk of positioning the island as a “wellness” nation that will use its geothermal assets. In Curaçao there are myriad possibilities to be everything from a trading floor for Latin American businesses to a financial refuge for nervous Venezuelans. And on Guam, where the Japanese treat the island like a big, bobbing duty-free store, there’s a chance to diversify the economy and bolster its strategic position on the doorstep of Asia.
As we send this issue off to press things are warming up in the seas around the Falkland Islands (see issue 21) as a British company starts to drill for oil and Newfoundland (see issue 31) has engaged one of the world’s leading national branding experts to help it properly position itself as a viable economy at the extreme end of North America.
Island life may not be for everybody but for the tiny land masses profiled in this issue, and many more, there’s ample scope to remind the world why small is beautiful, location is everything and privacy (read: remote) is increasingly one of life’s greatest luxuries.