The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 4 November 2015

Image: Alamy

Unsavoury situation

Should democratic leaders meet with dictators? British prime minister David Cameron will this week welcome Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to Downing Street, just a fortnight after the red carpet was rolled out for Chinese president Xi Jinping. Egyptian human-rights activists are understandably concerned: Cameron once tried to associate himself with the liberal activists of Tahrir Square yet now he’s making friends with the man who crushed the revolution. There is nothing wrong with engaging with regimes of which you disapprove; in fact, it’s vital if you want to persuade them to change. But the UK’s prioritisation of trade over human rights in China, and regional security over democracy in Egypt, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Image: iStock

Money troubles

Canada’s economic woes have deepened this week. A new report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that the economy swung from a surplus of 4.2 per cent of GDP to a deficit of 7.9 per cent in the past year. “There’s a big oil-shaped hole in our economy and nothing much has stepped in to fill it,” says Ari Altstedter, a Bloomberg reporter. “There was a lot of hope that as [the Canadian dollar] fell it would make our economy more competitive because our exports would be cheaper in the rest of the world. That hasn’t happened yet.” Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, takes up his post today; he needs to make diversifying the economy a priority.

Image: Alamy

Media moment

One of the world’s biggest private-equity firms has set its sights on Asia’s fragmented media sector: KKR is primed to spend €274m on building up stakes in Asian media and entertainment companies. Its new investment vehicle Emerald Media, a partnership with The Chernin Group, will have offices in Mumbai, Hong Kong and Singapore, conveniently stationed on the doorsteps of the region’s three largest populations: China, India and Indonesia. Despite huge audience potential, Asia’s emerging economies have so far struggled to produce media companies that match the size and scale of peers in the US and Europe. KKR is betting on a freshly minted middle class willing to spend disposable income on content.

Image: Alexander Matukhno

Embrace the music

Though Iceland was one of the hardest hit countries in the 2008 financial crisis, it has managed to climb out of a recession with some out-of-the-box moves. One tactic was prioritising the creative industries, including the country’s impressive music scene – and it’s paid off. The annual Iceland Airwaves music festival, which starts today in Reykjavík and features a mix of local and international acts, has been an economic boon to the country in recent years. Not long after last year’s festival, Ragnheiour Elin Arnadottir, Iceland’s minister of industry and commerce, credited Airwaves with further boosting another of the country’s most viable post-recession industries: tourism. By drawing thousands of foreign festival-goers in November, Airwaves extends Iceland’s typical tourist season and brings in more money.

From Monocle 24

Image: Iwaan Baan

Chicago Architecture Biennial

Monocle’s Lee Bey reports from the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. Named “The State of the Art of Architecture”, the three-month exposition started this October and features 60 installations and exhibitions by architects and designers from 30 countries.

From Monocle Films

Cosy Homes: Die Es, Cape Town

South African architects Gawie and Gwen Fagan designed and built their family home on a dramatic spot between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. Die Es is an ode to vernacular architecture with a difference. To celebrate the publication of The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, Monocle films explores the sculpted forms, palpable materiality and harmony with nature that make this eclectic residence stand out.

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