The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 28 April 2016

Image: Getty Images

Argie bargie

Argentina’s brand has arguably been tainted of late. More than a decade of leftist, populist rule under the Kirchner clan has meant a defiant stance when it comes to engaging the international community and settling a scrap with US creditors dating back to the South American nation’s 2001 mega-default. Now, with business-friendly president Mauricio Macri in power – and a deal reached with holdout investors – Argentina has slipped into full-scale wooing mode. Last week a series of talks called “Argentina in the World” was organised by the Americas Society, headquartered in New York’s Upper East Side, in a bid to convince US business leaders to invest. Addressing attendees, Susana Malcorra – the country’s foreign minister and formerly Ban Ki-moon’s chef de cabinet – stressed that the past was fixed. “Now we have to build the future,” she added.

Image: Tan Hai Han

Tricky tourism

Singapore’s government has given its tourism industry a boost with a recently announced €458m injection. As regional competition heats up, the city-state must strive to charm bodies away from Balinese beaches and well-heeled shoppers from Bangkok’s beautifully sculpted malls. Last year tourism spending in Singapore fell by an estimated 6.8 per cent – the first drop since 2009. For a young nation, defining an authentic and globally marketable vision is tricky. While the government will make shrewd moves with its spending, like pumping money into the high-growth cruise industry, we hope to see some nurturing of unique cultural and F&B endeavours too. A good examples is the music and food-talent cultivators Timbre Group, as the brand continues to open exciting concept venues in unusual locations, throwing some spice into Singapore’s tourism offering.

Image: Eitenne Tordoir

Remember the name

It may be commonly associated with glitzy resorts and turquoise waters but every April the French Riviera transforms into a playground for budding fashion stars. The Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, Europe’s oldest competition for up-and-coming designers, is staged in a mansion in the hills above Hyéres. Now in its 31st year, it boasts €15,000 in prize money and a winner’s roll-call that includes new Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello, Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf and now Japanese menswear designer Wataru Tominaga, who took home the 2016 grand prize for his colourful creations. Prestigious competitions often spark debate about whether fashion contests are a good thing, with some arguing that they are removed from the realities of running a label and are consequently unhelpful. While there is some merit in this thinking, surely it is outweighed by the value of competitions in shining a spotlight on young talent. This week, for instance, we all learnt Tominaga’s name; that must count for something.

Image: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

Law and order

Litigious times lie ahead for the Japanese government, which is now facing lawsuits from more than 700 people over its controversial new security laws. The plaintiffs – 500 in Tokyo and another 200 in Fukushima prefecture – are arguing that the new laws violate the country’s pacifist constitution. (The legislation stipulates that the country can use force to defend allies, even if Japan itself isn’t attacked.) Shinzo Abe’s government opted to “reinterpret” the constitution to expand the role of the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) rather than try for a wholesale revision, which would have been more difficult to get through the National Diet. The first of the lawsuits, part of a nationwide campaign planned by legal experts and opponents of the legislation, were filed this week. The scope of the suits varies: some are looking for damages, others are trying to prevent the deployment of the JSDF. All are united in trying to protect Article 9, the war-renouncing clause in the Japanese constitution.

Image: Patrick Wack

Perkier profits in China

Chinese industrial profits climbed 11.1 per cent year on year in March versus 4.7 per cent in the January to February period. Growth in the first quarter was led by companies in the chemical industry (up 20.8 per cent y/y) and agriculture and food-processing industry (up 12.1 per cent y/y). CIO expects China's GDP to grow 6.6 per cent in 2016 and 6.3 per cent in 2017, and prefers “new economy” equity sectors with structural growth over indebted “old economy” sectors.

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