Thursday 19 May 2016 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 19/5/2016

The Monocle Minute

Image: PA Images

Formation flying

Asia has seen a proliferation of budget airlines in recent years, some of them struggling, but there are signs that consolidation might be in the offing. On Monday a new low-cost carrier coalition called the Value Alliance was announced. With eight members – including Japan’s Vanilla Air, Tigerair Australia and Nok Airlines from Thailand – the group plans to allow customers to make bookings across different airlines in one go. Between them the alliance members fly to more than 160 destinations with 176 aircraft. Although Singapore Airlines’ Scoot is a member, some of the biggest LCC players in the region – such as Air Asia and Jetstar – have not joined up and scepticism has been raised about how much these small airlines can achieve, even together. There are rumours that with survival a challenge in the competitive LCC market, mergers are likely to follow.

Image: Martin Westlake

Blue cards good, red cards bad

In a strangely Orwellian move for laidback Indonesia, Bandung’s citizens may soon be graded based on their “social performance”. Community-minded citizens who attend town meetings or engage in volunteer work will receive blue scorecards, while tardy taxpayers or owners of messy house-fronts will get red ones, though no penalty is set to accompany it. This is all part of starchitect-turned-mayor Ridwan Kamil’s integrated citizen-tracking initiative, which aims to transform Indonesia’s third-largest city into an innovation leader, where its development can be monitored by the local government. The mayor’s clean-up also serves to sieve out terrorist cells and drug dens that he believes fester in antisocial settings. While the programme does seem a tad confronting, Kamil’s intention to encourage grassroots participation in city-building in a resource-poor area is commendable.

Image: Rick Madonik/Getty Images

Dutch courage

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has long been a department-store powerhouse in Canada and now the company has revealed that it will be expanding further afield. This week it announced plans to open more than a dozen new shops in the Netherlands over the next two years. The new outposts will consist of three Saks Off 5th stores, also owned by HBC, and 17 Hudson’s Bay Company shops, including a flagship on the Rokin thoroughfare of Amsterdam. The company has plans to spend almost CA$1.5bn (€1bn) on European properties over the next few years, with money going into renovations of the Galeria Kaufhof department stores, which HBC bought in Germany and Belgium last year, and into a potential expansion into Luxembourg.

Image: Rama Knight

Sunny outlook?

Like most other cities in the Gulf, Abu Dhabi is yet to fully deliver the mass solar rollout that makes sense considering its unrelenting sunshine. Yet Abu Dhabi’s MIT-partnered Masdar Institute of Science and Technology has been building renewables across the Pacific, with 11 projects now in place funded by a UAE government grant of €44m. From cyclone-proof wind farms in Samoa to solar PV plants in Palau, this extensive building regimen is already feeding power to their respective grids and is part of the UAE-Pacific Partnership, with a remit to push renewables across the region. It’s a clever spot of soft power in a distant land but the petrol-powered Gulf should keep in mind that there's plenty of work still to be done closer to home.

Clean tech in Tunisia

Two friends in Tunisia have invented a radical clean-energy device that’s named after the ancient Carthaginian god of wind and looks like a dancing rice bowl. Our correspondent in Tunis puts on her windbreaker to tell the story of Saphon Energy.

Boat-builders of Bodrum

Monocle takes a trip to Turkey's Bodrum shipyards to watch the century-old skills that are still right at the heart of the peninsula's revered boat-making businesses.


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