The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 4 December 2017

Business

Image: Getty Images

Electric dreams

Argentina’s electric goods are about to get cheaper as the president goes for popularity not protectionism.

Argentineans have long grumbled about how expensive the country’s electronic goods are. Indeed, they often go to extraordinary lengths to get hold of the latest models from the US or tax-free Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. But now president Mauricio Macri is seeking to undo protectionist policies put in place by his predecessor, who had used the measures to try and stimulate a technology hub in the southern region of Tierra del Fuego. While domestically assembled goods will still have an advantage for now, Macri is gradually reducing the import taxes on electronics from 10.5 per cent to nothing by 2024. It’s a move that has just a whiff of populism to it – but it’s a welcome Christmas present for Argentineans nonetheless.

Society

Diary clash

In Japan, the pressure is on to avoid being late for an important date: the coronation of a new monarch will result in a whole lot of admin.

The Japanese government has announced that Emperor Akihito’s abdication will take place on 30 April 2019 as it sets in motion preparations for the coronation of the new monarch. With a new emperor on the Chrysanthemum Throne – Akihito’s 57-year-old first-born son, Crown Prince Naruhito – comes a new imperial era. Since 1989, when Akihito succeeded his father, every year of the imperial calendar, called gengo, has been counted as Heisei (“achieving peace”). For example: 2017 is Heisei 29. It’s written that way on some official records, from birth and marriage certificates to drivers’ licences and tax forms. Trouble is, the government won’t announce the name of Naruhito's reign until a few months before the transition takes place. When it’s unveiled, printing companies and IT staff will be racing against the clock to update documents and computer systems by 1 May 2019.

Retail

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Day of rest

The plan for Poland’s shops to close on Sundays looks like a done deal – but is the country selling itself short?

Although consumer spending has fuelled economic growth in eastern Europe since the fall of Communism, shops are preparing to shut their doors on Sundays in Poland, the region’s largest economy. Polish lawmakers have just approved a bill to gradually phase out shopping on the seventh day by 2020. The reason? The governing conservative Law and Justice party is closely aligned to the powerful Roman Catholic Church which has been advocating the move for religious reasons. The trade unions support it, saying that it would allow workers to spend more time with their families. But critics argue that the shopping restrictions would eliminate thousands of jobs and curtail cross-border shopping from Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia. The good news? Small independent shops and bakeries will be allowed to stay open, so at least Poland's high streets won’t be entirely deserted.

Architecture

Image: Getty Images

Building a nation

Thailand has put in a towering display as awards for architecture are handed out in Hong Kong.

International designers are flying into Hong Kong this week for Business of Design Week and the related Design for Asia awards. Italy is the partner for the 16th annual event, organised by the Hong Kong Design Centre, but when it comes time to hand out the silverware it will be Thailand in the spotlight. Open House – a huge open-plan bookshop and food hall at the top of the Thai capital’s Central Embassy mall – has won one of nine grand awards, alongside The Thailand Creative and Design Centre’s headquarters in Bangkok’s old post office. The lifetime achievement award goes to Adrian Zecha, who established the Aman hotel group 30 years ago this month on the Thai island of Phuket. The Indonesian hotelier may be 84 but he is not yet done with shaking up the Asian hospitality sector (find out more in The Forecast, on shelves 14 December).

From Monocle 24

100 Years of Finland Part 1: Pajtim Statovci

Meet The Writers

As Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, we have the first of two programmes with a special focus on the country’s literary scene. Georgina Godwin talks to Pajtim Statovci about his debut book ‘My Cat Yugoslavia’ and David Hackston – the man that translated it.

From Monocle Films

Maach Ecute

Maach Ecute is a novel retail experience in a 102-year-old former train station in Tokyo. We pay a visit to see how old infrastructure can be repurposed to improve urban life.

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