The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 13 April 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Royal welcome

What is the future of the Commonwealth? New Zealand, for one, is happy with the status quo.

With the five-day Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting set to kick off on Monday in London, one of the major questions on the minds of many attendees will be what the future holds for the organisation. With current head, Queen Elizabeth, turning 92 this year, will republican rumblings grow louder? We put the question to New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern when we sat down with her for the new issue of Monocle (on newsstands next week). Though the popular PM, who is set to fly to Europe for the meeting, has previously questioned the monarch’s role as NZ’s head of state, she says a referendum isn’t on the cards. “It’s not something I intend to pursue,” she told us when we met her in her Auckland home. “Not one voter asked me about becoming a republic during the election so it’s much more of interest to the Australian public.” So while there won’t be a fight from the Kiwis, the British monarchy might want to consider boosting support among the less loyal Aussies.

Infrastructure

Image: Alamy

Bridge too far?

A project that’s supposed to link Hong Kong with Macau and the Chinese city of Zhuhai seems to be having the opposite effect.

Building bridges isn’t easy, literally or figuratively. The plan to connect Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai with a bridge and tunnel is facing its latest mishap after a litany of problems. The building of the 55km structure has already seen delays and overrunning costs, as well as worker-safety scandals. Now amateur footage of a Chinese-built artificial island – which forms part of the structure – has sparked a fresh row. Hong Kong officials have raised concerns about what appears to be shoddy construction at the edge of the island, where haphazardly placed bollards can be seen. Has this created a weak spot in the tunnel? No, according to mainland authorities. The seemingly random scattering of concrete blocks is simply “our way of doing it”, said one Chinese official. The argument shows that the partners are drifting apart.

Society

Image: Getty Images

Money matters

Cash or card? No contest if you live in Japan but will its citizens stop splashing the cash and embrace contactless?

In Japan, cash rules. In shops and restaurants you are more likely to see people paying with wads of notes than with the tap of a card or phone. Is it the low crime rate that makes people so comfortable with cash? Perhaps. But it is also the slow adoption of digital payments, which means many customers have to suffer jangling pockets, misshapen trouser legs and weighty handbags. But not for much longer, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It has set itself the goal of making 40 per cent of all transactions in the country cashless by 2025, eventually increasing to 80 per cent. But it has its work cut out: as it stands fewer than one in five payments nationwide are completed using a credit card, debit card or e-money. And the transition may not come soon enough for Tokyo, where businesses would benefit from going digital in advance of the Olympic games in 2020. One thing is for certain: going cashless is no small change for Japan.

Property

Image: Alamy

Calling shotgun

Miami bucks a distressing US trend by safeguarding some culturally significant buildings – but is it enough?

When it comes to tearing down places of historical significance to erect shiny new buildings, the war between culture and commerce is often won by property developers in the US – but not always. Miami has just announced plans to protect about 50 so-called “shotgun” bungalows and wooden homes, which were built between 1911 and 1941. At a glance the unassuming wood-frame huts in west Coconut Grove resemble toolsheds but they are actually fast-vanishing examples of Bahamian and American Southern culture. The move is refreshing but will it slow the rapid gentrification that is pricing out longstanding residents of the neighbourhood?

From Monocle 24

Image: Getty Images

Spotlight: Cape Town

The Urbanist

A reduction in water usage has seen Day Zero pushed back until next year but as Monocle 24 contributor Gavin Fischer has been finding out, the future of the city’s water supply remains far from certain.

From Monocle Films

The Monocle Travel Guide Series: Sydney

Sydney is a coastal crowd-pleaser that has long lured travellers to its shores and our 148-page hardback guide contains plenty of reasons to unpack your bags, settle in and linger a while. Published by Gestalten, it is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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