The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 5 June 2018

Aviation

Image: Getty Images

Maintaining altitude

The threat of a trade war may have brought the aviation industry down but it hasn’t crash-landed quite yet.

Leaders of the global aviation industry swooped into Sydney this week for the 74th International Air Transport Association’s annual general meeting, which concluded today. The trade association’s 290 member airlines – which make up 82 per cent of total air traffic, are worth $2.7trn (€2.3trn) and support 63 million jobs – discussed challenges and opportunities in the sector. Despite more immediate problems such as reduced forecasted profits this year due to rising and labour costs, it seems that wider concerns were less economic than political. The shadow of a potential trade war sparked by recent US tariffs has rattled the industry, which flies a third of the value of goods traded globally. Conversations over aviation’s future evolution were more buoyant, however, surrounding more cheery topics of the numerous opportunities created by new technology, from artificial intelligence to self-service options in passenger journeys.

Defence

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Mayday, mayday

With Beijing blustering, Taiwan is hoping to turn American good will into action to improve its air defences.

Taiwan began its annual war games yesterday by simulating a surprise Chinese invasion on its coast. But the weeklong show of military force quickly took a wrong turn when an F16 fighter jet went missing, disappearing from the radar over mountains in the northeast of the country. The incident will place renewed attention on the island’s ageing air defences and its ongoing struggle to acquire newer F35 planes from the US, a deal that has been held up for years by Chinese objections. As Beijing rolls out state-of-the-art stealth fighters and ratchets up its diplomatic blockade of Taiwan, the island’s under fire president Tsai Ing-wen received an unexpected boost last week when two prominent Republican senators changed their travel plans to visit Taipei and express US support. But with mid-term elections due in Taiwan in November, Tsai will be hoping these friendly words can turn into action on the arms front – and fast.

Infrastructure

Image: Getty Images

Shock to the system?

The Indian government is pleased with its progress but should it be a little more cautious with its boasting?

India has been imposing sweeping nationwide reforms to bring basic infrastructure and technology to its 1.3 billion residents. One of the major undertakings is the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana road-building project, which last week secured a further $500m (€428) of funding from the World Bank, on top of the $1.8bn (€1.5bn) it has invested since 2004. The project has done enormous good, creating 35,000km worth of roads to the benefit of about eight million people. But is it really the revolutionary, national reform that the government is making it out to be or is it just a drop in the ocean? If the past is anything to go by, it may be the latter. In April prime minister Narendra Modi claimed that every village in the country had been provided with electricity, following a three-year undertaking. But it came to light that only 10 per cent of households in a village had to be connected to the grid for it to be considered “fully electrified”. Ironically, the village of Ghes in Uttarakhand has high-speed wi-fi but no electricity to make use of it.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Distinct lack of harmony

In response to a decrease in volume, Japan’s karaoke venues are having to sing for their supper.

People who enjoy being locked in an airless room and subjected to amateur singing over canned instrumentals will be saddened to hear that Japan, the crucible of karaoke, is turning away from its favourite evening pursuit. Since its invention in the early 1970s, the market for karaoke has boomed in Japan and abroad. However, figures show that revenue is sliding and the number of Japanese venues in which you can drop in and exhibit your vocal range is decreasing. According to a report by the Karaoke Industrialist Association, the pastime is failing to attract younger audiences and is fast becoming the preserve of the old. Some companies are trying to innovate around this problem. For instance, Koshidaka Holdings has launched hitori karaoke, a phone-box-sized single-person offering where no one else can hear you sing. Meanwhile, Karaoke no Tetsujin is turning its rooms into private film theatres. In either case, music wins.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Merihaka

The Urbanist: Tall Stories

This week we head to Helsinki to hear the story of the brutalist high-rise Merihaka: one of the cities most unloved buildings.

From Monocle Films

Paris retail: La Grande Epicerie

The newly opened La Grande Epicerie on the Parisian rive droite celebrates the importance of physical retail. Monocle Films pays a visit to admire the heritage brands and tasty produce.

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