As well as Viktor Orban’s authoritarian antics in Hungary, Poland’s leaders are another lot that seem intent on behaving more like a rogue nation than a respectable, forward-thinking EU member-state. The latest ploy has drawn alarm from the rest of the bloc, as well as Poland’s judiciary, as today the government looks to lower the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65. This would result in the dismissal of about 40 per cent of current judges and, given that the new law also dictates that the judiciary expands to 120 judges, it is feared that the government would simply be able to choose who they want to fit the new positions. The European Commission has stepped in, launching infringement proceedings for what it sees as a violation of judicial independence. With ongoing Brexit discussions and a new populist Italian government, Poland’s intransigence is one more headache the EU doesn’t need.
While the spotlight in Mexico on Sunday was on Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing populist candidate who swept his way to the presidency, another no less important victory was being celebrated in the capital: Claudia Sheinbaum, a 56-year old energy engineer and member of Obrador’s party Morena, became Mexico City’s first elected female mayor (Rosario Robles was the first female mayor in 1999 but simply took over when the incumbent resigned). It’s also the first time since 1997 that the mayorship and presidency are held by the same party, which will doubtless remove obstacles in the way of Obrador’s promised reforms. Sheinbaum is as set on radical change as her sexagenarian president, promising an unreligious “laic government” that will address environmental issues, women’s rights and the plight of indigenous communities – despite the contradictory forces posed by the ultra-conservative and evangelical Pes party, which forms Morena’s coalition. Radical reform or not, the election of a female candidate in the country signals progress.
WeChat may have more functions than a Swiss army knife but Tencent’s dominant messaging app, social network and mobile wallet has an Achilles heel: reaching China’s wealthy consumers. A survey by the Chinese version of Fortune has revealed that more than half of high-earning business executives rely on magazines rather than mobiles to engage with luxury brands (with barely one in five using WeChat). There’s bad news for European luxury brands too: another survey has found that most of its richer respondents now buy their luxury goods in China rather than travelling abroad. The moral of this story for labels on foreign shores: invest in a combination of print advertising and bricks-and-mortar retail on the ground in China.
In the past five years, Japan has experienced the biggest upsurge in tourism ever recorded by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation. About 28.7 million people visited last year and the boom is expected to continue past 2020, when the Olympic Games arrive in Tokyo. However, a new report by the Japan Tax Agency warns that as big developers move in to build hotels and luxury apartments, small businesses and residents are being squeezed out of popular areas. The severity of the issue can be seen in places such as the Hokkaido village of Niseko, where land prices increased by about 90 per cent in the space of just one year. Another concern raised by the report was how frequently new developments would be filled. As wealthy travellers from Singapore and Hong Kong rent or buy properties, the local economy could dip when they head home for months on end.
In an ode to summertime, Monocle films hits the road to sample artisanal ice-cream makers with a difference. In Denmark, Japan and Canada we meet the innovators challenging taste buds one scoop at a time.
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