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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 20 August 2018

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Zero to hero

Greece leaves its bailout agreement today but, despite the country’s optimism, some think it still needs more support.

It’s been a long time coming: after nine years of crisis, today Greece is expected to leave its final bailout agreement. After a return to growth, Greeks and Alexis Tsipras’s government are optimistic about the country’s future. But not everyone is: after an official audit of the country, the IMF expressed concern in July that Greece wasn’t being given enough wiggle room by its EU creditors and was at risk of further financial trouble. This report wasn’t well received by the EU. “The irony of course,” says Angelos Chryssogelos, associate fellow of the Europe Programme at Chatham House, “is that the IMF, once considered the ‘villain’ of global economic governance, appears more concerned with the adverse impact of the bailouts on Greece than the EU does for one of its own members.”

Transport

Image: Shutterstock

Beat the train

Seoul’s high-speed rail link to the airport is closing after just four years because residents prefer the bus.

It’s self-evident that transport has a hierarchy – a car is preferable to a horse, that you can’t dispute – and it’s assumed that a train is preferable to a bus. Not so, it seems, at least in Seoul. As from September, South Korea’s transport ministry will shut down the ₩300bn (€234m) high-speed train connecting the capital to Incheon International Airport, just four years after it opened. The train was unveiled in anticipation of the 2018 Winter Olympics and was popular with visitors but ridership was low before and after the competition: last year 77 per cent of seats went unoccupied. The reason? People prefer the bus. It’s cheaper and, if you’re coming in from outside Seoul, faster than the bullet train. This of course doesn’t hail the demise of high-speed rail but it’s a lesson learned: a new transport link has to have a reason and an advantage – people won’t take it simply because it’s superior on paper.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Older and wiser

Malaysia’s nonagenarian PM must balance his criticism of China’s infrastructure deals against his desire to trade with it.

Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is rounding off a five-day tour of China amid a frayed bilateral relationship between the two countries. During his three months in power the 93-year-old leader has suspended tens of billions of euros worth of infrastructure contracts in Malaysia, which were due to be carried out by Chinese companies. Mahathir has criticised the terms of the deals – struck by his scandal-plagued predecessor, Najib Razak – as being too favourable to China. Moreover, Mahathir is concerned that allowing China to develop in the country would result in more debt – inadvisable with the economy already lurching under some €200bn. Mahathir must tread carefully in the months ahead, he won’t want to fall into the Chinese debt trap that has ensnared other countries but nor does he want to upset Malaysia’s biggest trading partner.

Books

Live long and prosper

Author Linda Yueh has examined history’s economists to see how they can inform future policies.

Should we listen to economists? Given the travails of recent decades – credit crunches, trade wars, currency slides – some are starting to question their efficacy in informing policy. But according to a new book by Linda Yueh, The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today, we can learn a lot about how to avoid such problems in the future by examining the past. The book takes a number of famous economists, ranging from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, and examines where their ideas brought good results and where they were less successful – one case study is Smith’s notion of the “invisible hand” which proposes that markets ought to be left to their own devices. Yueh is keen for the book to inform debate when it comes to propagating equality. “The system as it stands is not inclusive enough to address the issues faced by a lot of people around the world,” she tells Monocle 24. “This is a great opportunity for economics to be re-thought. We need to ensure that capitalism survives and continues to bring us prosperity.”

From Monocle 24

The perfect music-festival food

The Menu

We’re in Helsinki to hear how one music festival has doubled up into a culinary event, we meet one of New York’s most famous pizza connoisseurs, Frank Pinello, and we find out how farmers are nurturing Southeast Asian produce – in England.

From Monocle Films

Netherlands: state of the nation

In our animated series we assess how the Dutch are performing on the world stage as well as at home.

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