The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 4 September 2018

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Need for speed

Argentina’s president is rushing to balance his country’s books but should be wary of political predators waiting for him to trip up.

Argentina is moving fast to address its economic woes. Yesterday president Mauricio Macri announced measures to halt the plummeting peso, saying that the country will impose taxes on exporters and may close 10 of its 16 government ministries to save money. Today the treasury minister Nicolás Dujovne heads to Washington for talks with the IMF to discuss how to balance its budget as soon as next year. While these moves might calm international investors, they might not serve Macri’s popularity at home. “The cost of moving too quickly is to risk a political response that will strengthen his opponents,” says Richard Lapper, Latin America specialist. “In six months Macri’s approval rating has fallen from 50 per cent to 35 per cent. His opponents will be looking to make political capital through these measures.”

Design

Image: Mikael Lundblad

Fly off the shelves

A new crop of Scandinavian furniture brands are making major moves in the market.

Scandinavian design has long been celebrated for its timeless appeal but it seems its popularity is surging to new global heights. Stockholm-based furniture start-up Hem is the latest company from the region to take on investment, with Oslo-headquartered Verdane Capital pouring US$5m (€4.3m) into the brand as it eyes international expansion. In the past 12 months, two other major Scandinavian brands – whose products share similarities via minimalistic aesthetics and functional design – have seen similar capital injections. Copenhagen’s Gubi partnered with venture capitalists Axcel, while fellow Danes Muuto were bought by US furniture giant Knoll. This signifies that the US market is hungry for some chic yet practical Scandi style.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Looking up

Indian PM Narendra Modi’s statues are powerful symbols that will, he’ll hope, boost his popularity ahead of next year’s elections.

One would think that if Indian prime minister Narendra Modi wanted to win votes ahead of next year’s spring elections, he’d spend money on conspicuous social benefits: roads, perhaps, or housing. In fact, he has preferred to sink about 66 billion rupees (€798m) into building the world’s two tallest statues. The first is of independence-era politician Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat state; it’ll stand 182 metres tall and be unveiled on 31 October. The second, in Mumbai, represents 17th-century Hindu warrior and king Chhatrapati Shivaji who fought off the Mughal Empire and has recently become an icon among Indian nationalists; it’ll reach 212 metres but won’t be unveiled until 2021. Modi is shrewdly using both to channel patriotism and associate himself with the effigies.

Retail

Thorny issues

Gardening businesses were in full bloom at Köln’s spoga+gafa trade fair but not everything in the industry is coming up roses.

Green-fingered business-owners and design aficionados in Köln have congregated at Koelnmesse this week for the world’s largest garden trade fair, spoga+gafa. The event, which wraps up today, featured debuts from the world’s most important garden and outdoor-furniture brands and glanced back at pieces featured at the fair over the years via its ‘Icons of spoga+gafa’ presentation. While the offering was as grand as ever, things are not all rosy in the world of garden centres. In the UK, retailer Homebase recently announced plans to close 42 of its shops in the face of a tough retail market. Yet at the other end of the scale, there’s a flourishing independent scene and destinations such as London’s Nunhead Gardener enjoy a cult following with customers coming as much for the green experience as the wares on sale.

From Monocle 24

UBS Global Visionaries: Sam Gregory from Witness

The Bulletin with UBS

The latest in our series of specials hearing from inspirational thought leaders at the forefront of innovation, which UBS supports and celebrates through its Global Visionaries programme. Today we hear from Sam Gregory, programme director at Witness, an innovative non-profit that makes it possible for anyone, anywhere, to use video and technology to protect and defend human rights.

From Monocle Films

Speciality retail: Prague

Prague butcher Nase Maso has married traditional know-how with contemporary design to create a culinary destination in the Czech capital. This month’s specialist retailer tells us about his special cuts and meaty passions.

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