The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 14 January 2019

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Off the rails

Will a long-planned high-speed rail link mean the end of the line for Italy’s fractious coalition government?

Italy’s ramshackle coalition government is at loggerheads on issues from immigration to the legalisation of cannabis. Yet it’s a high-speed rail link between Turin and Lyon that could derail it altogether. The so-called TAV link has been in the works for more than a decade and while Matteo Salvini’s far-right League would like to see it finished, the populist Five Star Movement has long been saying that the project should be called off. A preliminary draft of a cost/benefit study seems to suggest a negative result – but Salvini is not ready to stand down. The controversial politician joined a pro-TAV demonstration in Turin on Saturday and is calling for a consultative referendum on the issue instead. Now that this infrastructure project has become a symbolic political issue, how long will the coalition be able to stay on track?

Geopolitics

Image: Alamy

Turf war

Why Tokyo (and Toyota’s) imminent presence in Angola will give Beijing pause for thought.

China’s colossal investment in Africa has overshadowed Japan’s comparatively modest engagement with the region. But Beijing is surely paying closer attention now because this month Toyota Tsusho (part of the Toyota Group) all but finalised a $650m venture in the port of Namibe in Angola. With partial backing from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the investment would see Japanese infrastructure and equipment transforming Angola’s third-largest port. Beijing might have a longstanding relationship with the oil-rich, agriculturally fertile African nation – having lent it some $60bn since 1983 – but the deal shows a shift in Angola’s thinking. Swelling Chinese debt is already a problem for several sub-Saharan countries so if Tokyo offers another option, expect more nations to take heed.

Design

Sitting pretty

Köln’s IMM furniture fair marks 100 years of Bauhaus – and brings international design to the table.

The design industry’s trade-fair trail begins today as IMM furniture fair throws open its doors in Köln. The 2019 event will have a particularly German flavour as furniture firms roll out reissues from – and new designs inspired by – the Bauhaus movement, which celebrates its centenary this year. The relevance of the functional, international style of design pioneered by the German art school has remained. This is certainly the case at the stand of furniture giant Knoll, which hosts a limited-edition Barcelona chair designed by former Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe. IMM is not an entirely German affair though: the event draws crowds and exhibitors from across the globe and a new modular workstation by UK architect David Chipperfield for E15 is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Industry

Image: Getty Images

Summer drive

Organisers of Detroit’s car show are switching gears next year in the hope that the great outdoors will lure back exhibitors.

Detroit’s once illustrious North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), a two-week event in the city’s sprawling Cobo Center, kicks off today. But carmakers aren’t feeling the pull of Motor City like they once did. While Ford, GM and Toyota are set to unveil new rides, perhaps more noteworthy are the show’s absences, which include Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini. In recent years manufacturers have increasingly turned to technology shows to reveal their most futuristic designs – as we saw last week with CES in Las Vegas. Even better are their own launch events, where they don’t need to compete for attention. But as critics have questioned the relevance of car shows such as NAIAS, the event’s organisers have listened. Come 2020, the show will debut in June; an outdoor event will allow for driving demonstrations and, hopefully, give the show a jump-start.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Flags: whose is best?

The Foreign Desk

We wave them at sporting events, we paint them on our faces at national celebrations, we fly them from our tanks when we go to war. To some they are merely a useful way to distinguish between countries; to others they’re a symbol worth dying for. Why are they taken so seriously? And whose is the best?

From Monocle Films

On design

To celebrate the collaboration between Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer and Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara, we contemplate the pursuit of perfection to achieve timeless appeal.

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