Friday 23 August 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 23/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Melkon Charchoglyan

Guiding light

Russian activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has become more of a mascot than a leader, primarily because government strongmen arrest him on trumped-up charges as soon as there’s any whiff of civil unrest, leaving him to marshal his troops via Twitter.

He’s behind bars now too, jailed in July for 30 days for illegal protest planning. And though he walks free later today, the capital’s Simonovsky court almost added on the roughly 18 hours that Navalny spent in hospital after a mysterious allergic reaction while under arrest.

None of this matters. Everyone – Navalny included – knows that he’ll soon be back in prison on one arbitrary charge or another; this disappearing act is becoming so transparent, and the police so lazy, that one imagines him getting cuffed for sneezing on the street. What does matter is that thousands of protesters continue to flood the major cities and Navalny’s HQ continues to rally them in absentia.

Image: Marco Arguello

Politics / Europe

Ripe for investment

There is a jubilant atmosphere in Skopje as North Macedonia reaps the economic rewards of resolving its long-running naming dispute with Greece. A proud new member of Nato, with hopes of accession to the EU further down the line (yes, some countries are trying to get in) things are looking up. “People are not talking about the name change,” says MP Ivana Tufegdzik who, at 26, is the country’s youngest. “Priority one is the economy.” Smart money already seems to be flooding in – last year foreign investment was double the average of the previous five years – and there are opportunities in businesses from automotive to textiles. To meet the new captains of industry in North Macedonia, pick up the latest copy of our Summer Weekly newspaper.

Image: Alamy

Transport / US

Last stop?

A fight is underway for the future of transport in Phoenix. In 2015, voters approved a $31.5bn sales tax to triple the length of the city’s light-rail lines, which carry 50,000 passengers a day. But a new measure called Proposition 105 threatens to halt further expansion plans and put money towards building roads instead. The move’s supporters fear that light-rail construction will impact businesses; others disagree. “Light-rail has allowed us to grow vertically rather than outwards,” says mayor Kate Gallego. “It’s brought investment and has attracted a more creative workforce.” While voting on the measure has been underway since 31 July, expect campaigners on both sides to be active this weekend before the citywide ballot on Tuesday.

Image: Shutterstock

Geopolitics / China & Africa

Off the rails

Chinese investment in Africa is on an unprecedented scale. Just last year, China’s president Xi Jinping promised a further €54bn for the continent. But it is not a simple quid pro quo and many firms, desperate to get in on the racket, have been caught out for loan-sharking, fraud and corruption. This week seven Chinese companies operating in Nigeria, mostly in railways, were debarred on these grounds by the World Bank, meaning they can’t bid for World Bank-funded projects. It’s encouraging to see the western institution applying some mediation here but it’s not enough: the ban is only for 10 months and China’s vulturous approach goes far deeper than a handful of railway firms. With Africa being carved up by Beijing, more regulation is necessary to avoid mass exploitation.

Image: Gregor Hofbauer

Education / Hungary & Austria

University challenge

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has made no secret of his preference for an “illiberal” society. Now his nationalist rhetoric has resulted in the loss of the Central European University (CEU), which will move from Budapest to a new home in Vienna next month. Founded in 1991 by Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, CEU is hamstrung by changes to the law from 2017 that prevent it teaching its US-accredited courses. Its president Michael Ignatieff (pictured) is upbeat about opening CEU’s new campus in Austria next month. For more on Ignatieff’s plans for the future of the institution, read issue three of the Summer Weekly.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Monocle Minute

Protests rattle the Kremlin

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny prepares to leave prison, Phoenix gets set to vote on a proposal that could ban further light-rail construction and North Macedonia reaps the rewards of its name change. Plus: a tribute to the Embraer 190 aircraft.

Film / Melbourne

Melbourne: The Monocle Travel Guide

Modern Melbourne is a swirl of superlative cultural outposts, pristine parks, mouth-watering menus and faultless all-Australian wine lists. Join us on a jaunt around this handsome metropolis.


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