Monday 23 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 23/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Blast from the past

What a strange feeling of déjà vu: a sudden crisis triggers a massive economic meltdown; politicians are slow to act initially but step into gear upon realising the severity of the situation and promise vast amounts of money in bailouts to keep businesses from going under. I speak, of course, of the autumn of 2008. Then, as a young newswire reporter in Washington, I was thrust into covering financial instruments that I didn’t understand; bailouts of a size that none of us could fathom; a historic US election that would result in the first African-American president; and some emergency global summits that I never thought I would have the privilege of attending.

What I particularly remember from that time was that everyone was caught off guard and had to learn on the fly, including journalists. There was no appropriate framework in place to co-ordinate a response – so one was created. That year’s G20 gathering (pictured) brought together world leaders from the world’s most important economies in an unprecedented show of force and unity.

Obviously, a virus is very different from a financial crisis – but that doesn’t mean we should have been caught off guard. It’s far easier to understand how a virus spreads across borders than it was to explain how failed mortgages in Florida could bring down a bank in Germany. So it is ironic, now that the multilateral institutions are actually in place, that few seem to have had an interest in using them to ward off the crisis earlier. It’s taken until this week for the G20 to plan a meeting, which will be held virtually, in order to co-ordinate a global response. It’s a tremendous shame that these kinds of steps weren’t taken sooner but here’s hoping that a united approach now can still have a calming effect – just as it did in 2008.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / EU

Open to ideas

This Thursday the European Parliament will hold an extraordinary meeting to try to reduce the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Most of its 705 MEPs are set to vote remotely on the three-item agenda, which includes a €37bn aid package for member states, an extension of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public-health emergencies and an end to the so-called “ghost flights” that airlines are running to keep hold of precious landing slots. The crisis has meant that normal work in parliament has mostly ground to a halt – and that seems to include the Brexit negotiations. In-person meetings have been cancelled and Europe’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has tested positive for the virus. For now the UK is saying that it will not be seeking an extension to the current 31 December transition deadline but, given the circumstances, it’s likely to be only a matter of time until that changes.

Image: Getty Images

Weather / Philippines

Warm welcome

On Friday the snappily titled Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa for short) announced an end to the country’s monsoon season and the arrival of the dry season. In other words, what many in the Philippines call “summer” has now begun. Those used to more temperate climes would be hard-pressed to distinguish a Philippine summer from the rest of the year. But with the conclusion of the hanging Amihan, or northeast monsoon, a period of hot – and largely dry – weather is expected. With schools set to break up at the end of next week, the onset of true heat will be welcome; there is evidence that connects lower temperatures and humidity with coronavirus infection rates. With the archipelago’s main island under quarantine, there is some hope that the rising temperatures will signal relief to the 58 million under lockdown.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / USA

Two wheels good

Philadelphia and San Francisco have included bike shops on the list of establishments that are to remain open in the face of city-wide temporary closures of non-essential businesses. It’s a decision that reflects the increasing number of cyclists in many US cities, as people shirk public transit and taxis in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19. The decision, and uptick in riders, underlines the importance of cycling in allowing businesses and daily life to continue; a timely reminder that a good bike network will ensure that the wheels of a metropolis can keep spinning in the face of a pandemic or other crisis. Let’s hope that it's cause for a chain reaction too: with more people riding bikes, US cities might find that they have the critical mass required to justify further investments in cycling infrastructure.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Canada

Gig economy

Touring artists have seen the bulk of their incomes disappear due to cancelled gigs but Canada’s National Arts Centre, along with Facebook Canada, has launched an initiative to pay Canadian artists in return for live online performances. Dubbed Canada Performs, the series allows entertainers of all stripes – musicians, comedians and more – to apply for CA$1,000 (€650) grants in return for 45 to 60-minute shows that will be broadcast live over the coming weeks. Singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy (pictured) of the band Blue Rodeo was the first artist to kick off the concert series (the performance involved him, his sons and one other artist – all 1.5 metres apart). While Canada Performs will provide entertainment for the masses stuck inside, it more importantly offers a financial lifeline to Canadian artists when they need it most. Artists have until the end of March to apply for their chance to claim a piece of the CA$100,000 (€65,000) fund provided by Facebook Canada and the National Arts Centre.

M24 / The Stack

Coronavirus and the print industry

Monocle’s editor in chief Tyler Brûlé discusses the impact of coronavirus on the print industry and we speak with the editors of ‘Sofa’ magazine and ‘The Hunters Journal’.

Monocle Films / Global

The secret to opening a bike shop

In the latest episode of our 'Secret to...' series we talk to Jack Pattison, co-founder of Freddie Grubb, about the key elements that go into creating an outstanding bike shop.


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