Tuesday. 14/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Poles apart

It’s never easy to draw a line from elections in one part of the world to another – domestic politics and culture inevitably play a bigger role than we, as foreign commentators, care to admit. And yet one can’t help but look at the divisive election result in Poland this weekend as a warning sign for those who might have been spelling the end of populism in the aftermath of this global pandemic.

What seems to have mattered in Poland – at least, for those who voted (narrowly) to re-elect conservative-nationalist president Andrzej Duda (pictured) – was the government’s handling of the economy, complete with programmes for a struggling working class that has felt “heard” by this administration. Such issues were prioritised over the concerns that motivated international observers to watch Poland’s elections closely: Duda’s poor handling of the coronavirus (he resisted health warnings and opened earlier than most); his threats to the independence of the judiciary and media; his view of the LGBT community as an “ideology” not a right.

This should serve as a warning for the progressive-minded: issues that motivate the righteous among us – upholding liberal democracy, equality and protecting minority rights principal among them – are no doubt worth fighting for. But in a battle of ideas it doesn’t help to assume that you’re on the right side of history. Protests, however loud and numerous, can bring much-needed attention to issues but will not always convert voters; they don’t necessarily change the positions of those whose minds were not already open. Activism plays a crucial role but we also can’t forget to seek new ways in which to engage those who disagree; to convince, rather than demonise or silence, the seemingly inconvincible (the “deplorables” in Hillary Clinton’s famous words) in our societies. Let Poland’s election serve as a reminder of that.

Sport / Japan

False start?

Tokyo’s newly re-elected governor Yuriko Koike (pictured) said yesterday that the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics must go ahead next year “as a symbol of the world coming together to overcome this tough situation”. While this is a laudable sentiment, more than half of Tokyo’s residents now think that the Games should be postponed again or cancelled altogether. Add to that the huge bill for the delay, the wariness of domestic sponsors – which have already shelled out ¥353bn (€2.9bn) – and general anxiety about coronavirus, and it looks like an uphill battle. Another headache could be finding somewhere for the competitors to sleep: 80 per cent of the venues have reportedly been secured for next year’s postponed Games but the 5,000-apartment Athletes Village is now earmarked for another use. With no coronavirus vaccination in sight, convincing the Japanese public that it is a good idea to host the Olympics next summer will remain a challenge.

Economy / Greece

Retirement plan

As a nation that’s heavily reliant on tourism, Greece is looking to the months ahead with understandable apprehension. The number of tourists coming through its borders is likely to fall well short of an average summer so the country is contemplating new strategies to entice people to its shores.

A draft law submitted to parliament by the finance ministry proposes that foreign pensioners who move their tax-residence status to Greece will pay a rate of only 7 per cent on their income for a decade; applications must be submitted by the end of September. The initiative follows in the footsteps of other southern European countries, including Portugal and Italy, which have introduced their own measures to lure foreign retirees in recent years. The race to the podium as the most attractive relocation destination is on; all competitors, it seems, are aiming for silver.

Energy / Australia

Catching the sun

As of this month, Sydney’s municipal properties and facilities – including parks, libraries and street lamps – are powered by energy drawn entirely from renewable sources as a new contract comes into effect. City authorities expect this to save the town hall almost AU$500,000 (€307,000) on electricity bills over the next 10 years. It is also a huge boost in Sydney's quest to reach its 2030 goal of a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions based on its 2006 level; it’s now estimated that this will be achieved six years early. Australia’s sunny climate is favourable for harvesting solar energy but, nevertheless, the move is “a progressive step and could be replicated by other Australian cities”, according to Daniel Quiggin, senior research fellow for Chatham House’s Environment, Energy and Resources programme. But to make a global impact on the climate, Australia might want to look at its mining sector; the country remains the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels. “It’s important that we consider international obligations as well,” says Quiggin.

Culture / Berlin

Rave review

Berlin’s legendary nightlife is a vital part of the city’s economy: some 250 nightclubs generate €150m in annual revenue and attract three million tourists every year. But gentrification over the past decade has been threatening to turn clubs into condos and warehouses into WeWorks. When coronavirus caused all clubs to close earlier this year, many feared that it would be the final devastating blow. Now the Senate of Berlin has thrown nightclubs a financial lifeline to the tune of, on average, €81,000 per venue. Will it be enough? “The sum sounds high but it covers a broad spectrum of venues of different sizes,” says Lutz Leichsenring from Club Commission, a group dedicated to promoting and protecting Berlin’s nightlife. “We still need to figure out whether bigger clubs are getting what they need.” Still, it’s positive that city authorities recognise the nightlife sector as a part of Berlin that they simply can’t afford to lose.

M24 / The Monocle Weekly

Kelly Lee Owens

Experimental musical artist Kelly Lee Owens discusses her forthcoming album Inner Song with Monocle’s Augustin Macellari.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

The Chiefs: Monocle summit in St Moritz

The past few months have shown us that there’s no substitute for face-to-face conversations. As we begin to look forward with optimism, there are opportunities to be discussed, ideas to be shared and challenges to be met. Join us this September in the Swiss Alps for inspiring discussions, great hospitality and new connections. Get your ticket here.

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