Wednesday 10 March 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 10/3/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Governmental fatigue

It feels like an age-old story in democracies: even the most popular political parties seem to hang on to power for too long. Eventually, either voters tire of the same leadership year-in, year-out and hunger for something new, or the party finally precipitates a scandal that unceremoniously ends the popular experiment.

Germany already has one of these stories: Helmut Kohl, the country’s longest-serving chancellor and unifier of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was engulfed in a scandal over illegal party donations. Ironically, one of the politicians who gave him a final nudge over the edge was Angela Merkel. And now, just as Merkel herself nears Kohl’s record of service, could history be repeating itself?

This week, Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party became mired in a major corruption scandal. Two senior politicians in the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, were found to have profited from the coronavirus pandemic through the supply of face masks. Even more worrying is that the damage might not end with just two MPs. Senior Christian Democrats admit it’s possible that other members of the party might have engaged in similar conflicts of interest and profiteering during the pandemic. They’ve promised a full investigation.

If those investigations bear fruit and more financial exploitation is uncovered, then this mask scandal could quickly grow out of control and feed into that far bigger but well-worn narrative: that the ruling party is in league with business interests and has become too cosy after nearly two decades in government. Angela Merkel is retiring as chancellor in September, come what may. But her Christian Democrats and its new leader Armin Laschet (pictured, on left, with Merkel) have to prove that they have what it takes to govern without her – and that they haven’t become complacent, like so many long-governing parties around the world that came before them.

For a full report on the Christian Democrats’ mask scandal tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Philippines

Brute force

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte (pictured), has drawn widespread condemnation this week following the killings of nine reportedly unarmed civilians. Police and soldiers shot dead the left-wing organisers and human rights activists on Sunday during raids on the main island of Luzon. Vice president Leni Robredo, a leading political opponent of Duterte’s (VPs are elected separately from presidents in the Philippines), has called the incident a “massacre” and holds the president responsible. These latest murders come amid a rise in “red-tagging” – the labelling of government opponents as communists – and occurred only two days after Duterte urged officers to kill communist rebels. There is no suggestion that the nine victims were involved in armed insurgency and the president’s spokesperson has promised an impartial investigation. “The Filipino people deserve better than this murderous regime,” said Robredo this week. Voters will have to wait until elections in May next year to pass their own judgement.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Norway

Plain sailing

Construction of the world’s first shipping tunnel has been given an initial go-ahead by Norway’s government, which is also providing start-up funds to allow for the launch of the project, which has been debated for years. The planned tunnel would run through the peninsula of Stadlandet, enabling ships to bypass the dangerous waters of the Stadhavet sea along Norway’s western coast.

Ships have struggled with passage for centuries; historians have documented that the Vikings used to pull their vessels over land rather than sail the sea in bad weather. The 1.7 kilometre-long tunnel comes with a hefty price tag of nearly NOK3bn (€298m) but the potential positive impact shouldn’t be underestimated. Much of Norway’s coastal goods transport takes place on land – facilitating safer and easier connections by sea could mean smoother economic waters in future.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Brazil

Back in the running

Is Lula 2022 back on? A supreme-court judge in Brazil has cleared former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (pictured) of corruption charges that resulted in him being jailed and sidelined from running for office in 2018. The decision paves the way for the 75-year-old to run against president Jair Bolsonaro next year, if he desires. Although many will celebrate the return of a viable left-wing alternative to Bolsonaro, it promises to be divisive. “There are concerns that the country could become even more polarised,” Monocle’s Latin America affairs correspondent Lucinda Elliott told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “It would be akin to Donald Trump versus Bernie Sanders in the US, if that had manifested itself. It will be interesting to watch how younger voters will relate to Lula, many of whom don’t remember the leftist candidate’s presidency.” Also, not unlike the last US presidential race, much depends on the verdict on Bolsonaro’s erratic handling of the pandemic between now and the election in 2022.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Global

Travel insurance

The idea of spending your two-week travel quarantine floating on a luxury yacht sounds pretty good right now. That’s exactly what Thailand is offering this week, adding to an earlier initiative allowing visitors to quarantine in golfing resorts. But Thailand isn’t the only country offering perks – here are three more tourism-reliant economies going the extra mile to bring back visitors.

  1. Cairns in Queensland, Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef, is offering AU$200 (€130) in tourism vouchers to spend at the area’s attractions. With international borders closed, domestic tourism has been the only option for Australians; such incentive schemes have been important in keeping businesses afloat.

  2. Madeira is one of the first destinations to be allowing vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine, if documentation is uploaded to and approved on the website The Portuguese island is also allowing entrance to people who have recovered from coronavirus in the past 90 days, in the assumption that recently acquired antibodies provide enough protection.

  3. Croatia has altered its immigration laws this year to encourage extended vacations: non-EU citizens who don’t require a visa can work remotely from the country for a whole year. In the past decade, ancient cities such as Dubrovnik have become overcrowded with tourists. Until they can return it seems that remote workers might be taking their place.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 247: Gibert Jeune, Paris

A historic bookshop in Paris’s Latin Quarter is closing its doors. We bid adieu.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle’s digital decency manifesto

Technology is everywhere but that ubiquity can come at a cost to our health, wellbeing and the quality of our conversations. View our manifesto for a more dignified relationship with all things digital and learn to be kinder and more cautious online.


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