Monday. 15/3/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Shot at freedom

Unless you’re a vaccine sceptic, you would be hard pressed to disagree with the notion that a speedy rollout of coronavirus jabs around the world is good for us all. Yet the current situation is far from desirable. Some countries such as Serbia and Israel (pictured) have been storming ahead with inoculations, while others, including EU member states, are lagging behind. Aside from the health risks, one of the biggest dangers in this topsy-turvy drip-drip of jabs is the possibility of creating dual societies; we’ve already seen the exhaustive efforts that some individuals will go to get their hands on the medicinal elixir before it’s their turn.

The UAE has been in the news for its willingness to be a hub for those wanting to receive a private vaccine (UK financier Ben Goldsmith recently made headlines for his trip there for a Pfizer jab). Over in Spain, meanwhile, discontent has been rumbling in the southern autonomous region of Murcia since January, when several politicians were found to have jumped the queue for vaccinations. Last week, that scandal contributed to the collapse of fragile coalition governments involving the Ciudadanos party and the People’s Party in both Murcia and Madrid.

Of course there are plenty of people who have received their jabs legitimately and this should be celebrated. And we would not suggest that those lucky enough to be inoculated should be denied the small freedoms that their vaccination might afford. The real takeaway is that more needs to be done to prevent the divide between the jabs and jab-nots from deepening. What will happen this summer if some people are permitted to go on holiday and others not? Vaccination by that time remains a dream for much of the world but we should be doing more to bring it closer to reality.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Asia

Four-part harmony

Last Friday, the leaders of India, Japan, Australia and the US held a virtual meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad). At the first such assembly with US president Joe Biden, the group debated the distribution of coronavirus vaccines and potential military co-operation in the future. But the Quad also likely plays a key role in Biden’s China policy, as his administration hopes to place regional collaboration at the heart of its dealings with Beijing. The question of whether Biden offers a better approach than his predecessor to US-China relations takes centre stage this week: US secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin will also be visiting allies in Asia, before flying back to Alaska for the first highly anticipated bilateral meeting between US and Chinese officials on Thursday. China’s cooperation on environmental targets is a priority for Biden, but not at the expense of holding Beijing to account on trade and its abuse of Uyghur Muslims. Ensuring progress in all of those areas won’t be something that the US can achieve on its own.

For more on the Quad summit and the Biden administration’s pivot towards Asia, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Global

Fresh development

Australia’s Mathias Cormann (pictured) will become the next leader of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the 60-year-old Paris-based think-tank that counts 37 of the world’s wealthiest nations as members. The win follows a protracted leadership battle that pitted the former Australian finance minister against former EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and is a sign of the OECD’s shifting regional emphasis.

Backed by heavy lobbying from Canberra, Belgian-born Cormann presented himself as a useful intermediary for trade between Asia-Pacific nations and the rest of the world. But his first task will be to nudge all member nations into decisive action to spur a global recovery. Last week’s $1.9trn (€1.6trn) stimulus package in the US, paired with a strong vaccine distribution, prompted the OECD to predict that the US economy will grow 6.5 per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, Asia’s economies are benefiting from an earlier easing of restrictions. The EU’s stuttering vaccine rollout, by contrast, threatens to leave its economies lagging behind.

Aviation / USA

Flight plans

Why did the Concorde fail and will there ever be a replacement? Blake Scholl (pictured), CEO of Boom Supersonic, might be the closest to finding the answer. His company, based in Denver, Colorado, is starting test flights for its Boom Overture supersonic aircraft this year. “Space and aviation are the two areas where we’ve regressed,” Scholl told Monocle 24’s The Chiefs. The reason, he says, is that both projects – space travel and supersonic flight – have been too wrapped up in geopolitics. “It was all about national prestige,” he says. And while the cold war inspired impressive technological achievements such as the Apollo lunar missions, “it’s not a bridge to sustainable progress. There is no commercial roadmap that brings it to people.” Now, just as SpaceX and other companies are exploring space travel, Scholl says that it’s up to smaller businesses such as his to pick up the pieces on supersonic aviation – and find a model that actually works for the long term.

Listen to the full interview with Blake Scholl on the next episode of Monocle 24’s ‘The Chiefs’ airing tomorrow at 13.00 GMT.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Japan

Just add water

Japan’s best-known culinary export might be sushi but many people who have fond memories of their cash-strapped student days also have a soft spot for another delicacy – instant noodles. Now the three-minute meal is to be celebrated in a new museum in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district. Launched by Japanese ramen giant Nissin Foods, the museum will offer visitors the chance to build their own personalised pots from start to finish, choosing their preferred cup, broth and toppings, and getting their hands dirty making noodles from scratch. Nissin Foods already has two similar locations in Yokohama (pictured) and Ikeda but this is its first outside Japan. The Hong Kong branch aims to “inspire creativity for visitors through an educational and entertaining interaction with food,” Nissin Foods CEO Kiyotaka Ando tells The Monocle Minute. The choice of location is not a surprise: Hong Kong is already a gluttonous consumer of Japanese food and culture. First Hong Kong, then the world.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 235: The Workers Club

Charlotte and Adam Cameron co-founded The Workers Club, a UK menswear and lifestyle brand, in 2015. The pair, who met at university, have more than 30 years of combined experience working in luxury and high-street fashion. Based in Oxfordshire where the couple live, The Workers Club focuses on creating long-lasting, functional garments with the best materials.

Monocle Films / France

Building safer cities

Monocle Films travels to Paris to bear witness to the French capital’s efforts to mitigate terrorism through smart design and architecture.

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