Wednesday. 7/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Duty bound

It’s an idea that the Paris-based OECD has been pushing for some time: US treasury secretary Janet Yellen (pictured) announced on Monday that she is working with G20 countries to create a global minimum tax rate for corporations. If implemented, it would mark a seismic shift in global tax policy; Yellen argues that it would counter the “race to the bottom” that has been underway for decades, whereby nations try to attract businesses by offering ever-lower corporate rates within their borders.

Yellen’s announcement is partly motivated by domestic politics. It would give an immediate boost to Joe Biden, whose recently announced $2.25trn (€1.9trn) “build back better” infrastructure plan will need to be properly funded. The president has proposed raising US tax rates, which would place higher burdens on American companies’ foreign profits. A global tax rate would mean that such a move doesn’t put the US at an immediate and significant disadvantage.

On the face of it, a global minimum tax rate would be unpalatable to most traditional conservatives. But such a proposal, if adequately achieved and properly upheld (two big caveats), could actually work to address the problems that have spurred populist movements around the world. That includes Donald Trump’s working-class base, which has felt left behind by the economic benefits others have enjoyed via globalisation. And, by disincentivising technology giants and major multinational corporations from shifting their profits abroad, it could also address the grotesque inequalities in corporate taxation that harm small businesses.

It’s not just US conservatives that would need convincing, though: from business-friendly Ireland to post-Brexit Britain, setting a minimum global corporate tax rate is sure to face heavy opposition. But with globalisation under threat from all sides, it’s a worthwhile discussion to have.

Conflict / Ukraine & Russia

Fuel to fire

Reports that some 4,000 additional Russian troops have amassed at Ukraine’s eastern border have rightly renewed fears of Russian military aggression – but to consider the move in isolation misses the full story. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured) has seen his popularity plummet of late, with whispers of early elections growing louder. In part to curry nationalist favour, Zelensky upped his anti-Russian stance this year by sanctioning a notorious Putin-friendly oligarch and closing several pro-Russia media organisations. Such moves might have drawn US support and raised Zelensky’s profile but they were never going to go unnoticed by Russia. Maksym Eristavi, a non-resident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, says that the latest escalation also marks a failure of the Minsk peace process to get creative and break the deadlock. “What we are seeing is the direct result of a lack of meaningful action,” says Eristavi. “The half-measures of the last seven years just keep nurturing the same status quo.”

For more on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, listen to Maksym Eristavi on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Health / Italy

Buoyancy aid

From cathedrals to baseball stadiums, the coronavirus vaccination effort has resulted in some unlikely sites being turned into makeshift clinics. The latest of these canny conversions comes in the form of Venice’s vaporetto (water buses), which were deployed on Easter Monday as floating vaccination centres for the elderly residents of the lagoon’s most remote islands, Sant’Erasmo and Le Vignole.

Such efforts are all the more important considering that Italy has Europe’s oldest population and its emergency rooms are under immense strain. The country has also faced criticism for its uneven vaccine rollout. Less than 10 per cent of its population has been inoculated to date, with younger adults getting their jabs in certain regions while some over-eighties continue to wait. Italy’s rollout is set to gain pace this month, with authorities hoping to administer 300,000 doses a day within two weeks. Finding resourceful ways to get vaccines to the most vulnerable will be essential.

Media / Global

Paper trail

It’s always exciting to see new titles on newsstands and, even in the current challenging environment, fresh unveilings have continued. This year, Monocle 24’s The Stack has already featured a new travel magazine, The Jungle Journal. And just in the past week it has documented the launch of Wonderground, a beautiful new Aussie nature-writing title founded by Georgina Reid, and Neptune, a lifestyle and interior design publication based in Paris. Its founder, Daytona Williams, has created a delightful first issue with articles on the likes of Vanessa Friedman from The New York Times and a great fashion shoot with clothing by ERL. This Saturday, The Stack will feature Paperboy, a new publication by David McKendrick focused on good news and the positive things in life. Reid’s advice to budding publishers: “If you do good things and engage with your audience, the future is not grim for the print industry.”

Listen to a new episode of ‘The Stack’, our weekly show about magazines and the world of print, every Saturday on Monocle 24.

Travel / Global

Lucky breaks

Allowing single people to enter into social bubbles has been one of the mantras of this pandemic but what about countries? A major dilemma this year will be how to keep tourism-dependent regions afloat. While we wait for vaccine passports, quarantine-free travel corridors with reliable neighbours might just be the ticket. It’s time to partner up – and these examples are leading the way.

Australia to New Zealand Both countries have enforced strict border controls for much of the pandemic. But with life returning to relative normality, it’s hoped that this week’s announcement of a travel corridor will breathe life back into their tourism sectors.

Germany to Mallorca The Spanish island of Mallorca (pictured), referred to in jest as Germany’s 17th state, was recently removed from Germany’s risk list, meaning that only a negative PCR test is required before travel. The move received its fair share of criticism: Spaniards and German hoteliers have cried hypocrisy with domestic travel still disallowed. But for Mallorca’s tourism-dependent economy, the return of sunbathing Germans is a welcome sight.

Taiwan to Palau The arrangement stems from the nations’ diplomatic relationship: Palau is one of few nations to officially recognise Taiwan. With Palau extremely reliant on tourism, it’s pulling out all the stops to attract Taiwanese visitors, including a presidential welcome and tour for the first cohort this month.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 251: Precollinear Park, Turin

We stop by a linear park constructed along a stretch of unused tram lines, conceived by the Torino Stratosferica collective.

Monocle Films / Finland

The home of the Finnish art scene

We tour the breathtaking studios of artists’ residence Lallukka in Helsinki, which hasn’t changed its purpose since it was completed in 1933. The landmark functionalist building offers spaces at low rents so that its tenants can focus on one thing: making art.

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