Wednesday. 9/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Real deals

A preliminary accord on corporate taxation reached by G7 countries ahead of this weekend’s summit in Cornwall is a big step. The landmark agreement aims to stop multinationals avoiding taxes in the countries in which they operate by setting a minimum corporate tax of 15 per cent. While Germany and France have long been pushing for such an arrangement and are feeling vindicated, Italy has been keen to turn the accord into a fresh political win; the cash-strapped country could be set to gain an extra €2.7bn a year as a result.

So far, most sides within Italy’s notoriously noxious political factions seem pleased: far-right Lega leader Matteo Salvini has called the agreement “a first important step” and gone so far as to praise prime minister Mario Draghi (pictured) for helping to push it through. Salvini wants to see more rigorous legislation in parliament but all eyes will, for now, remain on the global stage. Italy will be presiding over a G20 summit in Venice next month, where the corporate taxation question will be raised once again. With more divergent interests at play among this wider bloc than in the smaller G7, Draghi will need his full gamut of diplomatic skills to help broker a final deal.

Brushing aside what having a non-elected technocrat says about Italian democracy, Draghi, a former European Central Bank head, has certainly looked to influence the domestic and international scene. Pulling off a tax agreement in Venice would be a notable win but it’s at home where he needs to achieve results quickly. Italy is the biggest beneficiary of the EU’s new recovery fund (the first instalment of more than €200bn is due imminently) and expectations that Draghi can fix Italy’s ailing economy are huge. However, if he doesn’t solve endemic issues – from red tape to the north-south economic divide – his big promises and international clout will quickly turn to dust.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Finland & Estonia

New direction

Finland and Estonia plan to merge their air-traffic control operations as soon as next year. The milestone co-operation deal would see them operate under one management across two cities: Tallinn and Finland’s Vantaa, which is home to Helsinki Airport (pictured). The teams will take turns controlling both countries’ airspace. (Finns and Estonians speak different languages but European regulations require that communication with pilots be conducted solely in English.) The planned set-up would not only be more cost-efficient but also more secure. Data from both countries could help to build a fuller picture of events in the case of aeroplanes flying with their transponders switched off, as Russian military aircraft often do when flying over the Gulf of Finland. And given Europe’s fragmented aviation system, with small countries each having their own air-traffic controls, the collaboration might set an example for the continent as well.

Image: Shutterstock

Media / UK

Listening up

The past year has seen a well-documented boom in streaming services but it’s also resulted in a surge in demand for podcasts: the number of estimated listeners in the UK jumped from 10.1 million in 2019 to 13.3 million last year. And while nearly all podcasts are offered free of charge and monetised through advertising and sponsorship, a shift might be coming.

A recent YouGov survey found that 10 per cent of people are willing to pay for online news and 9 per cent for podcasts. Perhaps most significantly, the survey found that 18 to 24 year-olds were more than twice (11 per cent) as likely to pay for podcasts as they are to pay for other news (5 per cent). That’s still well below the nearly 50 per cent willing to pay for streaming of film and 33 per cent paying for music but it does suggest an opportunity, particularly for those targeting a newer generation of listeners.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / USA

Art support

New York’s culture department revealed details of a City Artist Corps programme this week that will see $25m (€20.5m) going towards helping the city’s artists, performers and musicians. In partnership with the New York Foundation for the Arts, the programme will offer one-off $5,000 (€4,100) grants for artists; it will also fund a series of public artwork commissions and the establishment of a painting and performing arts partnership with city schools. This follows last week’s announcement from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation of a separate $125m (€103m) initiative that will offer monthly payments to artists in need and will work to place 300 creatives in jobs at art organisations across New York state. An estimated 72 per cent of performing arts jobs in New York were wiped out during the pandemic and 95 per cent of artists in the US reported losing income. It’s unclear whether this support will be enough but it’s a promising start.

Image: Getty Images

Hospitality / Thailand

Reopening gambit

Thai hoteliers, airline bosses and just about everyone else involved in tourism are counting down to 1 July. That’s when the Southeast Asian country plans to start welcoming international travellers for the first time since closing its borders in March last year. A trial reopening will begin with Phuket. Fully vaccinated holidaymakers will be able to arrive on the tropical southern island without having to quarantine; after 14 days they will have the option of visiting the rest of the kingdom. International airlines are busy adding direct flights to Phuket and the island’s government is racing to inoculate at least 70 per cent of residents in the next few weeks. Nonetheless, the success or failure of this so-called “Phuket sandbox” will be determined elsewhere. With border closures and quarantines still in place across most of Asia, Thailand will initially rely on European and American sun-worshippers rediscovering the joy of long-haul travel – and the testing requirements that come with it.

Image: Jon Tonks

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Andrew O’Hagan

Writer Andrew O’Hagan pops into Midori House to chat to Robert Bound about his novel ‘Mayflies’, which is loosely based on his own teenage years and has just been published in paperback. They discuss the politics and music of the 1980s, and the romance of male friendships.

Monocle Films / Global

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