Tuesday. 18/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Animal magic

Like many of my fellow Brazilians, I grew up with pets. They ranged from an unruly dalmatian called Master Mister to Catherina, an adorable St Bernard – and I can’t forget Veridiana the rabbit and Blue the chinchilla. I only realised later that this wasn’t just a family tradition: pets are one of the safest investments in Brazil.

While Brazil’s economy has suffered in recent years, its pet industry has been largely unaffected. This is the world’s second largest market for domestic animals (behind only the US) and you’ll find a pet shop on almost every corner, from simple family-owned enterprises to gigantic shopping centres. Petz, the market leader, currently has 168 shops nationwide and continues to expand: 37 outlets were opened last year and 50 more are planned for 2022. The attention lavished on furry friends here is also unlike anywhere else: there are 24-hour pet shops as well as many special services for dogs and, increasingly, cats.

According to Brazilian daily O Estado de São Paulo, it’s becoming more expensive to care for a creature than a person: the cost of pet food increased nearly 24 per cent in the past year, compared to an 8 per cent rise in food overall. And yet people here seem impervious to price hikes: they still expect the best of the best for their beloved animals, from the latest fashion to the finest acupuncturist. I can see the allure. While our new family dog, Julie the German shepherd, doesn’t yet have a strong interest in fashion – she’s a bit of a naturist, especially in the blazing São Paulo summer – I made sure to buy her some tasty treats on a recent trip to Brazil. Even in times of hardship, the joy that pets bring isn’t something that’s worth skimping on.

Image: Getty Images

Conflict / UAE

Rising tensions

Abu Dhabi has long attracted business by being one of the safest cities in the Middle East. That image was shaken yesterday as Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a suspected drone strike that killed three people near the UAE capital’s airport. Though the country has supported Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen against the Iran-backed rebels, it had escaped major attacks on its own territory – until now. The UAE had also been working with Saudi Arabia to engage with Iran in talks to ease regional tensions. The question now is whether the attack marks a one-off provocation or a new phase in one of the world’s most protracted regional conflicts – and whether it will affect the US-Iran talks over a revived nuclear deal. With its international reputation at stake, the UAE seems unlikely to respond kindly to a warning from the Houthis’ chief negotiator to stop “tampering” in Yemen. “The response is likely to be a further increase in retaliatory airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition,” Yemen expert Iona Craig tells Monocle.

Hear more from Craig on the fallout of the attack on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Japan & USA

On the defensive

Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida had been hoping for a face-to-face meeting with Joe Biden before the opening of his country’s new parliamentary session yesterday. But with Omicron rampant in the US and now taking hold in Japan, Kishida will have to settle instead for an online meeting on Friday. There is much to discuss, from climate change to the two countries’ shared commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, not to mention the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As ever, China’s growing power is on the agenda but so too is North Korea, which lobbed two more missiles in Japan’s direction yesterday – its fourth test this year. In a 40-minute policy speech at the opening of parliament, Kishida said that the tests were “utterly unacceptable”. Japan is now adjusting to its precarious security situation with a top-to-toe review of its defence strategy, due by the end of the year. It seems that 2022 is off with a bang.

Hear more from Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief Fiona Wilson and US editor Chris Lord on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Economics / Global

Conflict of interest

The World Economic Forum kicked off yesterday with a video speech from China’s president Xi Jingping, who urged wealthy nations not to raise their interest rates too quickly in response to a rise in global inflation. Xi (pictured) warned that a “slam on the brakes” could have “negative spillovers” on developing nations, namely on China itself. The country’s economy grew just 4 per cent year-on-year in the final quarter of 2021 – well below Beijing’s own target of 6 per cent. That proved alarming enough that China’s central bank yesterday cut interest rates for the first time in two years. It’s such signs of global asymmetry that worry Xi. “Most central banks are looking to tighten policy; China is looking to loosen it,” Bloomberg’s Yuan Potts, a regular contributor to Monocle 24, told The Briefing. While political differences have prompted some decoupling of China and Western economies in the past year, the Asian powerhouse isn’t nearly as insulated from the global economy as it might hope.

Image: Dhillon Shukla

Film / UK

Brief encounters

The London Short Film Festival enters its fifth day today. As miniseries, TV shows and blockbuster movies continue to dominate our screens, it’s refreshing to see a celebration of this often overlooked format. This year’s edition, which runs until Sunday, has ranged so far from matinée screenings of romantic movies to a night highlighting the work of Latin American feminist film collectives. This week’s top picks include Dhillon Shukla’s London-based Money Up (pictured) and Neema Ngelime’s An Ode to a Time I Loved Bread, the Tanzanian director’s reflection on her time at a boarding school with a colonial legacy. Above all, the festival is a reminder that short films can be as powerful and thought-provoking as their feature-length counterparts.

M24 / The Menu

The roots of muesli

How Switzerland became the king of breakfast. Plus: top British chef Brendan Eades (pictured) brings the zero-waste ethos to central London.

Monocle Films / Lithuania

Kaunas: Lithuania’s modernist city

As Lithuania’s second city, it’s not often Kaunas gets much international attention. This, however, could be about to change. Kaunas has been named one of Europe's Capitals of Culture for 2022; a title it’s taking seriously. Monocle visited the city to take a tour of its modernist marvels. Read more on the story in our December/January issue.

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