Tuesday. 15/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Adam Rasmi

Paws for thought

The West has slapped some of the most sweeping sanctions ever imposed on a country as large and powerful as Russia. But as I browsed through the Yale School of Management’s tally of private businesses that have voluntarily joined the economic boycott, some of the firms listed seemed to be making more of a PR point than a political one.

There are many names on the list of 375-plus companies whose presence will have a meaningful effect; the decision of energy giants BP and Shell to divest from the country, for example, will surely hurt a Russian energy sector that helps to line the Kremlin’s coffers. But organisations such as, say, the International Cat Federation, which has announced that it will prohibit Russian felines from participating in global cat shows, will probably go unnoticed by all but the most enthusiastic ailurophiles.

Currently €575bn of Russian Central Bank assets are frozen, while the exclusion of Russian banks from Swift transfers is making it much harder to maintain the pretence of business as usual. The rouble has tumbled by more than 40 per cent, which can’t fail to have grabbed the attention of working Russians.

Putin has called such economic measures “akin to a declaration of war”. That’s because they are the most effective way to target an economy and send a message about Ukraine’s invasion without military intervention. That said, applying lasting pressure on Russia while keeping Western economies purring will take time, discipline and sustained pressure – whether or not the cat lobby is involved.

Image: Alamy

F&B / Global

Breaking bread

As the war in Ukraine rages on, households across the world face the prospect of food shortages and soaring prices. Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of barley, maize and sunflower oil, together producing a third of the world’s wheat. "When it comes to wheat production, you cannot just turn on a tap,” Jakob Kern, deputy chief of staff at the UN’s World Food Programme, told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “It’s not oil. If farmers cannot get their fields sowed, there won’t be any wheat this harvest time. That would result in a worldwide shortage of wheat, on top of a major price increase.” Ukraine and Russia are the primary breadbaskets for some 800 million people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Any disruption to harvesting would have a catastrophic effect on global food security. However this conflict ends, many families will go hungry.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Colombia

Left foot forward

Former guerilla Gustavo Petro (pictured) has secured the nomination for the left-wing Historic Pact coalition in this summer’s presidential elections in Colombia. In May he will square off against centrist Sergio Fajardo and the right-wing Federico Gutiérrez, both former mayors of Medellín who have also secured nominations from their respective coalitions. (President Iván Duque’s right-wing Centro Democrático party had already selected its candidate: former finance minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga.)

“Petro managed to build incredible momentum before becoming an official candidate,” Andrei Gomez-Suarez, senior research fellow in the Centre for Religion at Winchester University, tells The Monocle Minute. “Since becoming a republic 200 years ago, the country has never had a president who firmly stands on the left.” A Petro win would not just be a profound shift for Colombia but a cause for anxiety in Washington.

Image: MICAM Milano

Fashion / Milan

Sole focus

Micam Milano, the world’s largest footwear fair, is back in step this year with a mission to revive Italy’s shoe industry. Some 820 brands are exhibiting their forthcoming autumn/winter collections at the Fiera Milano exhibition centre in Rho, before wrapping up today. Attention this year turns towards material innovation – a new Green Zone highlights sustainable materials – but there is also a sense that the future lies in the return to traditional craft and Italian manufacturing. Fair organisers are touting Italian Artisan among the exhibitors, which connects brands with makers across the country and aims to promote “Made in Italy”. A renewed focus on classic styles and durability is replacing seasonal trends. Up-and-coming designers at the fair were among the first to embrace this timeless approach to design. Among the highlights is Jerelyn Creado, which produces classic oxford and derby shoes using Spanish leather that is tanned using recycled materials.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Europe

In it to sing it

All the acts are in for the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, after Sweden, Portugal and Iceland picked their entries from national finals over the weekend. Forty artists will perform in Turin in two semi-finals ahead of the big finale at Pala Alpitour on 14 May. The eclectic line-up features everything from a Serbian song describing the Duchess of Sussex’s beauty regime to a Norwegian entry that will see pop duo Subwoolfer (pictured) dress as wolves to perform “Give That Wolf a Banana”. Early favourites includes host Italy, whose Mahmood & Blanco will sing the beautiful ballad “Brividi”. Despite the circumstances in Ukraine, the country’s representative, Kalush Orchestra, is set to do well with “Stefania”, a blend of hip-hop and folk; a win would surely be a crowdpleaser. Bookmakers also think that Sweden, the UK and Greece stand a good chance of victory. All will be revealed in Turin.

M24 / The Menu

Simon Rogan’s Michelin stars

British chef Simon Rogan on the third Michelin star awarded to his flagship restaurant, L’Enclume. Plus: why Penang is becoming Malaysia’s culinary hot spot.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another lease of life.

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