Tuesday 5 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 5/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Constructive thinking

Visit Aceh in Indonesia today and you wouldn’t know that it suffered a devastating tsunami in 2005, Ani Dasgupta of the World Resources Institute tells me. A key reason for this was Indonesia’s impressive ownership of the reconstruction process. International organisations provided assistance, including the World Bank, where Dasgupta was an envoy at the time. “But it was absolutely clear to every one of us, including me, that we were helping them reconstruct,” says Dasgupta.

By contrast, Jed Horne, former city editor of The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, tells me of the infighting and corruption that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “There was tremendous tension,” he says, coupled with a lack of understanding of what residents needed. New Orleans has mostly recovered today but that is thanks more to neighbourhood and civil society efforts than to government leadership.

Ukraine’s leaders appear to have taken those lessons about the need for national ownership to heart. “All of the initiatives, plans and ambitions for recovery must be part of a single system, where not only the needs but the feelings of Ukrainians will be at the forefront,” president Volodymyr Zelensky told the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano in a video address yesterday. And Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal (pictured), who attended in person, outlined a detailed draft rebuilding plan “to show that Ukraine has a very clear vision of how we can become successful”.

The question is whether the EU and others have listened. Zelensky’s remark about the need for a “single system” was a not-so-subtle rebuke of an EU-led platform to co-ordinate the rebuilding effort. “Ukraine will be in the lead,” EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen promised as she unveiled the platform. If past reconstruction efforts are anything to go by, that had better be true.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s news editor. Hear more from Aceh, New Orleans and Lugano during a special series on ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24 throughout this week.

Image: Shutterstock

Mobility / Austria

Track changes

It’s the end of the line for Vienna’s distinctive red-and-white E1 trams (pictured). The vehicles, which have been in operation since the 1960s, were officially retired last week. “Usually trams can get 40 years of service but the old E1s had already been here for 55 years,” Lisa Schappelwein, spokesperson for Wiener Linien, told Monocle 24. Some of the cars will be put up for sale or sent to a museum.

Vienna’s tram network has an operating length of about 220km. That makes it one of the largest in the world and a much more efficient way of getting citizens moving than the e-scooters causing near misses at crossings and cluttering up walkways across Europe. The new trams combine tradition with a reminder of how far mass transit has come in the past half-century – and which ideas still stand up. “We will still have red trams,” says Schappelwein. “But they are air-conditioned and barrier-free so they will be much cooler to ride.”

Hear more about Vienna’s new trams and other stories from around the world on today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Pronto Corporation

Food Technology / Japan

Lunch bot

Restaurant openings are common in Tokyo but Marunouchi’s E Vino Spaghetti (pictured), which launched last week, has a unique selling point: it deploys the world’s first pasta-chef robots. The P-Robo mimics the motions of a skilled chef, turning out 90 meals an hour, and can whip up a decent carbonara and a more ambitious steamed-chicken-and-mizuna spaghetti. Developer Techmagic says that the machine can also make fried rice and soba. Any diners nervous about technical glitches will be reassured that human chefs provide finishing touches to dishes. The idea of leaving steel claws in charge of cooking – something that’s as much an art as it is a science – might not appeal but automated meal preparation could address the labour shortages facing Japan’s food industry. Kazuhiro Sugiyama, managing director of the company behind E Vino Spaghetti, says that the priority was always reliably tasty food and “not simply the novelty of robots”. While many rightly worry about the loss of a human touch in hospitality, it helps that P-Robo does its own washing up.

Image: Shutterstock

Government / Argentina

Balance of power

The wave of political polarisation and financial uncertainty breaking across Latin America has sharpened the focus on its third-largest economy. Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández named a new economy chief on Sunday, following the resignation of stalwart minister Martin Guzmán (pictured, on right, with Fernández), who recently negotiated the refinancing of €42bn in debt with the IMF. Guzmán quit after clashing with the ruling party’s coalition partner, led by powerful vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

His departure, the latest of many, will further weaken the moderate Fernández. Guzmán’s replacement, Silvina Batakis, is more ideologically aligned with the vice-president and will likely push for higher welfare spending. That might enthuse the leftist coalition’s partisans but alienate its moderates. Argentina’s inflation and fiscal deficit remain steep, so investors are understandably concerned about the country’s ability to meet its debt commitments. Governmental collapse would only harm Buenos Aires’s ability to handle economic crises. Let’s hope that Batakis has better luck in bridging the coalition’s divide.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / USA

Clean streets

Seattle used to be considered a beacon of good living in the US. Because of factors such as its handling of the pandemic, rising inequality and illegal refuse dumping, however, it didn’t make it into Monocle’s index of the world’s most liveable cities, which is out now. But things might be changing for the better.

Its new mayor, Bruce Harrell (pictured), was elected last November partly to arrest this decline. Since coming to power, his administration has cleared several homeless encampments (referring those in need to shelters and housing), towed abandoned vehicles and bolstered the city’s ailing police service. Harrell asked Seattleites to return the favour in May with the first One Seattle Day of Service. Civic associations and community groups welcomed their neighbours to pitch in with painting over graffiti, picking up litter and planting flowers. The mayor added a carrot: volunteer hours could be used to pay off minor parking fines and other municipal infractions, showing that a little engagement from its citizens can be the key to reviving a city’s fortunes.

Read more about Seattle’s clean-up efforts in Monocle’s July/August Quality of Life issue, out now.

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Topping the pastry game

Maira Yeo on the skills that made her the best pastry chef in Asia. Plus, how Turkish restaurateur Umut Ozkanca wants to change people’s perceptions of his home country’s food.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Normandy

Pierre-Edouard Robine traded city life to rediscover his farming roots in 2016. Since then, he has built a sparkling wine business and forages for Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, alongside tending to his small herd of cattle. We travelled to his farm in La Courbe, Normandy, to lend a hand with tending the land and hear about the benefits of rural living.


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