Wednesday. 10/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Jake Naughton

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Capital injection

I’ve just returned from a few days reporting in Mexico City, a place that intensely captured me. I stayed downtown which, despite its ornateness and abundance of history, feels industrious; a place where people still make things. It reminded me at times of Istanbul. That might sound odd given that one sits on the chilly Black Sea and the other is ringed by the humid Sierra Madre but both have been vast urban cityscapes since time immemorial.

Like Istanbul, Ciudad de México (CDMX) has historically attracted lots of expats, especially Americans. And given that the border has remained open throughout the pandemic, the city is currently booming. Upon landing, my phone pinged with several people sending me an article from the Los Angeles Times about how rents are ballooning, Mexican social media is vitriolic and flyers have been popping up around town telling remote workers, in vigorous language, to go home.

When asked about this, most Mexicans roll their eyes, saying that this is a minority view. Greater CDMX is vast, home to more than 21 million. Expats concentrate themselves in a few gentrified neighbourhoods. No doubt rents there have driven up. There’s also a broader speculative problem: you can also find shiny new apartment blocks totally devoid of tenants, bought and sold off-plan to investors. Yet few of these buyers are the beatific-looking Americans with laptops in Roma Norte’s cafés, many of which are Mexican-run and are capitalising on the rise in traffic.

Everyone I asked returned to one point: come for the city, not the price cut. Yes, living costs here might be a fraction of those in Los Angeles but no one wants their city spoken of as the cheap alternative. Indeed, like Istanbul, it’s not cheap for many locals and there’s a similarly fierce pride of place, which I found infectious and alluring. I can see why people stick around.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / Japan

Life lesson

Issey Miyake (pictured), whose death in a hospital in Tokyo on Friday at the age of 84 was announced yesterday, was one of the first Japanese designers to present his collections in Paris, putting his country on the fashion map in the process. Over the years, the eponymous label he launched in 1971 evolved into multiple franchises, including popular perfumes and Pleats Please, a range of men’s and women’s clothing designed in a signature crease-resistant crinkled fabric. Innovation was always at the core of Miyake’s work, which often blended technology and handcraft. He was also known for his playful use of colour and sharp focus on function over trends. His passing is a major loss for the fashion industry, as his individualist ethos and purist approach to design were unlike anyone else. But his spirit lives on through his design teams, which have continued to work under his supervision to this day.

To hear more on Issey Miyake’s legacy from Monocle’s fashion editor Natalie Theosodi, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Poland

Brussels doubts

Poland’s ruling party is threatening to block EU initiatives and push out European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen amid a heated row over rule of law in the country. Jarosław Kaczyński (pictured), leader of the Law and Justice Party, said that the commission had “broken” its side of a deal, in which Warsaw agreed to reverse some of its controversial judicial reforms in return for EU pandemic-relief funding. But Von der Leyen said that the modifications approved by parliament don’t go far enough.

Kaczyński now says that his government will take no further measures to meet EU demands and promised legal action against Brussels for the cash; the party’s secretary general also vowed to build a coalition to fire Von der Leyen. How much damage can they really do? “It appears that the Warsaw-Brussels conflict over rule of law will intensify in the coming months,” Alicja Ptak, senior editor at Notes from Poland, tells The Monocle Minute. “However, it is not yet clear how far Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is willing to go.”

For more on the Poland-EU rule of law dispute, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Travel / Hong Kong

Slow progress

Hong Kong has shortened its mandatory hotel-room quarantine for international arrivals from seven days to three days, followed by a four-day monitoring period when incomers can go to school, the office or shopping but not to restaurants, gyms or bars. Residents welcomed the news – flight bookings to the city-state have jumped almost 300 per cent since Monday’s announcement, while outbound bookings surged 176 per cent, according to travel agency Trip.com.

But it’s unlikely to influence the growing exodus of expatriates unless the rules are scrapped entirely. Nor will tourism or business trips bounce back: the city is hosting a high-profile finance summit in November but top Wall Street CEOs told Hong Kong officials last week that they will not attend unless they can skip quarantine entirely. The new “3+4” policy is a step in the right direction but it won’t be enough for Hong Kong to regain its status as a global financial hub.

Image: Getty Images

Climate / Austria

In the shallows

Lake Neusiedl (pictured) on the border of Austria and Hungary is a Unesco world heritage site and popular recreation spot but climate change, combined with the lake’s inherent physical properties, has seen water levels drop this summer to the lowest level in recent years. In response, an Austrian government task force is proposing building a tributary to the Danube.

But Bernhard Kohler, head of biodiversity at WWF Austria, says that if the lake dried out it would hardly be the first time: it hasn’t happened over the past 100 years but before that it wasn’t uncommon. “Even if the lake were to dry out, we can be confident that water will come again,” Kohler tells Monocle, warning that artificially refilling the lake, rather than letting nature run its course, could destroy its unique ecology by flushing out the salt water. It’s a reminder that not all climate-induced changes should spur knee-jerk responses from governments.

For more about the dilemma of Lake Neusiedl in a special report from Alexei Korolyov, listen to the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories: Northern Ireland’s murals

Henry Rees-Sheridan looks at how Northern Ireland is seeking to move beyond its history of sectarian conflict by confronting the related murals that dot its cities.

Monocle Films / Global

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