Friday 30 September 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 30/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Leila Molana-Allen

Breaking the cycle

Yesterday, Lebanon’s newly elected parliament held its first session (pictured) to select the country’s next president. No one expects the process to be speedy – the last time this happened, the country went without a leader for more than two years as a result of political infighting. But the larger question is what the government can do to pull Lebanon out of its seemingly endless death spiral. This week the authorities made a significant concession: after years of clinging to an official exchange rate that bears no semblance to reality, the Banque du Liban announced that from November it will revise the official rate from L£1,500 to the US dollar to L£15,000. That might still be a long way short of the black market but, in a country that currently has six parallel exchange rates, it is the first realistic step in trying to rebuild a functional economy and financial system. Next comes the even harder choice of whether to adopt the tough fiscal reforms formulated with the IMF.

Lebanon’s leaders are wary of doing so, particularly when it comes to cutting jobs from the bloated public sector; they fear the inevitable backlash from their traditional supporters, whose living standards are already in the gutter. But in recent months the country’s crisis has plumbed new and extreme depths. Citizens are robbing banks to reclaim their savings, while Lebanese (as well as Syrians) in the hope of escape are boarding dangerous boats that often sink.

While more suffering is expected, the beginnings of a plan and policies aimed at rebuilding a country instead of just keeping it on life support are a cause for optimism that Lebanon will one day be a country that works for its people rather than against them.

Leila Molana-Allen is Monocle’s Beirut correspondent.

Image: Reuters

Politics / UK

Dire straits

It has been a bad week for Brand Britain. The so-called mini-budget announcement at the end of last week by Liz Truss’s newly minted government was meant to mark a bold new path to stimulating growth in a stagnating economy. Instead, it has set off panic, caused the pound to sink to record lows, provoked a severe rebuke from the IMF (almost unheard of for a developed nation) and led to an emergency intervention from the Bank of England. All of this is being watched in bewilderment internationally, with France’s Le Monde writing about a “spectacular and catastrophic start” to a government that is little more than three weeks old. As though that wasn’t bad enough, it was revealed yesterday that the BBC World Service, that beacon of Britishness broadcasting to the globe, is set to axe about 380 jobs. The honeymoon period is very much over.

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / Brazil

Poll positions

The battle between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva culminates on Sunday when Brazilians head to the polls. And that’s not all: the country is not only electing a new president but also 27 state governors, 27 senators and the whole of Congress.

The position of governor holds plenty of power and is often a precursor to a presidential run. The most important race is in São Paulo state, which has 44 million people and represents a third of Brazil’s GDP. Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party is leading; if he wins, it would be the first time that the party has governed there. In Rio de Janeiro, meanwhile, Bolsonaro candidate and current governor Cláudio Castro is out in front. Though the spotlight is on the contest at the top, a large part of Brazil’s future will be decided at a more regional level.

Follow Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco coverage of the election on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Society / Taiwan

Open season

Taiwan restarted visa-free travel for several countries yesterday and declared that it will end its current three-day quarantine for all international visitors on 13 October. The news follows Japan’s announcement last week that it is reopening to tourists on 11 October after more than two years of closed borders. Hong Kong, meanwhile, scrapped its strict hotel quarantine on Monday and, last Friday, even the remote kingdom of Bhutan reopened.

Less than two weeks ago this crop of nations made up the world’s last coronavirus-quarantine holdouts; that list has now dwindled to just mainland China and North Korea. While other countries are keen to attract visitors and boost their economies, China’s large domestic tourism industry and its government’s willingness to keep the country closed indefinitely mean that it could stand fast for a while longer.

Image: Olenich

Fashion / Paris

Eastern promise

Paris Fashion Week, which runs until 4 October, is when the city’s historic houses come out to play. But this season a host of younger names have been commanding attention, from Copenhagen-based Cecilie Bahnsen to tailoring expert Botter and a group of Ukrainian designers who took part in a showcase organised by Vogue Ukraine.

Nearly 20 creatives travelled from Ukraine to Paris for the event, including Yana Olenich, whose namesake label Olēnich is known for elegant outerwear and tailoring. Olenich fled to Greece in March but has since returned to her hometown of Odesa. “Greece is an amazing country but it’s not home,” she tells The Monocle Minute. Ukraine’s artists are determined to forge ahead and Olenich’s collection (pictured), an optimistic melange of breezy silhouettes and hand-embroidered flowers seen in Odesa at this time of year, is proof of it.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Foreign Desk

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Andrew Mueller takes a look at the alleged founder of the Russian network of mercenaries, the Wagner Group.

Monocle Films / Japan

Tokyo’s colourful community bus

An electric bus service has injected a new playfulness into a borough of Tokyo in need of a revamp. We hop aboard and meet Eiji Mitooka, its creator and Japan’s foremost train designer, who explains why he puts fun at the top of his list when designing public transport. All aboard! Read more in the June issue of the magazine.


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