Tuesday 22 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 22/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

With friends like these

Is Fumio Kishida’s government already on its way out? The Japanese media seems to think so. The prime minister (pictured), who has been in power for little more than a year, lost his third cabinet ally in less than a month on Sunday, when the internal affairs minister, Minoru Terada, handed in his resignation. Terada’s exit follows a series of scandals over political funding, including the revelation that one of his support groups had submitted documentation carrying a dead person’s signature. Kishida has already had to replace his economic revitalisation minister, Daishiro Yamagiwa, over ties to the controversial Unification Church and dismiss his justice minister, Yasuhiro Hanashi, for off-colour remarks about the death penalty.

This is starting to look like a pattern for Kishida, who, despite promising experience and stability in a reshuffle in August, has had to jettison three first-time ministers, all of whom were allies. After a weeklong trip to the meetings of Asean, the G20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, the prime minister is looking increasingly beleaguered. It’s a challenging time to be a leader but Japan’s prime minister is doing himself no favours by hiring friends and, worse, dithering over firing them when common sense demands it. After building up reputational credit with a strong response to the Ukraine crisis and his unequivocal condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Kishida is at risk of losing it by projecting weakness and indecision.

Now his rivals are licking their lips amid what is being described as “resignation dominoes”. The reconstruction minister, Kenya Akiba, is under fire for problems with his expenses, while the parliamentary vice-minister of internal affairs and communications, Mio Sugita, has been in hot water for liking defamatory tweets. At a time when the Japanese electorate is deeply concerned about cost-of-living increases, Kishida needs to show that he can manage his party more effectively.

Fiona Wilson is Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / South Africa & UK

Hitting reset

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured), landed in London yesterday for a state visit, becoming the fourth president of a democratic South Africa to be formally invited to the UK and the first foreign leader since King Charles’s accession. Aside from trade and climate change, repairing the countries’ strained relationship will surely be at the top of the agenda. In November 2021 the UK placed South Africa on its travel-ban list in response to the Omicron variant of coronavirus; Ramaphosa’s refusal to unequivocally condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine has also driven a wedge between the countries. While the president might be seeking a royal reset, Tony Leon, a former leader of South Africa’s opposition, tells The Monocle Minute that Ramaphosa “has parroted the Kremlin playbook and this should be the focus of his hosts. A state visit can’t disguise the fact that the country, once a beacon to the world, can’t keep its lights on."

To hear more about the visit, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: NERP

Business / Denmark

It takes a village

On the windswept edge of Copenhagen is what looks like a conventional building site. But the UN17 Village – a €150m, five-building residential complex intended to integrate all 17 of the UN’s sustainable development goals – might be a sign of things to come for the world of construction. It’s also the flagship project of property company Nordic Real Estate Partners (NREP) and a key part of its mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2028.

The construction and operation of buildings are responsible for more than 40 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions and cement alone accounts for 8 per cent. For the global construction sector, reducing those figures is an urgent priority but it also presents a lucrative opportunity for companies that can erect truly sustainable buildings. “The solutions need to scale up,” NREP’s CEO, Claus Mathisen, tells Monocle’s The Forecast. “NREP is large in a Danish context but we are still a tiny part of the built environment. We want others to pick up our ideas.”

To find out more, buy a copy of Monocle’s new issue of The Forecast, available on newsstands now.

Image: Dustin Aksland

Design / USA

Punchy designs

The worlds of magazine design and advertising are mourning the death of one of their most celebrated art directors, George Lois, who died late last week at the age of 91. Lois produced some of the 20th century’s most memorable ads, as well as highly influential covers for Esquire magazine.

Lois wasn’t afraid to be political, touching on topics such as civil rights, feminism and the Vietnam War. Perhaps his best-known piece of work is an Esquire cover featuring Muhammad Ali as a martyred Saint Sebastian, a reference to the boxer being stripped of his heavyweight title following his refusal to be drafted into the army.

Lois’s first cover, which came out in 1962, also featured a boxer: a lookalike of Floyd Patterson, knocked out. The image predicted the outcome of a fight that Patterson later lost. “Sometimes things like that happen and you say, ‘Maybe there is a God,’” Lois told Monocle 24’s The Stack in 2016. “Liston destroyed Patterson. Esquire’s circulation went from 400,000 to two million.”

Listen to Lois’s 2016 interview on Monocle 24’s ‘The Stack’ here.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / New Zealand

Age appropriate

New Zealand’s lawmakers will decide whether to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the current model breached young people’s fundamental human rights and discriminated against them. The case was brought forward by the campaign group Make It 16, which argues that young people should be able to have a say on issues that disproportionately affect them, such as climate change.

While the decision marks a significant victory for Make It 16, the bill faces significant obstacles. Changes to the country’s electoral law require 75 per cent of support in parliament. This means that any attempt to lower the voting age would need the backing of large sections of both Labour and the opposition National party to make it over the line. The latter, however, has already made it clear that it opposes such a move. Even so, Make It 16 and its supporters remain hopeful. “This is a huge step forward,” the campaign group’s co-director Caeden Tipler said on a New Zealand radio programme. “The court has proven what we’ve known the whole time.”

Image: Niamh Barry

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Roadside motels

We are in Canada to see how roadside motels are becoming destinations in their own right. Also in the programme: how chef Rafael Cagali is pioneering Brazilian cuisine in Europe.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Photography

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