Friday. 20/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Tom Webb

Out in the open

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos helpfully wraps up at lunchtime today to allow attendees time to enjoy their weekend skiing or board their private jets before rush hour. My week here was spent at the Open Forum – the area in Davos that’s accessible to the public, creating what organisers describe as a place for “a broader audience to participate”. It comprises a series of welcoming buildings fronted by countries and companies, designed to showcase and sell their culture.

Every year these buildings are signifiers of global change and the temporary tenants who have moved in for 2023 painted a very interesting picture. For decades, WEF tried to be a global forum but this year it once again felt Eurocentric, with countries putting on a show of unity after booting Russia out. Russia’s usual residence (the most fabulous chalet on the promenade) is occupied instead by India. Deepak Bagla, CEO and managing director of Invest India, boasted that his country acted as “the beacon of light at the forum”.

His point is hard to argue: countries in the global south, so often an afterthought at WEF, aren’t wringing their hands about Russia like the rest of the forum. While Russia is isolated from Davos and the West, many nations of the global south that haven’t spoken out are now reaping the benefits. India’s record binge of Russian oil has been a huge boost for its economy, while the UAE have clearly been enjoying the rise in Russian tourism as well as a spike in the price of oil, with which it is well stocked.

The two nations also happen to be among the countries with the biggest presence in Davos, with India alone taking up at least eight shopfronts. Even though the global north set the gloomy agenda this year, it’s the south that’s had the best time – and that might just be true for the year ahead.

Tom Webb is Monocle 24’s deputy head of radio and has been reporting from Davos this week. Hear his reports on today’s episode of ‘The Monocle Daily’.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / USA & Germany

Tread carefully

Dozens of Western allies will meet today at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to pledge to send weapons to Ukraine in a gathering that could shift the momentum of its war with Russia. All eyes will be on a possible showdown between the US and Germany over the latter’s hesitance to provide its Leopard 2 tanks. Berlin might be willing to change its mind if Washington sends its own Abrams tanks, despite its reluctance to supply offensive weapons that might escalate the conflict. Yesterday’s meeting between Germany’s new defence minister, Boris Pistorius, and the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin (pictured, on left, with Pistorius), could provide clues about what is to come. “Many Germans are against sending tanks to Ukraine,” Bastian Brinkmann, deputy head of the economics department of Süddeutsche Zeitung, told The Monocle Minute. “That’s why the German chancellor is asking the US president for backing to deliver tanks together, which will be a better sell to the German public.” It’s a huge early test for Pistorius: judge the mood incorrectly and he might struggle in a job so precarious that it is known in Berlin as the “ejector seat”.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Italy & Germany

Catching air

German airline Lufthansa has made a bid for a minority share in Italian flag carrier ITA, with the potential for a full purchase at a later stage. Like its state-owned predecessor Alitalia, ITA is loss-making but Lufthansa sees Italy as its most important market after Germany and the US. Air France-KLM, which had previously shown interest in ITA, has ruled itself out. According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, ITA, which was only founded at the end of 2020, is viewed as a “promising start-up”.

The business would be integrated into a group that includes Swiss International Air Lines and Brussels Airlines. Italy’s government is also keen to ensure that Lufthansa develops more direct long-haul routes. Though the official figures have yet to be released, media reports suggest that Lufthansa is interested in a 40 per cent share, valued at about €300m. Barring any last-minute turbulence, the future looks bright for ITA.

Image: Alamy

Media / Canada

Breaking the news

Canadian newspaper Calgary Herald has sold its historic brick headquarters in downtown Calgary for CA$17.25m (€12m) as a cost-cutting measure. One of the country’s major dailies, the paper had already dropped its Monday edition and outsourced its printing operations. Its employees will now work from home, losing the co-operative spirit and buzz of the newsroom. Postmedia, which owns the newspaper along with other important titles such as National Post and Vancouver Sun, has also announced that it will move 12 of its Alberta-based publications to a digital-only format. All of which is disappointing news for Canada’s already embattled print industry.

Many in the country are calling for the government to step in to protect the sector; its attempts to regulate how technology companies can use articles made by news brands is a move in the right direction. A change in business strategy could help to ensure the survival of trusted news sources. Community news organisation Capital Daily has invested in a newsletter model, for example, while The Logic has found success with a subscription-only model.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / China & Thailand

Bunny hop

This weekend marks the start of the Chinese New Year festivities. The country’s most important public holiday usually marks the world’s biggest annual human migration, with a large portion of the nation’s 1.4-billion-strong population taking planes, trains and buses to get home for the holidays. Because this year’s celebration will be the first since China’s government lifted its strict pandemic restrictions, journey numbers are expected to surge both domestically and internationally.

The holiday will be a boon for the nation’s domestic economy, where businesses have suffered under three years of harsh lockdowns, as well as for the economies of tourism-dependent countries such as Thailand. The latter is expecting almost 600,000 foreign arrivals over the next eight days and is forecasting a total tourism spend of about THB21bn (€590m). Fireworks will be in order.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Muscle Beach South Beach, Miami

Tomos Lewis investigates how the redesign of Miami’s very own version of Muscle Beach is working out for local residents.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.

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