Wednesday 1 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 1/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Top flight

What does the 747 mean to you? Everyone at Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington, has a story. This is where the last of these iconic aircrafts is rolling out of the door. There’s the quality controller who calls it her family’s “freedom bird” because it was what carried them to the US as refugees from Vietnam; there’s the long-standing Boeing comms person who rolls up her sleeve to show me her forearm tattoo of a jumbo jet. There are a few misty eyes. “Nowadays aeroplanes are all brain,” one Argentine journalist tells me. “But the 747 had heart,” he says, thumping his chest.

He has a point. Though the 747 was a high note of the golden age of travel (the first was delivered in 1970 for Pan Am, and early iterations had a cocktail lounge on the top deck), its scale also made flying cheaper and got the world moving like never before. Today the drive for smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft is steadily phasing the jumbo out of our skies, though a handful of airlines, such as Lufthansa, keep them flying and they’re still used as cargo carriers.

Boeing’s next-generation jet is the 777X, which is comparable in heft to the 747 but with an efficient twin-engine set-up. All that’s left to do is to start delivering it after a string of delays. Until then, the 747 should serve as inspiration. It might be bulky but the designers made passenger comfort and a premium experience their priority, a profound thought when so much of travel today is about squeezing in and cutting fine. British architect Norman Foster once called the Queen of the Skies “heroic” in scale. I feel compelled to agree.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor, based in Los Angeles. Listen to his report on the last 747 on ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Myanmar

Hard to resist

As Myanmar marks the second anniversary of the country’s most recent military coup today, there appears to be no end in sight to the junta’s grip on power. Despite the civil war, the economy has stabilised and the generals are making plans to hold national elections later this year to legitimise their power grab. General Min Aung Hlaing (pictured) seized control from the National League for Democracy in 2021 and duly locked up the party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then thousands of people have been killed and fighting continues to take place between the army and resistance groups. The international community is coming under renewed pressure to act amid a deepening humanitarian crisis, which has seen an estimated 1.5 million people displaced. However, much will depend on Myanmar’s continental neighbours, who continue to provide economic and diplomatic support to the military junta. If change is to come, their aiding and abetting must stop.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Global

Great Danes

Denmark has come out on top in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released yesterday. While the Nordic nation was awarded a commendable 90 points out of a possible 100, 26 countries received their worst-ever scores. Among the backsliders was the UK, which fell seven places to joint 18th in the ranking of 180 countries’ perceived corruption levels. The country’s poor showing was in response to a series of scandals including revelations of a “VIP lane” that fast-tracked companies with political connections for protective-medical-supplies contracts when Matt Hancock (pictured) was the UK’s health secretary.

Transparency International warns that the global fight against corruption is stagnating, partly because of war: the fog of conflict creates ample opportunities for dishonest activity. Yet progress can be made. Last month, Volodymyr Zelensky declared a zero-tolerance approach in Ukraine and several officials accused of abuses of power were pushed out of office. Even amid an invasion, Ukraine’s CPI score for 2022 improved – if only slightly. That makes the UK’s downward slide even less excusable.

Listen to Daniel Eriksson, CEO of Transparency International’s secretariat in Berlin, speaking about the index on ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Alamy

Economy / Portugal & Cape Verde

Natural costs

It pays to have a good relationship with another nation. Just look at the latest deal made between Portugal and Cape Verde, for example. The two countries have signed a historic agreement to swap monies owed for environmental investments. Cape Verde is about €140m in debt to Portugal, with an additional €400m owing to Portuguese banks and companies.

An initial €12m debt repayment tranche was due by 2025 but, under the agreement – which was signed by Portugal's prime minister, António Costa, and his Cape Verdean counterpart, Ulisses Correia e Silva (pictured, on left, with Costa) – the full amount will be funnelled into a fund to help Cape Verde fight climate change and invest in energy transition and conservation efforts. While environmental reparations remain a sensitive topic, such “debt-for-nature” schemes could be a positive way to alleviate the burden for developing nations that are keen to invest in a sustainable future – both in the fiscal sense and for the planet.

Image: Beijing Douban Technology

Culture / China

Pass the popcorn

China’s box office is breaking records thanks to pent-up post-pandemic demand and an abrupt end to the country’s zero-coronavirus strategy. Total ticket sales over the six-day Lunar New Year holiday in January reached $993m (€915m), 14 per cent more than during the same period in 2019. The films attracting record box-office receipts are unlikely to gain similar levels of attention in the West: the biggest hit, comedy thriller Full River Red, is by Chinese director Zhang Yimou and set at the start of the Song dynasty.

In second place is director Frant Gwo’s sci-fi film The Wandering Earth 2 (pictured), which was also made in China. While the biggest hits are domestic productions, a strong comeback for the country’s cinema could point to a wider appetite for post-pandemic spending. Indeed, many are hoping that Chinese consumers will give a much-needed boost to the world economy as the country continues to open up.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Foreign Desk

What lies ahead for Brazil?

Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president for the third time in January in a stunning comeback following four years of Bolsonaro’s far-right government. The newly inaugurated president now faces an uphill battle to rebuild his country and reinstate Brazil as a leading player on the world stage. What will Lula’s foreign policy look like? Andrew Mueller speaks to Fernando Augusto Pacheco, Christopher Sabatini, Cecilia Tornaghi and Sarah Shenker.

Monocle Films / Sicily

Sicily’s tropical produce

Climate change is prompting fruit farmers to diversify and coffee roasters to start considering areas beyond the so-called bean belt to source their raw material. In Sicily, Morettino, a forward-looking family-run roastery, has already started growing coffee plants in Palermo, creating an espresso that is truly made in Italy. To discover more surprising business opportunities, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.


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