Monday 6 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 6/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news: A huge, 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey this morning near the country’s southeastern border with Syria. Turkish and Syrian officials are reporting casualties in the hundreds and this number is expected to climb as rescuers in multiple cities search for survivors. For more on this story tune in to Monocle radio throughout the day. The Globalist is live at 7am GMT (8am CET).

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Hannah Lucinda Smith

Broken promises

One of the last places where Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad (pictured, on far right, with Erdogan), were photographed together was Bodrum, where they holidayed with their respective families in 2008 at the height of the pair’s “brotherly” relations. After more than 10 years of open hostility, the strongmen are on course for a reconciliation: the leaders are expected to meet again after their respective foreign ministers do so, reportedly as soon as this month. The location for their next photocall will probably be less scenic than the last time but the occasion will be no less significant.

Turkey severed diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 as the civil war escalated and Erdogan threw his support behind Assad’s opponents. Syria’s political opposition is still based in Istanbul; Turkey supports a coalition of armed rebels and conducts military operations on Syrian soil. But with elections looming in May, Erdogan is aware that widespread anger towards the four million Syrian refugees in his country is turning popular opinion against him. Patching things up with Assad and promising that the Syrians will be returned could help him – even if putting such a plan into action will be far trickier than organising an on-camera handshake.

Reconstruction deals will be easier to set up and offer Assad something in return. Erdogan has built strong links with Turkey’s construction giants, which have been handed lucrative state contracts and, in return, praise the president in the pages of the newspapers that they own. Improved relations would also open up the Syrian market, just as the Turkish economy slips into crisis.

The losers from any deal that might be struck? The Syrians who banked on Erdogan as an ally against Assad. For 10 years he has vowed to protect them. It seems that the prospect of votes and construction contracts has proved more tempting in the end.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent.

Image: Shutterstock

Business / India

Taking stock

Protests are taking place across India today over the potential impact of a sharp drop in the share price of the Adani Group – one of the country’s biggest conglomerates. The opposition Congress party accuses the government of forcing state-run institutions to invest public money into the company, whose activities range from energy to infrastructure projects. Narendra Modi’s close connection with the group’s chairman, Gautam Adani, is also in the spotlight; the prime minister has kept quiet on the matter so far.

Allegations of accounting fraud from US investment-research firm Hindenburg Research sparked the group’s share-price drop, wiping $120bn (€110bn) off its stock. As well as eroding the savings of millions of small investors, the plunge could have wider implications for India’s reputation as a place to do business. With opposition lawmakers calling for an investigation, the furore is unlikely to dissipate just yet. Local elections will be held throughout this year, so Modi will have one eye on the polls when – and if – he finally decides to respond.

Image: Shutterstock

Infrastructure / USA

Building bridges

Last week the White House announced first-of-its-kind funding for nine nationally significant “mega-projects”: highways, bridges and passenger railways considered too large or complex to be achieved through traditional funding models. The $1.2bn (€1.1bn) federal grant includes a $250m (€230m) cash injection to improve the Brent Spence Bridge, which is among the country’s worst truck bottlenecks, and $292m (€269m) for the construction of concrete casing beneath New York’s Hudson Yards.

While a raft of ambitious projects are currently brewing across the US – the Department of Transport says that it has received 100 applications for funding – progress is often slow because of scale, cost and politics. Expediting these developments will allow Joe Biden (pictured) to portray himself as a dealmaker who gets things done. He will be keen to stress that this approach benefits the whole nation.

Art / Cuba

Vote of confidence

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the arrests of Cuban artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (pictured) and Hamlet Lavastida in 2021 violated international law. Both had been involved in the San Isidro Movement, a group formed to protest against state censorship that now comprises creatives of all stripes, from poets and musicians to academics.

The human-rights experts decried the Cuban government’s censorship, political persecution and systematic targeting of critical voices. Despite this, artists have long refused to stay quiet and have been leading the way in calling for a fairer society. Their hope now is that high-profile cases, such as those of Otero Alcántara and Lavastida, will persuade Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to change tack and serve as a reminder of art’s power to fight for political results.

Image: Getty Images


Calling the tune

Millions of Italians will be glued to their TV screens this week as the 73rd edition of Sanremo Music Festival starts tomorrow. The prime-time spectacle, which unfolds over five consecutive evenings on national broadcaster Rai, is an important moment on the Italian calendar – and not just because its winner goes on to represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest. Past performers at the festival include 2021 Eurovision winners Måneskin (pictured).

As well as welcoming back established icons, the festival introduces emerging musical talent to the national stage and regularly sets the agenda for Italy’s cultural conversation. Despite attracting criticism from far-right politicians – for reasons ranging from the expected appearance by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to performances by artists who defy traditional gender roles – the festival offers an interesting model for updating traditional TV formats. Broadcasters looking to bolster live audience numbers would do well to take note.


Paris special

We bring you the best of what was on show at two events in the French capital: trade fair Maison & Objet and Paris Fashion Week for menswear.

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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