Thursday. 16/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Building consensus

The property industry is in a moment of epic transition that’s being embraced – well, mostly – as a chance to do things better. However, the more honest attendees at Mipim, the sector’s largest event, which is taking place in Cannes this week, will also admit that there are some problems too. At one background briefing, someone from a leading investor said that projects involving US office space had become “uninvestable” because of the shift to working from home. “There’s a shortage of housing in Dublin,” said another speaker, who was worried that well-meaning social policies were having unintended consequences. “But why would we invest in building homes there when rent increases are capped at 2 per cent a year and we can’t borrow money at less than 8 per cent?” The push to meet climate-change-related demands was also an area where developers were finding both amazing opportunities and, sometimes, controls that stopped them from stepping forward.

Charles Begley, chief executive of the London Property Alliance, which represents the city’s leading developers and investors, highlighted one tricky debate. The group’s recent report, Retrofit First, Not Retrofit Only, argues that there needs to be a more nuanced approach to deciding whether a building should be repurposed or pulled down and that the move by some cities to ban demolition might backfire. “The politicisation of retrofitting is eroding the ability to drive sustainable outcomes by retaining buildings that really are obsolete and for which the viability for investing just does not exist,” he said in Cannes.

So what needs to happen to bring developers, investors and civic leaders together on hot-button topics such as this? The answer seems to be an acceptance, especially when the global economy is so shaky, that progress is inevitable but will require compromises.

Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor in chief. For the full report, listen to ‘The Urbanist’ at 19.00 London time tonight or as a podcast whenever it suits you.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / USA, Ethiopia & Niger

Blinken you’ll miss it

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken (pictured), is in Ethiopia and moving on to Niger this week, as part of the Biden administration’s charm offensive on African nations. The whistle-stop trip, though partly about peacekeeping, is also intended to help counter the influence of China and Russia across the continent. “The question is why it has taken the US so long to focus,” Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the US and the Americas programme at Chatham House, tells The Globalist on Monocle 24.

“There’s a sense of heightened competition from China and now, with the war in Ukraine, Russia is trying to increase its influence in Africa. To insert itself back into the continent, the US needs to show concern for food security, the climate and development, and not just democracy and counterterrorism, which for a long time topped the US agenda.” The diplomatic push will continue later this month when the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, visits Ghana, Tanzania and Gambia.

For more on Blinken’s visit to African nations, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: João Gonzalez

Animation / Portugal

Moving pictures

Portugal might have narrowly missed out on its chance to win an Oscar with João Gonzalez’s affecting short film Ice Merchants (pictured) but that hasn’t dampened the nation’s lively animation industry. For proof, head to Lisbon’s Monstra animation festival, which opened yesterday and runs until 26 March at various venues across the capital.

The event’s 16th edition is taking over cinemas with a programme featuring new productions alongside anime classics from this year’s country of honour, Japan. There will also be masterclasses and workshops by the likes of Portuguese directors Bruno Caetano and José Miguel Ribeiro. Look out for a screening of My Grandfather’s Demons, a tale about life’s priorities directed by Nuno Beato, whose inventive studio, Sardinha em Lata, is an example of why Portugal’s animation industry is one to watch.

Image: Getty Images

Mobility / Morocco

Almost all aboard

Morocco is hurtling ahead with ambitious plans to enhance its rail network, including an additional 1,500km of high-speed lines to be completed by 2040. The existing Al Boraq (pictured), Africa’s first high-speed service, which currently whisks passengers between Tangier and Kenitra at speeds of up to 320km/h, intends to be 50 per cent wind-powered this year.

The broader Plan Rail Maroc by state-owned rail company ONCF features both a Maghreb route along the border with Algeria and an Atlantic route that will eventually connect 43 towns and cities across the network via another 3,800km of new track. The aim is to bring the proportion of Moroccans who have access to rail travel up from the existing rate of just half of the country’s population to a more robust 87 per cent. When it comes to connecting businesses and people across north Africa and giving Morocco an edge as a place to invest, the Plan Rail Maroc might be just the ticket.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Indonesia

Wish you weren’t here

Bali’s governor, I Wayan Koster, is petitioning Indonesia’s tourism minister to make it harder for visitors from Russia and Ukraine to come to the island using on-arrival visas. Since the easing of pandemic restrictions and Russia’s invasion, the number of visitors from the two nations has quickly risen: 60,000 Russians and about 9,000 Ukrainians came last year. Complaints about their conduct have increased too.

“Many [Russian and Ukrainian tourists] have been seen to be behaving very badly,” says Anne Barker, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Indonesia correspondent. There are concerns that the snub, as well as new legislation that cracks down on tourists renting and misusing motorbikes, will dampen the island’s appeal to visitors. “Many Russians have reacted strongly and say that they will take their money elsewhere,” says Barker. “But some people in Bali wouldn’t miss these tourists if they’re forced to go.” Next stop, Phuket?

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

The music of Liverpool

Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top artists from Liverpool as the city prepares to host Eurovision.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sits down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant.

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