Thursday 6 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 6/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Loss for words

Italy’s far-right government is waging a determined, if slightly bizarre, crusade to protect the hallmarks of its nationhood. First it took issue with lab-grown meat and the bastardisation of Italian recipes abroad (quite obviously a lost cause). Now it has set its sights on protecting its language from the threat of foreign tongues.

Fabio Rampelli, an MP from the ruling Brothers of Italy party, presented a bill to parliament this week that would ban the use of foreign languages (English, in particular) in official documents, job titles and school and university courses, with fines up to €100,000 for transgressors. Rampelli believes that the “Anglomania” that has swept across Italy “demeans and mortifies” the nation’s mother tongue and will have “repercussions for society as a whole”.

He’s right that the use of English terms in Italian parlance has skyrocketed, particularly in business, where referring to “deadlines” or “fashion” might offer the speaker a dubious cosmopolitan flair. Patois expressions such as “smart working” (Italy’s version of working from home) have snuck in without apparent reason. But the idea that “CEOs” of brands operating across borders should be known by the Italian equivalent Amministratori Delegati is laughable for its stubbornness. It feels like tilting at windmills in a world that has moved on.

Then there’s the truly absurd bit: the government itself introduced a new English-inspired name for the entrepreneurship ministry dubbed Ministero delle Imprese e del Made in Italy, while prime minister Giorgia Meloni (pictured) referred to herself as an “underdog” in her first address to parliament. At least she’s able to use the lingo that has foxed many of her colleagues and predecessors. Perhaps investing in better language education for future generations – rather than railing against the inevitability of globalisation – might be a better fight to commit to?

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s executive editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Taiwanese Presidential Office

Geopolitics / Taiwan & USA

Delicate diplomacy

Tsai Ing-wen (pictured) is drawing predictable ire from Beijing after meeting US House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. It’s the Taiwanese president’s last stop in an overseas tour to strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic ties. The trip has included meetings with leaders in Central America. “You have to feel a little sorry for Taiwan,” David Schlesinger, an independent adviser and commentator on media, journalism and China, tells Monocle Radio’s The Globalist. “Yes, it does have powerful friends, such as the US, that are willing to play shadow games, of ‘visits’ that aren’t visits. But it has just lost [the recognition of] Honduras. Taiwan is the darling of the democratic world but is in the unenviable position of being next to China, which everyone wants to have economic, business and diplomatic relations with.” So where does that leave Taiwan after Tsai’s 10-day trip? “In a very difficult position,” says Schlesinger. “With Chinese planes buzzing around the island in retaliation for visits like this one.”

Image: Reuters

Defence / Japan

Spend to defend

Despite its long history of pacifism, Japan has announced plans to offer aid to allies that are looking to invest in defence. New rules set out yesterday state that the financing is only available for what it calls “like-minded countries” and stipulates that it can’t be used to buy lethal weapons. Despite the careful wording, the initiative marks a departure from rules that have forbidden Japan’s international aid being used for military purposes.

It also comes as part of the country’s biggest military build-up since the Second World War amid unease about China’s growing military might in the region. “It’s a shift that is long overdue,” Tomohiko Taniguchi, who served as special adviser to the cabinet of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, tells The Monocle Minute. “The prospective recipients of the aid – The Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Fiji – are all strategically important to keeping the Indo-Pacific free, open and law-abiding, thereby strengthening Japan’s own security.”

Image: Mateja Vrckovic

Retail / Global

Second life

The global fashion-resale market continues its upward trajectory and is expected to double its revenues to $350bn (€320bn) by 2027, according to a new report by Global Data and US-based reseller ThredUp. This once-overlooked sector is now growing three times faster than the primary clothing market – partly due to inflation, with shoppers now looking to save money while making more environmentally responsible purchases.

Resale is an opportunity for both brands and retailers to find new revenue streams that don’t depend on manufacturing new items. Might the market shift be a timely solution to fashion’s overproduction crisis? Currently, an estimated 100 billion items of clothing are made every year, many by fast-fashion giants whose businesses have so far thrived on low-quality, cheap and rapid manufacturing. “Climate issues have increased awareness of resale’s potential to reduce fashion’s impact on the environment,” says ThredUp’s CEO, James Reinhart. “It’s still early days but I don’t see a world where we go back to the way it used to be.”

For more on the changing world of retail and why a great shop is still a simple sell, read the April issue of Monocle, which is out now.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Singapore

Funding streams

Singapore has announced a new scheme designed to tempt entertainment companies to make television series and films in the city-state. The Singapore On-Screen Fund, which has incentives totalling SG$10m (€6.9m), was put together by the Singapore Tourism Board and the Infocomm Media Development Authority. It follows several previous collaborations between the Singapore government and production companies including one that resulted in hugely successful 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians.

The global media companies and streaming services that make successful applications to the new fund will receive up to 30 per cent of their proposed spend and eligible projects will need to air by early 2027 – and they must show the country in a good light for tourists. It’s this last stipulation that might raise eyebrows. While many places offer tax breaks to bring in film-makers, the fund is an opportunity to invest in fostering Singaporean talent and great storytelling. The search for the next Crazy Rich Asians begins now.

Image: Gallivant

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs


Nick Steward is the founder of Gallivant, an artisan perfumery based in London. Steward creates award-winning unisex fragrances inspired by destinations around the globe, capturing the spirit and excitement of cities and travel.

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