Tuesday 6 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 6/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Safety first: an investigator examines the fuselage plug area of a Boeing 737 Max

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Gabriel Leigh

Course correction

In an interview last weekend, Tim Clark, the president of Emirates airline, called on Boeing to urgently address its ongoing safety issues. The aircraft manufacturer has come under renewed scrutiny after a recent incident in which a panel on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 passenger jet blew off mid-flight. Boeing, said Clark, was in the “last-chance saloon”. Few have put it so starkly – but this chimes with the sentiment across the industry.

Clark is an outspoken man but is not known for hyperbole. Boeing should be deeply concerned by his suggestion that his airline was prepared to send engineers to monitor its production lines. Emirates has been counting on the arrival of Boeing’s long-delayed 777X to fulfil a crucial part of its fleet needs in the coming decades. When the airline signed up for dozens more of them at last year’s Dubai Airshow – bringing its total order to 205 units – it was a major vote of confidence in the aircraft.

The aviation industry had assumed that, following the 737 Max crashes of 2018 and 2019, which killed 346 people, Boeing would come to its senses. Though the company initially seemed to be taking those tragedies seriously, it appears to have failed to fix the culture that led to them in the first place. This latest incident has significantly harmed the reputation of both the aircraft and the brand.

Boeing needs to make a big statement – one that shows that it is tackling the issue once and for all. My prescription? Fire every single member of the current C-suite and hire engineers to run the company again, just like they did when Boeing’s quality and technological expertise were the envy of the world. When consumer confidence becomes this bad, it pays to be bold.

Gabriel Leigh is Monocle’s transport correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Move closer: Fumio Kishida (right) with William Ruto in Nairobi

Image: Alamy


Better late than never

Kenya’s president, William Ruto, begins an official two-day visit to Japan today. Following last year’s Nairobi trip by Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, the two leaders are working to strengthen ties between their respective nations. With a meeting scheduled at Kishida’s office in Tokyo, announcements about an expansion of bilateral co-operation are expected, including a Japanese food-aid policy that will provide relief to 15 African countries. Also on the agenda is increased defence co-operation.

“This is a strategic move by Japan, recognising somewhat belatedly that China is far ahead of it when it comes to building military relationships with key African players,” Rebecca Tinsley, the founder of Network for Africa, tells The Monocle Minute. “But it is also a good deal for Kenyans, who are struggling with huge Chinese debts. Kenya clearly wants to demonstrate its independence.”

Bringing the big guns: armoured vehicle at the World Defense Show

Image: Getty Images


Weapons of choice

The second edition of the World Defense Show has kicked off in Riyadh. The biennial security exhibition, founded by the Saudi General Authority for Military Industries, runs until Thursday and is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors, with displays by at least 750 companies representing some 75 countries. This year’s theme is “Equipped for Tomorrow”; the event encompasses technological developments in land, sea and air defence, as well as a special arena promoting the importance of space in maintaining national security.

Inaugurated last weekend by Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the showcase is part of the kingdom’s mission to position itself as a global hub of defence innovation. Almost $8bn (€7.5bn) worth of contracts were signed at 2022’s inaugural World Defense Show and companies in the sector anticipate a similarly high volume of orders this year.


Stitched together

The merger of Arezzo and Grupo Soma will result in the formation of Brazil’s second-largest fashion retailer (behind only Lojas Renner), with revenues of about BRL12bn (€2.25bn). The deal, announced this week, is the biggest merger in the country’s retail sector since 2011. Arezzo investors will reportedly own 54 per cent of the new company, with Grupo Soma holding on to the rest. Brazil’s financial markets welcomed the announcement, which paves the way for more local competition against Asian rivals such as China’s Shein, which have become increasingly popular across South America in recent years. With 34 companies including beloved home-grown brands Hering and Farm under its control – as well as 2,000 shops across the country – Brazil’s new retail powerhouse will be a force to be reckoned with.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Vali Nasr

Protection racket

Former US State Department adviser Vali Nasr is the Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University. Here, he tells Monocle Radio’s The Foreign Desk about Iran’s use of proxy militias and what the country aims to accomplish with this strategy.

Can we be certain of Iran’s role in the recent attacks in the Red Sea and on US bases across the Middle East?
We use the term “Iran-backed” a little too loosely. The danger is that we might come to the conclusion that this is a far more close-knit military operation than it really is. These are the actions of an alliance of groups that have been bred by Iran but each represents its own reality.

What is Iran trying to accomplish with these proxy militias?
Iran sees the US and Israel as its enemies and is using these proxies to protect itself. From the outset, Hezbollah has served as a missile system on Israel’s borders, without which Tel Aviv could attack Iran far more liberally. From Tehran’s perspective, these militias are an extension of its defence, deterrence and military capabilities.

Do the Iranian people fully understand and support what their country is doing?
Not necessarily. When the US invaded Iraq, it didn’t just dismantle Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime – it pulverised the country. So the Iranians might have decided, “No, we don’t like our rulers but neither do we want our country to turn into what Iraq became.” But since 2003, popular support has fallen and there are growing calls to repair relations with the US so that this posturing is not needed. But as we have seen with Russia and China, it is the political leaders who make these strategic decisions. If they’re not democratic and the people disagree with them about something, they just force it down their throat.

For our full interview with Vali Nasr, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Stack

‘Ori’, ‘Office’ and ‘Fotografiska Berlin’

This week on The Stack, we talk to the founder of new travel publication Ori. Plus: Simon Rasmussen from Office and Fotografiska Berlin Magazine.


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