Wednesday 14 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 14/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Politics / James Chambers

City on the edge

Politics is a grubby business and, after a decade in power, Indonesia’s outgoing president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has got used to getting his hands dirty. For two terms he has made deals with Jakarta’s political dynasties to get his infrastructure projects and economic reforms over the line. He has achieved some remarkable results, though at times he has accepted some unspeakable trade-offs. The former small-town mayor’s crowning glory was winning approval to build Nusantara, a new capital city on the island of Borneo, which will replace Jakarta as it gradually sinks below sea level. It is a huge task that had been left sitting in the in-tray of every Indonesian president before him.

End of an era: Joko Widodo

Image: Getty Images / Shutterstock

A campaign rally for Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, in Jakarta

Image: Getty Images / Shutterstock

Later this year, in one of his last major acts as president, Jokowi is expected to preside over Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations at the future capital, which is now under construction. But laying the foundations for Nusantara is one thing and completing the job is quite another. The coronavirus pandemic set things back by several years, leaving the new city in a precarious position as its champion edges towards the exit. The country votes today for its eighth president and the election is a three-horse race between former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the favourite, defence minister Prabowo Subianto. The decision to continue with Nusantara or cancel it will ultimately fall to Jokowi’s successor.

While both Prabowo and Ganjar have dutifully vowed to continue Jokowi’s policies and projects, Anies has been more circumspect. He might even have campaigned to scrap “Jokowiville”, had he not been afraid of provoking the immensely popular and influential president. With Nusantara’s future on the line, Jokowi has effectively thrown his name behind his former rival Prabowo and allowed the law to be twisted so that the outgoing president’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, can run as vice-president.

The joint ticket is, at best, a step backwards. Prabowo is a relic of the past, who represents everything that is wrong with the existing order. Will Jokowi’s final grubby, legacy-defining deal be worth it? Today the Indonesian people will have their say.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Diplomacy / Turkey & Egypt

Building bridges

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrives in Egypt today for the first time in more than 10 years. Erdogan is scheduled to hold meetings with Egypt’s president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, to improve diplomatic ties between Ankara and Cairo, as well as discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza. “It was only five years ago that Erdogan attended the funeral of Egypt’s former Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque,” says Hannah Lucinda Smith, Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent. In 2019 Turkey’s president blamed Egypt’s “tyrants” for the leader’s death, adding that he didn’t believe that Morsi died of natural causes. “It was unthinkable then that Erdogan would even speak with Sisi, let alone visit him,” adds Smith. “The fact that he is doing so today shows how much his policies in the Arab world have changed in recent years.” In addition to the meeting between Erdogan and Sisi, Cairo has also hosted a gathering of officials from the US, Israel and Qatar this week to negotiate a potential ceasefire in Gaza. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is also expected to visit Egypt later this week.

Rendering of the new airport on Busan’s Gadeok Island

Image: City of Buson

Aviation / South Korea

Plane to sea

South Korea’s first offshore airport will open by the end of 2029, the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has announced. Basic plans for the terminal at Busan’s Gadeok Island were outlined in December but the project has now been fast-tracked for completion five-and-a-half years before initially scheduled. The new airport is forecast to generate 29trn won (€20bn) for Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, and create more than 116,000 jobs.

Those seeking long-haul flights to destinations in North America or Europe will be able to fly directly from Busan, eliminating the need to travel to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. While the passenger terminal will be built on land the airstrip, which will include a 3,500-metre-long runway able to accommodate large aircraft such as the Boeing 747-400F, will be built on a floating structure at sea. Busan’s economy looks likely to land on safe waters.

On the front vines: Les Caves de Landiras wine plant near Bordeaux

Image: Alamy

Trade / France

On the grapevine

Having hit a peak of €17.2bn in 2022, exports of French wine and spirits fell by almost 6 per cent to €16.2bn last year, according to newly released industry figures. Despite the dip, the country’s wine producers will be breathing a sigh of relief. The modest decrease, largely caused by inflation and temporary de-stocking by US distributors, represents a soft landing after the bonanza that followed the lifting of coronavirus pandemic restrictions around the world.

But long-term challenges remain. Over the past 60 years, wine consumption in France has plummeted by about 70 per cent. French producers depend on foreign sales and the US is their biggest market. With Donald Trump’s return to the White House becoming increasingly plausible, however, there’s a risk that wine will once again become a bargaining chip. In 2020 he imposed a punishing 25 per cent tariff on some European wines in response to an unrelated quarrel over EU aircraft subsidies. It’s enough to make you want to hit the bottle.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / USA

Playing fair

Frieze’s acquisition of two important US art fairs, The Armory Show and Expo Chicago, last year suggests that international galleries and buyers are increasingly focusing their attention on North America. Here are three buzzing US fairs that open this week.

1. LA Art Show, 14-18 February
Founded in 1994, the LA Art Show has long been a key part of the West Coast art calendar. This year more than 120 galleries, non-profit arts organisations and exhibitors are taking part. Among the highlights is a special section dedicated to exhibition spaces that are owned by women, including the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, Daphne Alazraki Fine Art and Simard Bilodeau Contemporary.

2. Art Wynwood Miami, 14-18 February
The 11th iteration of Art Wynwood begins today, hosted by Art Miami. The event features more than 50 galleries from across Europe, the US and Latin America, and focuses on various forms of contemporary art, ranging from pop art and surrealism to street murals.

3. Palm Beach Show, 15-20 February
This show in the city of West Palm Beach is a luxury showcase with a focus on high-end antiques, art, jewellery and crafts. But it’s not just for seasoned collectors and celebrity guests: the fair’s panel discussions, lectures and talks on how to break into the art market make it an engaging entry point for newcomers too.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Menu


The southern French city of Avignon is internationally known for its annual summer culture festival. For more than half of the 14th century, it was also the seat of the Roman Catholic papacy. Avignon’s culinary reputation, however, is often overshadowed by Lyon and Marseille. In this episode, Monocle’s Michael Booth visits the Provençal city to unearth some of its specialities, which range from unique pastries and archaeological cheeses to a delicious lamb recipe.


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