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Edmonton launches nighttime economy survey to hear thoughts about the city at night

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The City of Edmonton has launched a public engagement survey in partnership with non-profit organization Explore Edmonton to better understand what residents think about the city at night.

The survey hopes to collect opinions from Edmontonians to help develop a Nighttime Economy Strategy for the city.

It is one part of a joint strategy and partnership between the City and Explore Edmonton in response to a motion by the city council’s executive committee in June. Explore Edmonton is a non-profit owned by the city that conducts marketing related to city tourism. They also operate the Edmonton EXPO Centre and the Edmonton Convention Centre.

“We’re really trying to zero in on the vibrancy piece, to zero in on drawing people back into the sort of these high streets and entertainment districts,” said Daniel St. Pierre, director of strategic communications and partnerships at Explore Edmonton.

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“We can’t do it all at once. So I mean the focus again is going to kind of be in these entertainment areas, 124th Street, the downtown area, Old Strathcona.”

St. Pierre says they hope to also involve discussions with stakeholders over the coming months, and interviews to determine recommendations Explore Edmonton can put forward to the city. The survey will be available for residents to fill out over the next several weeks.

“We also need to work on reminding Edmontonians how incredible their city is,” said St. Pierre.

“If we can draw someone from Riverbend across the river out to the north side and Griesbach for that amazing donair place, or if we can draw someone from Griesbach on the north side into downtown Edmonton to have their first Ice District experience and everything in between.”

St. Pierre says the survey hopes to gain perspectives on not only hospitality, but the bigger picture of the whole nighttime economy of the city.

Better communication needed

City councillor for Ward O-day’min Anne Stevenson, said she hears concerns around communicating effectively with the city amongst nighttime businesses in the downtown core.

“What I hear most from businesses is some of the challenges with running a nighttime business and interacting with the city, which has very nine to five hours,” said Stevenson.

Tyson Boyd, co-owner of the Starlite room downtown, agreed that a line of communication is needed to connect nighttime business owners with those working for the city during the day.

“It cannot be understated how important it would be to have a general advocate that connects us to the daytime economy or just to daytime decision makers on municipal and provincial levels,” said Boyd.

But for Boyd, the issues affecting the nighttime economy go deeper than communication.

“Generally everyone’s night does not start from the minute that they walk through the doors to their chosen establishments. It starts when they leave their house,” said Boyd.

“That is transit, that is taxis, ubers, that is safe train stations, general emergency response, parking. Everything plays a factor from when you leave your door to when you are at the establishment of your choice.”

A view at night of the Starlite Room. It is a brown brick building with a red sign.
Residents in Edmonton can weigh in about the nightlife strategy online. (Tyson Boyd)

Concerns around safety have been vocalized by businesses operating within the downtown for years, but have become more prevalent since the pandemic began, particularly around transit.

“I think the perceptions are a little heightened, a little exaggerated from what’s actually happening. But downtown is very different than it was at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Rob Browatzke, co-owner of Evolution Wonderlounge, an LGBT dance club situated next to Ice District.

While homelessness, mental health and drug use is part of what Browatzke said he sees, he said patrons coming downtown for events in the area have also created safety concerns for his staff, including some instances of random homophobic verbal attacks.

Pandemic habits, inflation hitting businesses

Ariel del Rosario at Filistix restaurant in the government district, said they have been struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels at their downtown location.

“What I’m assuming is that if people are working from home there’s really no reason to come back to the downtown core, except as a destination or for a special occasion,” said del Rosario.

A few streets east in Ice District, new establishments in the nightlife scene like The Canadian Icehouse which opened up next to Roger’s Place in October, have been able to draw patrons who attend events taking place at the arena.

Janet Andrews, general manager at the Canadian Icehouse said that while the space is less busy on nights without Oilers games, it is seen as a destination spot downtown.

“I would say the biggest challenge for us is just …having that walk up traffic as you would on Jasper Ave,” said Andrews.

Browatzke wants to see recommendations and policies that will address underlying safety concerns.

“Promote that message of safety and fun again. I think that’s really essential. And then I want the city and the province to just stop being babies and fix some bigger issues.”

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UK to Be the Only G-7 Economy in Recession This Year, IMF Says – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Britain faces the bleakest two years of any major industrial nation with a recession in 2023 and the slowest growth of peers in 2024, the International Monetary Fund predicts.

The UK will be the only Group of Seven member whose economy will shrink this year, with a contraction of 0.6%, the IMF said. The Washington-based institution downgraded its outlook by a massive 0.9 percentage point from October, saying higher interest rates and taxes along with government spending restraint will exacerbate a cost-of-living crisis.

The forecast highlights the challenges Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government faces in the leadup to the next election. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt suggested the economy is likely to perform better than the IMF expects.

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“The governor of the Bank of England recently said that any UK recession this year is likely to be shallower than previously predicted,” Hunt said in a statement. “We are not immune to the pressures hitting nearly all advanced economies. Short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects.”

In 2024, the economy will rebound only slowly, growing at 0.9% — matching Japan and Italy at the bottom of the G-7 league table for growth.

The forecast anticipates the first UK recession, excluding the pandemic, since the financial crisis in 2009. Across the two years leading up to the deadline for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call an election, the economy will effectively stagnate — expanding just 0.3%. 

The IMF did not downgrade any other G-7 economy this year as it raised its global growth forecast from 2.7% to a still sluggish 2.9%. An escalation of the war in Ukraine or a health crisis in China as Covid spreads could set back the world economy, it said in its World Economic Outlook update. However, “adverse risks have moderated since October.”

The downgrade to UK growth is striking because the IMF’s October forecast was prepared before the £45 billion ($55.7 billion) unfunded tax giveaway in the September budget during the short-lived Liz Truss premiership. At the time, the fund said the fiscal splurge would have boosted growth.

Since then financial conditions have tightened, rising borrowing costs for businesses and households. The Bank of England has raised rates from 2.25% to 3.5%, and markets now expect rates to settle around 4.5%. The IMF said it’s downgrade also reflected “tighter fiscal” policy but, according to Treasury figures, fiscal policy is looser this year than at the last forecast.

In October, the IMF attacked the UK’s massive spending spree — arguing that fiscal and monetary policy should not be working at cross purposes and that the government needed to bring the public finances under control.

IMF Chief Economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas repeated the warning. In a blog post alongside the forecast, he said many countries are being too generous with their energy support, which is “costly and increasingly unsustainable.”

Instead, countries should “adopt targeted measures that conserve fiscal space, allow high energy prices to reduce demand for energy, and avoid overly stimulating the economy,” Gourinchas said.

He also urged central banks, like the Bank of England, to press on with rate rises even if it means inflicting more misery on cash-strapped households. The BOE is expected to raise rates a half point to 4% on Thursday.

“Where inflation pressures remain too elevated, central banks need to raise real policy rates above the neutral rate and keep them there until underlying inflation is on a decisive declining path,” Gourinchas said. “Easing too early risks undoing all the gains achieved so far.” 

Read more:

  • UK Wage Inflation Points to Another Big Rate Hike This Week

–With assistance from Andrew Atkinson.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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In Egypt, economic heat of Russia's war in Ukraine is only getting worse – Al-Monitor

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GIZA — With every passing day, the money in Hanan Hussein’s purse becomes more and more dwarfed by the items in this crowded vegetable market in Embaba — a densely populated neighborhood in the Giza province of Greater Cairo.

Hussein, a mother of two in her early 50s, looks at the price tags of food items placed on the carts or on the wooden tables jockeying for limited space on both sides of the market and shrugs her head, knowing that the few pounds she has can only buy a few of the items on display.

“Tomatoes selling for 10 pounds a kilo, potatoes for 12, zucchini for 15 and rice for 19,” she says to herself.

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“What are these prices?” she asks herself as she moves toward the end of the market.

Hussein passes by the shops selling fish, meat and chicken but pays no attention to them.

When she reaches the end of the market, she turns back and starts a new journey through the vegetables and fruit on display, hoping to come across something she can buy.

“We can’t afford these high prices,” Hussein told Al-Monitor, pointing at the vegetables in front of her. “I am looking at all the items on my shopping list, but it looks like I can’t buy any.”

Tens of millions of Egyptians, especially the poor and the middle class, are affected by the economic repercussions of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Al-Monitor/Premise poll released this month found 68% majority of the population in Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Tunisia and Iraq worried about their ability to access food in the coming months.

Having initially deprived the Egyptian tourism sector of billions of dollars in revenues, with Russians and Ukrainians constituting a third of annual tourist arrivals, the war has caused food import-dependent Egypt to pay more for its imports, especially cereals such as wheat and maize, according to the World Economic Forum.  

Disruptions caused by the war on the international supply chain are also translating into a higher price for industrial and agricultural production requirements in a country where dependence on imported production essentials is very high.

Egyptians are feeling the pinch, with price increases in shops and markets across the country.

Hussein has stopped buying fish, chicken, meat and table condiments, among other items.  

So has Alaa Mamdouh, a civil servant in his mid-30s who has one child.

Like many Egyptians, Mamdouh has decided to take on a side job to supplement his income. However, with less than 4,000 Egyptian pounds (less than $133) from both jobs, he can’t manage.

“I don’t know what to do,” Mamdouh told Al-Monitor. “People like me can’t keep going with food prices assuming new heights every day.”

Other Egyptians are complaining about their income being dwarfed by growing commodity prices.

Deep beneath their suffering is an inflation rate that is hitting an all-time high, threatening a political and security backlash.

Fears from this backlash have prompted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to assure the public that things are going to be alright.

“I know that some people are worried, and they have reasons to be concerned,” the Egyptian leader said Jan. 6 after entering a large church in the New Administrative Capital, a new megacity he is constructing in the desert, to congratulate his country’s Coptic Christians on Christmas. “But you have to be sure that God will not fail us,” he added.

Two days later, he asked Egyptians not to buy into the uninformed rhetoric of those who spread fear about national economic conditions.

“We did not enter wars or squander the wealth of our country,” Sisi said. “Egypt did not cause these conditions.”

As he spoke, the Egyptian pound continued to lose its value to the US dollar, the main import currency in this country — at the time of writing selling at 30 pounds per dollar.  

Egypt has had to depreciate its national currency two times since February 2022, says Al-Arabiya News.

It scrapped its managed exchange rate regime a few days ago in light of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and as part of other measures that will also include the elimination of energy subsidies and the withdrawal of the state from economic activities.

A cheaper pound weakens the purchasing power of people like Hussein and Mamdouh and stagnates the business of people like fishmonger Ahmed Hamdi, who sat outside his shop in the same market in Embaba where fish prices filled passersby with aversion.

“People come here only to ask about prices, but nobody buys anything,” he tells Al-Monitor.

Some fellow traders closed down their shops due to sales spiraling downward and losses spiraling upward, he says. “I may do the same if things get worse.”

To reduce the intensity of the downturn, the government has opened dozens of outlets where food is sold at a discount. It also increased food subsidies for tens of millions of people registered in the national food rationing system, according to Daily News Egypt.

Economists say, however, that these efforts will not pay off without proper market control.  

“Traders use current conditions to amass huge wealth by increasing monopolies and raising prices,” director of think tank Capital Centre for Economic Studies Khaled al-Shafie told Al-Monitor. “This requires strong supervision over the market.”

The lack of this supervision caused a traditionally reticent parliament to grill the minister of supply a few days ago.

Parliament members criticized the minister for his failure to control runaway commodity prices.

“The minister does nothing to prevent traders from exploiting the poor,” parliament member Nafie Abdelhadi told Al-Monitor. “Commodity prices are rising dramatically, but the minister is only watching.”

This leaves people like Hussein in limbo. Every day, she faces the riddle of matching the little money in her purse with the needs of her family.  

“It is a new, difficult test every day, but I am sure God won’t forget us,” she says.

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Power Crisis Triggers Water Cuts in South Africa’s Economic Hub – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Parts of Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub, are being subjected to renewed water-supply cuts as ongoing electricity shortages disrupt pumping operations.

A power failure at Rand Water’s Eikenhof pump station, which supplies reservoirs in several high-lying areas of Johannesburg, resulted in critically low levels of supply, the municipality said on Twitter on Monday. While repairs have been completed, it warned that time is needed to replenish the storage system. Alternative sources of water have been arranged for hospitals.

State-owned utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which provides 90% of all of South Africa’s electricity, is unable to meet demand for power from its mostly old and poorly maintained plants, and has instituted rolling blackouts to keep the national grid from collapsing. There were record outages last year and they show no signs of abating.

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The power rationing that can last for hours at a stretch is taking an ever-increasing toll on the economy and disrupting manufacturing, mining and farming. Cape Town, the country’s main tourist hub, partially shut several beaches during the height of the holiday season late last year after wastewater pumps broke down.

Read more: Why Blackouts Are Still Crippling South Africa: QuickTake

Municipalities must ensure sanitation infrastructure, sewer-pump stations and generators are maintained and continue operating to ensure there aren’t sewage spills, according to the Department of Water and Sanitation. It confirmed that the power cuts were, however, reducing the reliability of water supply to consumers, with the effects varying between different areas depending on the capacity of their back-up generators. 

“The stop and start process at the water-treatment works negatively impact on water quality,” the department said in an emailed reply to questions. “The power cuts also negatively affect the treatment process at the waste-water treatment works, resulting in poorly processed discharge from the treatment plant. The storage capacity at the sewer pump stations were not designed for long durations without pumping. That also increases the risk for possible spillages.”

Crime and vandalism has also impacted negatively on Johannesburg’s water supply: thousands of water meters, manhole covers and hundreds of water tanks were stolen over the past year, according to the municipality. 

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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