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Economy

Russians make Thailand a refuge as Ukraine war enters second year

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Bangkok/Pattaya, Thailand – Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, a growing number of Russians have looked to Thailand as their ticket to a new life.

Tens of thousands of Russians hoping to avoid the threat of conscription and the economic ravages of the war have travelled to the kingdom in the year since the invasion, many of them seeking a new home.

In Phuket, a popular resort island, Russians are buying off-plan condos with half a million dollars or more to facilitate their relocation or provide a landing pad for a future time when they may feel forced to leave their homeland.

Between November 1, 2022, and January 21, 2023, more than 233,000 Russians arrived in Phuket, according to data from Phuket International Airport, making them the biggest group of visitors by far.

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Phuket has long been a favourite escape from the harsh Russian winter but property sales have surged since President Vladimir Putin in September ordered Moscow’s first wartime mobilisation since World War Two, suggesting many arrivals are intent on staying well beyond the length of a typical holiday.

“My clients are mostly young, 30-35… they’re wealthy, high-budget clients,” Sofia Malygaevareal, a real estate agent in Phuket who originally hails from Russia, told Al Jazeera.

“A lot of people have decided to move to Phuket from three to six months… to one year.”

To stay on the idyllic island, Russian arrivals need homes, schools, jobs and visas – which takes time in Thailand, where obtaining long-term residency rights can be difficult to achieve.

For many of the newcomers determined to swap a home on a war footing for a life in the Thai sunshine, money is not a problem. Realtors in Russian-dominated areas of the island say the influx of wealthy visitors, fuelled by the growing realisation the war has no end in sight as it enters its second year, has driven prices up to record levels.

Luxury condos that until recently were available to rent for about $1,000 a month can now go for three times that. Meanwhile, extravagant villas on the market for $6,000 or more are booked out up to a year in advance.

The buyers’ market is similarly red hot. In 2022, Russians bought nearly 40 percent of all condominiums sold to foreigners in Phuket, according to the Thai Real Estate Information Center (REIC). Russians’ purchases amounted to $25m in sales – several times the amount spent by Chinese nationals, the next largest group of buys, according to the REIC.

Some buyers have spent upwards of $500,000 on luxury off-plan homes by the sea, according to local real estate agents.

“The situation has changed at home,” Malygaevareal said, referring to the tough economic conditions in Russia. “People who have money come abroad and are ready to pay money for international school, which costs less than in Moscow.”

A Russian travel agent in Phuket, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said some Russians have arrived on one-way tickets and tourist visas. “[They] just do not go home… they are here to get away from conscription.”

Woman walks past bar with blue, red and yellow fairy lights and a sign that says 'Russo Touristo Bar'. The street is quiet and it looks like dusk. Behind her, on the other side of the road is a large lit up sign saying 'Steakhouse'
Russians are among the biggest groups of visitors to popular Thai resort areas such as Pattaya [Vijitra Duangdee]

The mass influx of Russians is also reflected in other popular tourist areas such as Koh Samui, Thailand’s second-biggest island, and the eastern seaboard resort of Pattaya, where there has been a sizeable Russian community concentrated in the beach town of Jomtien for years.

“More Russians have moved to Pattaya since October. They’re mostly young couples who fear for their safety,” Mikhail Ilyin, the head priest of the All Saints Russian Orthodox Church in Pattaya, told Al Jazeera.

But the impact of Putin’s invasion works both ways.

Dar, a Thai masseuse in her 40s, said she left her job at a high-end spa in Moscow as the rouble collapsed and her salary – which was generous by Thai standards – plummeted in value. Dar has found new work in Jomtien, where her rare language skills win over repeat Russian clients.

“The women tell me they are desperate to get their husbands, boyfriends or children to come over here to stay,” she said, asking to be referred to by only her first name. “So they come over first and find houses and try to make visas for their men.”

Visas, though, are not as easy to obtain as they used to be after a major scandal was uncovered in November involving Thai immigration police helping the Chinese mafia bring thousands of people into Thailand through fake work and volunteer schemes.

That means Russians who can afford it are having to apply for expensive property ownership visas known as the “Elite Card”, which allows a long-term stay for a family for approximately $25,000.

“It’s not as easy as they think to do long-term living here,” said IIyin, the priest. “Some are thinking of returning as they run out of options.”

The flow of Russians and Russian money into Thailand is also generating resentment in some quarters.

On Phuket, which was hit especially hard by the collapse of global tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some local tourism businesses have expressed anger about Russians allegedly taking local jobs.

Tourism operators have complained about Russian taxi drivers shuttling their compatriots around the island and leading tour groups around Phuket’s historic Old Town, often without the required permits or visas.

Earlier this month, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, complained about the prospect of Russians cutting into locals’ livelihoods.

“If it’s true they’re taking our jobs in our own home, we can’t allow this to happen,” Ruktaengam wrote on his Facebook page.

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Economy

From bubble to boom? New report shows economic momentum in Atlantic Canada

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Atlantic Canada’s economy has “wind in its sails” and is poised for an economic breakout, according to a new report from the Ottawa-based think-tank Public Policy Forum.

The report, entitled the Atlantic Canada Momentum Index, says that Canada’s East Coast provinces are experiencing “historic” momentum, in large part because of population growth.

“It’s ‘have not’ no more,” said president and CEO Edward Greenspon. “Atlantic Canada did lag on a number of indicators in a lot of ways for years. But that’s not true anymore.”

The think-tank measured 20 metrics, including measuring economic and population growth, level of education, immigration numbers, median age and employment rate. It based provinces’ performance on how many of these indicators improved between 2015 and 2022.

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It found Atlantic Canada is performing comparably to the national average, and that it is showing a significant improvement compared to its performance from 2008 to 2015.

“I am proud,” said Wade MacLauchlan, former P.E.I. premier and one of 17 former Atlantic Canadian premiers and deputy premiers who signed on to the report.

“This is something that I and hundreds of thousands of others have worked hard for over generations. And there is a real sense of accomplishment and something on which we can build and grow.”

But some Atlantic Canadians say this report doesn’t tell the whole story: they say they’re squeezed by skyrocketing housing costs, as population growth and increased wealth creates a strain on the existing housing stock.

A man in a grey suit with a pink and purple striped tie smiles at the camera.
Edward Greenspon, President and CEO of Public Policy Forum, says that Atlantic Canada should do what it can to capitalize on recent economic growth. (Public Policy Forum)

Population propelling economic growth

Atlantic Canada’s population declined five decades in a row in proportion to the rest of Canada.

That tendency is shifting.

“For the first time, you’re beginning to see population growth,” said Greenspon.

Recent census numbers show the country’s fastest-growing cities — Halifax and Moncton — are in the Maritimes.

Much of that population growth is spurred by people like Pauline Landriault, an Ontario resident who is able to work remotely. She has a property in Nova Scotia and is hoping to move there permanently.

“There’s a lot of people who bought places here during the pandemic,” she said. “With the nature and the trails, it’s the most beautiful province in the country. It’s a hidden gem.”

The Atlantic bubble, which allowed unrestricted travel within the East Coast provinces for a period during the COVID-19 pandemic, may have also made the province attractive to people looking to relocate during the pandemic, according to former Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil.

A woman in a purple toque, sunglasses and a black parka stands on a sidewalk in front of a ramen restaurant.
Ontario resident Pauline Landriault said she’s planning a permanent move to Nova Scotia, calling the province a ‘hidden gem.’ (David Laughlin/CBC)

McNeil said his province was beginning to see more jobs creation around 2015, and shifted focus toward attracting more people back to Atlantic Canada to fill those jobs.

He said his government fought the long-held belief that Maritimers must give up career advancement aspirations if they choose to stay out East.

“We can do all the economic stuff right, but if we don’t have people, then we’re doomed,” he said. “We’re as close to New York as Toronto is, but we’re more affordable.”

He said economic challenges in Alberta, low interest rates fostering growth, and Ontario’s high housing prices contributed to people’s decisions to move to Nova Scotia.

Immigration is also booming in Atlantic Canada: the average number of immigrants in Atlantic Canada from 2008 to 2015 was about 7,000 per year. From 2015 to 2022, that average more than doubled, to about 15,000 immigrants per year.

The median age of Atlantic Canadians, while older than the national average, has slowed in its growth.

“There’s a growth in confidence, in population and economic activity. In many ways, this is for Atlantic Canadians, the opportunity to say after 130 years of outmigration, let’s try something else,” MacLauchlan said.

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair in a red jacket and white hoodie stands on a busy Halifax sidewalk.
Halifax resident Melissa Gazzard receives social assistance and said the rising housing costs make it very difficult for her to find long-term housing. (David Laughlin/CBC)

With more prosperity, new challenges

Though the Public Policy Forum report does track the number of new housing builds in a region, it does not track the current costs of housing in Atlantic Canada, which have soared in recent years.

Halifax resident Melissa Gazzard relies on social assistance to pay her bills, and she said increased cost of housing has made it extremely difficult to find a long-term home.

“They’re leaving us that are out here to basically fend for ourselves,” she said. “It’s really hard. They put us in one circle, and say, ‘OK, we’ll deal with you later.’ But it never gets dealt with.”

One of the other metrics measured was access to a family physician, an area where Atlantic Canada continues to struggle.

Nearly 370,000 Atlantic Canadians don’t have a family doctor and the report shows that provinces have not made improvement in decreasing this number.

“There’s new challenges and problems. There’s problems around health care and access to physicians,” said Greenspon.

“There’s always going to be some people left behind, and policy needs to address that and make sure they don’t fall through cracks,” he said.

A man wearing a suit stands in front of press microphones at a podium
Former Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil, shown here speaking to reporters outside Province House on Oct. 13, 2020, is one of 17 former Atlantic Canadian premiers and deputy premiers who signed on to the report. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

How to keep building?

For momentum to keep growing in Atlantic Canada, it needs to be fostered, the report concludes.

“It would be negligent to let this swelling momentum pass without putting the necessary policy supports in place to perpetuate it,” it reads.

The think-tank says it will meet with policymakers to discuss policies to build on the momentum.

“The message that I think is most important is to really recognize we can raise our expectations and that we should keep going. Because this is working and it is good for us,” said MacLauchlan.

McNeil, who left office in 2021, said he expects the trend will continue upward.

“Atlantic Canada is alive and well, and quite frankly, a global player,” he said.

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Economy

Bank of Canada concerned about bringing inflation down

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OTTAWA –

The Bank of Canada says it’s still concerned inflation might be harder to bring down than expected, noting the economy is still in excess demand.

On Wednesday, the central bank published a summary on the governing council’s deliberations ahead of its decision to hold its key interest rate steady on March 8.

The members of the governing council, which include governor TIff Macklem and his deputies, were encouraged to see the economy and inflation both slowing, supporting their decision to hold the key interest rate steady at 4.5 per cent.

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However, the governing council remained concerned about the risk of inflation getting stuck above two per cent and agreed that supply was still outstripping demand in the economy.

In the fourth quarter, the Canadian economy posted no growth as the accumulation of business inventories slowed.

“With inventories adjusting earlier than anticipated, governing council concluded that growth in early 2023 may be a bit stronger than the bank had forecast,” the summary said.

Ahead of the federal and provincial governments rolling out their budgets, the governing council also discussed the risk of elevated government spending further fueling demand in the economy.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged that her March 28 budget will be fiscally restrained, noting that the federal government doesn’t want to make the Bank of Canada’s job of fighting inflation harder.

The central bank said it will incorporate the fiscal plans of both levels of government into its updated projections to be released in the next monetary policy report.

The Bank of Canada will release the report along with its next interest rate decision on April 12.

Economists widely expect the central bank to continue holding its key interest rate steady.

The latest consumer price index report showed inflation slowed further in February, with the annual rate falling to 5.2 per cent.

However, an ongoing concern for the Bank of Canada is the tight labour market and strong wage growth.

The unemployment rate continues to hover near record lows, while average hourly wages have been increasing at an annual rate of four to five per cent.

The Bank of Canada notes in its summary of deliberations that the governing council continues to believe that the pace of wage growth will make it harder to get inflation back to its two per cent target, given wage growth isn’t accompanied with productivity growth.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22 2023.

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Economy

NOVA Chemicals sets bold ESG aspirations to lead the plastics circular economy

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CALGARY, AB, March 22, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NOVA Chemicals Corporation (“NOVA Chemicals”) today announced sector-leading ESG ambitions to drive the circular economy for plastics, in line with its vision to become the leading sustainable polyethylene producer in North America.

By 2030, the company aims to:

  • Set new industry standards for driving the transition to the plastics circular economy and solidifying the market for recycled polyethylene, with 30 per cent of its polyethylene sales[i] from recycled contet;
  • Be at the forefront of decarbonization by reducing its Scope 1 and 2 absoute CO2 emissions by 30 per cent[ii]; and
  • Become a Top 30 company in Canada.

Outlined in NOVA 2030: Our Roadmap to Sustainability Leadership, NOVA Chemicals has also shared its aspiration to reach net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050.

“NOVA’s Roadmap to Sustainability Leadership details a strong plan forward for the company to become the leader in sustainable polyethylene production while building on our commitments to developing innovative solutions for our customers, enabling the circular economy, and being a responsible steward of our environment,” stated Danny Dweik, CEO. “Plastic products play an essential role in our daily lives. With our renewed purpose of reshaping plastics for a better, more sustainable world, we have developed a clear pathway to become a catalyst for a low carbon, zero-plastic-waste future.”

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To achieve these aspirations, NOVA Chemicals anticipates investing between USD$2-4 billion by 2030 to expand its sustainable product offerings, decarbonize assets, and build a state-of-the-art mechanical recycling business while exploring new advanced recycling technologies to create high-quality, high-performance recyclable and low carbon plastics.

Building on its proprietary, Advanced SCLAIRTECHTM technology (AST), NOVA Chemicals will explore expanding its product portfolio to include the development of innovative, advanced materials. These new product offerings, which will include the company’s first ASTUTE™ polyolefin plastomers line, will better serve existing customers and provide more options for sustainability-focused end markets such as electric vehicles and renewables.

NOVA Chemicals has already begun growing its portfolio of recycled and recyclable polyethylene resins through its recently announced launch of SYNDIGO™ recycled polyethylene, a new portfolio of products made from circular polymers to encourage both waste and emissions reductions.

The company’s 2030 aspirations are shorter-term objectives that will help NOVA Chemicals reach its ultimate goal of achieving net-zero Scope 1 and 2 absolute CO2 emissions by 2050. NOVA Chemicals has developed a technical solutions-focused roadmap for decarbonizing its asset base by improving energy efficiencies, electrifying and acquiring renewable power, and exploring clean hydrogen as a low carbon fuel source and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS). The company will also continue to pursue new technologies to abate and eliminate emissions from its production processes, such as the development of its proprietary Low Emissions Ethylene Process (LEEP™) technology.

The company has also announced a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) with Shell Energy for renewable power, marking the first of many opportunities to increase low carbon, renewable energy in its power portfolio.

Today’s announcement builds upon NOVA Chemicals’ long-standing commitment to developing innovative solutions for its customers while enabling the circular economy and preparing for and responding to a changing world. NOVA’s approach to managing its material ESG topics including Responsible Care® and its commitment to the environment, health, and safety, can be found in its annual ESG report.

– 30 –

About NOVA Chemicals Corporation
NOVA Chemicals aspires to be the leading sustainable polyethylene producer in North America. Our driving purpose is to reshape plastics for a better, more sustainable world by delivering innovative solutions that help make everyday life healthier and safer and acting as a catalyst for a low carbon, zero-plastic-waste future. NOVA Chemicals’ innovative and quality product offerings, value chain collaboration, and unique customer experience is what sets us apart; our customers use our products to create easy-to-recycle and recycled content films, packaging, and products. Our employees work to ensure health, safety, security, and environmental stewardship through our commitment to sustainability and Responsible Care®.

NOVA Chemicals, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has nearly 2,500 employees worldwide and is wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Learn more at www.novachem.com or follow us on LinkedIn.

NOVA Chemicals’ logo is a registered trademark of NOVA Brands Ltd.; authorized use.
Advanced SCLAIRTECH™, SYNDIGO™, LEEP™, and ASTUTE™ are trademarks of NOVA Chemicals.
Responsible Care® is a registered trademark of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

This news release contains forward-looking statements. By their nature, forward-looking statements require NOVA Chemicals to make assumptions and are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties. NOVA Chemicals’ forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. In addition, the forward-looking statements are made only as of the date of this news release, and except as required by applicable law, NOVA Chemicals undertakes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements to reflect new information, subsequent events or otherwise.

Statements in this news release as to future aspirations, ambitions or goals, including any projections or plans to reduce emissions or emissions intensity, and projections or plans to increased recycled polyethylene or in respect of circularity, to increase the size, value or ranking of NOVA Chemicals, or in regards to any investments or investment amounts, are forward-looking statements.  In addition, any roadmaps related to the foregoing represent forward-looking statements as well.  Any actual future results could vary depending on NOVA Chemicals’ ability to execute on a timely and successful basis, on policy and consumer support, changes in laws and regulations, unforeseen difficulties, and the outcome of research efforts or technology developments.


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