| 12 April 2024, Friday |

Middle East’s first Expo to open in Dubai under shadow of pandemic

Expo 2020 Dubai, the first world fair to be staged in the Middle East, will welcome exhibitors from almost 200 countries on Oct. 1 after being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

When Dubai was chosen eight years ago to accompany the 2015 Expo in Milan, Italy, the 4.3 sq km (1.7 sq mile) location was desert.

Now, $6.8 billion later, the emirate needs the hoped-for economic boost from the global trade fair more than ever, but will have to deal with ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, as well as a certain aversion to travel.

Before the epidemic, the firm EY predicted that the Expo would generate 1.5 percent of the UAE’s gross domestic product over the course of its six months.

Dubai is still expecting 25 million guests, which is more than Milan had and more than twice the population of the UAE. To enter, anybody over the age of 18 must be coronavirus-vaccinated or test negative.

Diplomats from five other countries, on the other hand, stated they had lowered their visitor targets for their national pavilions. According to James Swanston, an economist at Capital Economics, the economic benefit would likely fall short of expectations due to ongoing barriers to international travel.

A spokesperson said the number of tickets sold was commercially sensitive, but that the Expo was “delighted” with sales so far.

Many events will be streamed live online.

Dubai says it wants the Expo, an exhibition of culture, technology and architecture under the banner ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’, to be a demonstration of ingenuity, and a place where issues such as climate change, conflict and economic growth can be addressed together.

But its biggest role is still as a forum for trade.

“All major trading countries and powers plan to use Expo to refocus and to redefine their position in the world market,” said France’s Expo commissioner-general, Erik Linquier.

The event is not without critics, though.

Last week, the European Parliament urged member states and businesses to boycott the Expo in protest of the UAE’s human rights record, alleging “systematic persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and teachers speaking out on political and human rights issues in the UAE,” as well as widespread “inhumane practices” inflicted on many of the UAE’s migrant workers.

The UAE slammed the resolution as “factually erroneous,” claiming that its rules ensure that everyone is treated equally.

  • Reuters