Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors

Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
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General view of the Sustainability pavilion exhibition interior at Expo 2020 site (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020)
Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
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General view of the Sustainability pavilion exhibition interior at Expo 2020 site (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020)
Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
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General view of the Sustainability pavilion exhibition interior at Expo 2020 site (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020)
Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
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General view of the Sustainability pavilion exhibition interior at Expo 2020 site (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020)
Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
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General view of the Sustainability pavilion exhibition interior at Expo 2020 site (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020)
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Updated 18 January 2021

Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors

Expo 2020 gets go-ahead as signature pavilion opens doors
  • Terra unveiled as masterclass in design, sustainability and technology

DUBAI: Expo 2020, the long-awaited World Expo hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, originally scheduled for Oct. 20, 2020 through Apr. 10, 2021, is now taking the first steps towards opening to the public, despite rising coronavirus cases around the globe and in the UAE.

On Saturday, Expo 2020’s signature pavilion, Terra, which focuses on sustainability, was unveiled. It will open to the public on Jan. 22 until Apr. 10 as part of the Pavilions Premiere, a limited-time opportunity for visitors to preview Expo 2020’s Thematic Pavilions ahead of their world debut in October 2021. Alif — The Mobility Pavilion and Mission Possible — The Opportunity Pavilion, will follow later in the first quarter of 2021.

Dubai is in a rush to get Expo 2020 up and running after its year-long delay and a pandemic that nearly pummeled its already fragile pre-pandemic economy. The world fair is expected to draw around 25 million visitors to the UAE and spark a multitude of business transactions. It represents billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure to boost international tourism and investment.

Terra features an immense 130-meter-wide canopy covered with 1,055 solar panels that look like flying saucers or a technological rendition of the desert palm tree. The pavilion was designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects with the aim of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification — the highest available accreditation for sustainable architecture.

The panels generate 4 gigawatts of alternative energy per year, enough electricity to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones. They rise up from the desert landscape amid the fair’s extensive grounds that cover a total of 438 hectares, and are located in the Dubai South district, near the Al-Maktoum International Airport. The feat is so impressively large that it nearly hides the sight of construction workers busily completing the remainder of the national pavilions.

Terra, which is derived from the Latin word meaning “earth,” cost about $272 million and is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes. It also captures rain in an underground container and will supply all of its own water. The pavilion intends to serve as a catalyst for environmental change in the UAE, the wider Middle East and internationally. The pavilion takes guests on an emotionally charged journey through art, technology, sustainable design and architecture to tell the tale of humanity’s relationship with the planet and how our actions now can serve to mend present-day crises for the greater good.

“We hope that visitors to Terra are suddenly touched by their emotions and realize the beauty of the world around us,” Sustainability Pavilion Director at Expo 2020, John Bull, told Arab News. “We give them information regarding how the planet is under threat and really hope that they will act with love and knowledge and be inspired to come up with solutions to the problems that they face in their daily lives, and bring a greater balance to mankind’s relationship with nature.”

Guests are taken on a playful and emotive journey through the natural world, including an interactive walk through the forest, where visitors will uncover the effects of mankind’s harmful decisions on the planet. There is also a courtyard area where several of the UAE’s leading artists — Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Zainab Al-Hashemi and Mohamed Kazem — exhibit works specially commissioned for Expo 2020 representing aspects of the interaction between mankind and earth.

There is also a children’s playground, gift area and several dining outfits. The experience manages to engage all of the senses and leaves a meaningful message. After the world fair, Terra will remain as science center to inspire future generations to make sustainable choices.

“I think of Terra like a hive of ideas,” added Bull. “It is an opportunity for our visitors to take their energy, excitement and passion that we have hopefully instilled in them and to make pledges about their daily lives and sign up for initiatives here in the UAE and elsewhere in the world.”

Expo 2020 is about human connection, dialogue and the exchange of ideas. Dubai, long a center for trade and commerce in the East, resumes its ancient role through the world fair.

“Our main theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is more important than ever, as we need to work in unison to find solutions to the challenges the world has presented to us,” said Mohamed Al-Ansaari, communications vice president of Expo 2020. “It’s not about being isolated and closing down the borders; it’s now about bringing people together, connecting minds and creating the future.”

During the press conferences, organizers said that the fair always intended to have a digital component, which is especially crucial amid surging coronavirus cases and an uncertain future. Despite this, the opening of the Pavilions Premiere on Saturday featured nothing but optimism and enthusiasm.

“Even before the pandemic hit last year, we always planned for a strong online presence,” said Reem Ebrahim Al-Ashimy, the Expo’s director general and UAE minister of state for international cooperation. “This has proven to be more important now due to the situation that we are in. After months of isolation and uncertainty, this event will serve as an opportunity to motivate human solidarity.”

What will happen to Terra or the Expo after the event has finished? To have such building sites demolished, as is usually the case, can hardly be called a “sustainable” action. Post-Expo, 80 percent of the buildings will be repurposed in District 2020, the integrated “smart city of the future” in Dubai. Al-Ansaari said: “Expo 2020 will live on and continue to connect people and spaces through a smart and sustainable way. Dubai, like its ancient name ‘Al-Wasl,’ which means ‘connector,’ has always been about bringing diverse people together, through trade, ideas and commerce.”


Aramco CEO sees improvement in demand for oil in 2021 

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
Updated 26 min 10 sec ago

Aramco CEO sees improvement in demand for oil in 2021 

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
  • Amin Nasser also warns certain job types might not return after ‘biggest crisis in a century’
  • Current oil demand is at 94 million barrels, compared with pre-pandemic levels of 100 million

DUBAI: Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, sees an improvement in demand for oil this year, especially in the second half, but he is worried about the risk of a “jobless recovery” for the global economy.

Speaking virtually at CERAWeek, an annual energy conference organized by the information and insights company IHS Markit in Houston, Texas, Nasser said there has already been “quite an improvement” in oil demand compared to the drastic reductions during the pandemic lockdowns last year, especially in China and East Asia. 

“Indian demand is almost the same as pre-COVID,” he told oil market expert Daniel Yergin.

“There has been an impact that we see in the West and the US. But with the rapid deployment of vaccines, we are seeing good cause for optimism and recovery in demand.”

Current oil demand is at 94 million barrels, compared with pre-pandemic levels of 100 million, and Nasser expected this to rise to 99 million barrels by the end of the year. 

“I see demand and the market improving from here, especially in the second half of this year,” he said.

But Nasser said he expected “harsh realities” as a result of the economic damage from the pandemic, which he described as the “biggest crisis in a century” for the oil industry.

“There has been a huge impact on small- and medium-sized businesses, and more on employment,” Nasser said. “Rapid technology advances were already having an impact on jobs, especially low-skill repetitive-type jobs, reducing jobs and creating inequality in the market in different parts of the world.

“Today we are seeing a recovery taking place and usually this is linked to job creation and higher employment. My big worry over the long term is a jobless recovery where certain jobs are not going to return.”

Nasser said Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, used risk-management systems to help it respond quickly to the pandemic, which also significantly accelerated its use of digital and remote operating processes.

During the same CERAWeek forum, the CEO of US energy firm Chevron Corp., Mike Wirth, said the key lesson learned from the crisis was the “essential nature” of the oil business. 

Despite the unprecedented shock to oil markets, he said demand destruction only amounted to about 9 percent: “This demonstrates how important our industry is to the world economy.”


Saudi Aramco, Chevron chiefs see global oil demand recovery

Saudi Aramco, Chevron chiefs see global oil demand recovery
Updated 02 March 2021

Saudi Aramco, Chevron chiefs see global oil demand recovery

Saudi Aramco, Chevron chiefs see global oil demand recovery
  • Amin Nasser says global demand could reach 99 million barrels per day in 2022

Global oil demand is recovering and could return to around pre-pandemic levels next year, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco told an oil and gas conference on Tuesday.
Global demand for oil is likely to recover from the second half of the year and could reach 99 million barrels per day (bpd)in 2022, Amin Nasser said at IHS Markit's online CERAWeek conference.


Diesel demand has recovered globally due to door-to-door deliveries, though jet fuel lags as people avoid long flights, said Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, who spoke on a panel with Nasser.
Oil demand improving in China, India and East Asia, with vaccine deployment as "cause for optimism" in the West, Nasser said.


OPEC says general oil market outlook is positive as energy industry gathers

OPEC says general oil market outlook is positive as energy industry gathers
Updated 02 March 2021

OPEC says general oil market outlook is positive as energy industry gathers

OPEC says general oil market outlook is positive as energy industry gathers
  • Resilient Asia supports oil demand
  • OPEC+ to meet on Thursday
LONDON: OPEC sees the oil market’s outlook as positive in general and the uncertainty that dominated last year is easing, the group’s secretary general said.
“This is a major turnaround from a year ago,” Mohammad Barkindo was quoted as saying on Twitter on Tuesday.
He added that positive global economic developments and resilient demand in Asia were encouraging.
Barkindo spoke ahead of joint technical committee (JTC) meeting for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia, a group know as OPEC+.
The JTC reviews oil market supply and demand balances as well as compliance of members of the alliance with the agreed cuts.
“It looks good and healthy,” an OPEC delegate said, referring to the latest supply and demand balance for 2021.
“But there are still some thoughts to be cautious,” he added.
Oil company executives at CERAWeek by IHS Markit said that crude demand will rise over the coming decade and that the fossil fuel will remain a crucial part of the energy mix even as renewables draw increasing attention.
Climate change and renewable fuels are taking center stage at this year’s gathering of energy leaders, investors and politicians from around the globe, with oil companies trying to reorient their portfolios after the coronavirus pandemic eroded demand and caused the loss of thousands of jobs.
The industry scaled back investments and cut budgets as prices crashed in 2020, but investments are likely to rebound by next year, said Lorenzo Simonelli, chief executive officer of oil services company Baker Hughes.
“Hydrocarbons are still going to be essential for providing energy to the world,” Simonelli said. “Especially as you look at the near-term future.”
Oil demand may continue to climb over the next decade even as countries work to comply with the Paris climate agreement’s goals for cutting emissions, said Hess Corp. CEO John Hess.
“We don’t think peak oil is around the corner — we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years,” said Hess.
“We’re not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future,” he said, saying that prices would need to rise to support that investment.

More Saudis turn to temping as pandemic reshapes workplace in Kingdom

More Saudis turn to temping as pandemic reshapes workplace in Kingdom
Updated 02 March 2021

More Saudis turn to temping as pandemic reshapes workplace in Kingdom

More Saudis turn to temping as pandemic reshapes workplace in Kingdom
  • Work contracts documented on the flexible work system were concentrated in Riyadh, the Eastern region and Makkah

ARAB NEWS: Saudis are taking up more temporary jobs in response to the Kingdom’s rapidly changing workplace

As the pandemic forces many businesses to temporarily shut up shop, demand for part time workers is on the rise.

Some 3000 institutions are registered on the government’s ‘Marn’ flexible work platform and almost 2,400 contracts have been documented, from various regions, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development told Al Arabiya.

The Ministry said that most of the work contracts listed on the platform were concentrated in Riyadh, the Eastern region and Makkah. Almost one in three involved women.

The retail and wholesale sectors have benefited most from the flexible work system, along with the construction and logistics sectors, the Ministry said.

The platform appeals to employers because it reduces their overheads and means they are only paying wages when they receive orders.

Saudi Arabia launched the Marn platform last May which offers hourly-based employment and does not require employers to pay end-of-service benefits.


Lebanon currency hits record low as country’s crises worsen

Lebanon currency hits record low as country’s crises worsen
Updated 02 March 2021

Lebanon currency hits record low as country’s crises worsen

Lebanon currency hits record low as country’s crises worsen
  • Syrians also have money blocked in Lebanese banks
  • Minimum wage now $67-a-month

BEIRUT: The Lebanese pound hit a record low against the dollar on the black market on Tuesday as the country’s political crisis deepens with no prospects of new Cabinet in the near future and foreign currency reserves dwindle further.
The dollar was trading at 9,975 Lebanese pounds around noon Tuesday. The previous record was registered in July, when the dollar briefly sold for 9,900 pounds on the black market. The official price remains 1,520 pounds to the dollar.
Lebanon has been hammered by one crisis after another, starting with the outbreak of anti-government protests against the country’s corrupt political class in October 2019. That has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a massive, deadly blast in Beirut’s port last August.
In neighboring Syria — where the economy has been hit by the 10-year conflict, corruption and Western sanctions — the dollar also hit a record on Monday, reaching nearly 3,900 Syrian pounds. The economies of the two neighboring countries are connected and many Syrians have had their money blocked in Lebanese banks that have implemented harsh capital controls.
The massive blast at Beirut’s port last August, when nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, killed 211 people and injured more than 6,000. Large parts of the Lebanese capital were badly damaged in the blast.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government resigned six days after the Aug. 4 blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. In October, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was named to form a new Cabinet but nearly five months later, disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun on the shape of the Cabinet has stood in the way of a new government’s formation.
Lebanon has also been in desperate need for foreign currency but international donors have said they will only help the country financially if major reforms are implemented to fight widespread corruption, which has brought the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.
The crash in the local currency will throw more people into poverty. In Lebanon, the minimum wage is 675,000 pounds, or about $67 a month. Before the protests broke out in 2019, the minimum wage was about 450$.
The crisis has driven nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty. Over 1 million refugees from Syria live in Lebanon.
In December, the World Bank warned that Lebanon’s economy faces an “arduous and prolonged depression,” with real GDP projected to plunge by nearly 20 percent because its politicians refuse to implement reforms that would speed up the country’s recovery.
In March last year, Lebanon defaulted for the first time ever on a payment on its massive debt amid ongoing popular unrest. Lebanon’s debt reached $90 billion or 170 percent of GDP, making it one of the highest in the world.