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.”


Futures advance as vaccines, stimulus boost bets on economic rebound

Futures advance as vaccines, stimulus boost bets on economic rebound
Updated 25 min 19 sec ago

Futures advance as vaccines, stimulus boost bets on economic rebound

Futures advance as vaccines, stimulus boost bets on economic rebound
  • President Joe Biden said the US will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May

BENGALURU: US stock index futures rose on Wednesday as a swift global roll out of vaccines and a new round of stimulus bolstered bets on a quick economic rebound, with investors also focusing on private employment and service sector reports.

Texas sweepingly rolled back coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday, lifting a mask mandate and saying most businesses may open at full capacity next week as many US states record a sharp decline in new infections and hospitalization.

President Joe Biden also said the United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May.
The US Senate is expected to take up Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday, with Democrats aiming to get it signed into law before March 14, when some current jobless benefits expire.
At 06:35 a.m. EST, Dow E-minis were up 202 points, or 0.64% and S&P 500 E-minis were up 21.5 points, or 0.56%. Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 86.5 points, or 0.65%.
Futures tracking the small-cap Russell 2000 jumped about 1.1%.
Further aiding risk sentiment, the US 10-year Treasury yield was last up 1.44%, well below last week’s peak of above 1.61% that triggered a selloff in the equities market on valuation worries.
Investors have lately unwound positions in high-flying technology-focused stocks and moved into sectors that are likely to benefit from an economy recovery, including financials , energy and industrials.
Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were up between 1.2% and 1.7% in trading before the bell.
ISM’s survey is expected to show US services industry activity remained at its highest level in nearly two years in February, unchanged from January.
A separate report is likely to show US private payrolls rebounded further in February after the economy shed jobs in December. It comes ahead of the more comprehensive monthly jobs report.
Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. rose about 1.5% each as oil prices were boosted by expectations that OPEC+ producers might decide against increasing output when they meet this week.
However, Exxon said that it planned to cut its workforce in Singapore, home to its largest oil refining and petrochemical complex, by about 7% due to “unprecedented market conditions” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Israeli minister says interconnection with Gulf grid would boost Mideast energy security

Israeli minister says interconnection with Gulf grid would boost Mideast energy security
Updated 03 March 2021

Israeli minister says interconnection with Gulf grid would boost Mideast energy security

Israeli minister says interconnection with Gulf grid would boost Mideast energy security

LONDON: The Israeli energy minister has said connecting his country’s electricity grid with other regional economies would boost energy security for the entire Middle East.

Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz made the remarks at the CERAWeek virtual gathering of global energy industry leaders on Wednesday, where his counterparts from the UAE and Egypt were also speaking.

“The connection with Egypt and the Emirates and the regional cooperation give us the assurances that we will be able to increase energy security in the future,” he said.

“Just one example, if we will be able to connect our electricity transmission systems between Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates — and maybe through Jordan and Saudi Arabia — and we are also discussing connecting ourselves and this region to Europe through Cyprus and Greece, this would give us better energy security than we ever knew in the past.”

His remarks come as the Middle East energy landscape is being rapidly redrawn as new gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean spark new rivalries at the same time as former foes reach rapprochement.

“It is a new Middle East — especially in the field of energy,” he said. “The establishment of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo is a testimony to the new atmosphere."

The East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was formed in 2019, includes Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Palestinian territories — but not Turkey.

On Wednesday, the Turkish foreign minister said that his country was willing to negotiate with Egypt and sign a deal over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Depending on the trajectory of relations, we could negotiate maritime boundaries with Egypt and reach an agreement in the future,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

The idea of connecting the electricity grids of some of the region’s major power producers could also reduce redundancy in the grid, said UAE energy minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei.

“It is important that as we as countries talk about reducing emissions we need to talk about reducing redundancy in the systems we have and by doing that we can automatically reduce CO2 emissions,” he said.


Russian shipping line launched to export Egyptian crops

Russian shipping line launched to export Egyptian crops
Updated 03 March 2021

Russian shipping line launched to export Egyptian crops

Russian shipping line launched to export Egyptian crops
  • The inauguration of the Russian Leader Line comes in the wake of cooperation between Egypt and Russia

CAIRO: Egypt’s Kadmar Shipping Co. has announced the launch of the Russian Leader Line for transporting Egyptian agricultural crops between Alexandria and Russia.

In a statement, the company said that the line would start shipping citrus, potatoes, grapes, pomegranates, and other produce this month.

It added that shipments would take place via weekly direct sailings between the Alexandria Container and Cargo Handling Co. terminal at Dekheila port and the Novorossiysk container terminal on the Black Sea.

The inauguration of the Russian Leader Line comes in the wake of cooperation between Egypt and Russia and a presidential directive to increase Egyptian exports.


UK to raise corporation tax to pay for COVID crisis

UK to raise corporation tax to pay for COVID crisis
Updated 03 March 2021

UK to raise corporation tax to pay for COVID crisis

UK to raise corporation tax to pay for COVID crisis
  • Sunak said he would encourage businesses to invest their cash reserves with a so-called “super deduction”
  • The UK introduced corporation tax at a rate of 40 percent in 1965. It rose to a high of 52 percent in the 1970s.

LONDON: Britain will raise corporation tax to 25 percent from 19 percent from 2023 to help pay for the cost of the COVID crisis but tempered the tax rise with a “super deduction” to spur investment, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday.

“The government is providing businesses with over £100 billion ($139.2 billion) of support to get through this pandemic so it is fair and necessary to ask them to contribute to our recovery,” Sunak told parliament.

“Even after this change, the United Kingdom will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7,” Sunak said.

Sunak said he would encourage businesses to invest their cash reserves with a so-called “super deduction” to reduce their tax bill by 130 percent of the cost.

He said that under existing rules, a construction firm buying £10 million of new equipment could reduce their taxable income in the year they invest by £2.6 million but with the "super deduction" they could reduce it by £13 million.

“We’ve never tried this before in our country,” Sunak said.

Sunak quoted the Office for Budget Responsibility as saying it would boost investment by 10 percent; around £20 billion higher per year.

“It makes our tax regime for business investment truly world-leading, lifting us from 30th in the OECD, to 1st,” he said.

“This will be the biggest business tax cut in modern British history.”

The UK introduced corporation tax at a rate of 40 percent in 1965. It rose to a high of 52 percent in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, the main rate was cut to 35 percent under Margaret Thatcher, then during the 1990s from 35 percent to 30 percent and eventually to 20 percent.

The rate was cut to 19 percent from 2017 and was supposed to be reduced further to 18 percent and then 17 percent but has been held at 19 percent.

Sunak said small businesses with profits of less than £50,000 a year would be charged only 19 percent - so around 70 percent of businesses would be unaffected.

He also said the government would taper in the tax on profits above £50,000 so that only businesses with profits of £250,000 or more - around 10 percent of companies - would be taxed at the full 25 percent rate.


Snarl-ups to start-ups: Cairo’s jams inspire tech solutions

Snarl-ups to start-ups: Cairo’s jams inspire tech solutions
Updated 03 March 2021

Snarl-ups to start-ups: Cairo’s jams inspire tech solutions

Snarl-ups to start-ups: Cairo’s jams inspire tech solutions
  • Public transport in Egyptian capital is stretched to limits
  • Cairo driver wastes over five days a year sitting still in traffic

CAIRO: In gridlocked and heavily polluted Cairo, start-ups are searching for technological solutions to solve the transport headaches for an expanding megacity already struggling with over 20 million people.
With only three metro lines and overcrowded, run-down buses servicing the capital, public transport is stretched to its limits.
“The problem of traffic in Greater Cairo has resulted in very low average speeds, not exceeding 10 kilometers (six miles) per hour,” said traffic expert Osama Okail, from Cairo University, who says the solution to the capital’s woes must lie in fixing public transport.
Cairo, the most populous Arab city where a fifth of all Egyptians live, is ranked 30th worst in the world for congestion, according to TomTom, the Dutch vehicle navigations systems maker.
Runaway growth has pushed the ancient city to breaking point.
Egypt’s government has embarked on an ambitious urban transformation, but that is mainly focused on the construction of a new administrative city some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Cairo.
In Cairo itself, several giant road flyovers have been built to avoid jams in densely populated suburbs, criticized by some for the architectural damage done in historic areas.
For middle-class consumers, ride-hailing and delivery giant Uber and its Middle East subsidiary Careem have moved to plug the gap of poor public transport.
But tech-savvy Egyptians are also looking for their own homegrown solutions.
They include the start-up Transport for Cairo (TfC), which launched a detailed mapping of the city’s routes including informal transport networks to provide “actionable and high quality data.”
The data is used “to improve urban mobility,” to help commuters best navigate the city and cut down journey times.
“By mapping large cities and using the data for future planning, we are hoping to change them for the better,” said TfC co-founder Mohamed Hegazy.
“We are working with the authorities to change the way the system works.”
For now, an informal system of minibuses, motorized rickshaws, taxis, and millions of personal cars clog the city’s urban arteries bumper to bumper.
TomTom calculates that a Cairo driver wastes over five days a year sitting still in traffic.
That has a dramatic impact on work productivity, adding up to as much as $8 billion lost each year, according to a 2014 World Bank study.
It estimates Cairo’s traffic congestion could cost Egypt as much as four percent of its entire GDP.
Making travel simpler is one way to get commuters out of private cars and onto public transport, reducing congestion on the roads.
Another start-up, Ocra Wallet, is trying to digitise the estimated $30 million circulating as cash daily in commuter fares through its phone app, creating contactless payment to pay for tickets.
“We are working to make payments for transport easier,” Ocra founder Khalid Khaleel told AFP.
Ocra, which means fare in Arabic, is subsidising ticket prices by selling advertising to private bus companies.
“The money that comes from that we use to help users as well as drivers,” Khaleel said, adding he believes that by stopping the handling of cash, the app can help cut coronavirus transmission too.
Meanwhile, ridesharing service Tink hopes to break into the carpooling sector, with an app that creates social networks of common friends going to the same destination.
“We have turned carpooling more into social gatherings,” said one of Tink’s founders, Adel Al-Mahrouky.
Traffic snarl-ups mean higher levels of harmful emissions, with air pollution costing some one percent of GDP, the World Bank estimated.
For Egyptian tech experts, the hope is online solutions can help make much bigger changes.
Map-maker Hegazy believes his data can set Cairo on the path toward “the ultimate goal” — of decarbonizing the transport network.
“Everything must be electric,” he said.