The Expo was won on November 27, 2013. Six and a half years proved simply too long time to maintain excitement into the seventh year. The UAE has become more than a little blasé about mega developments, even it seemed ones as nation defining as the Expo.
Today, it should be a little Groundhog Day. "Thanks" to Covid-19, fifteen months later, we are not in Expo as we should be, but again in the build up to hold Expo 2020 at the end of 2021. We could have grown even more tired of the whole thing. In actuality the Expo seems to be regaining its lost lustre. For increasing numbers of you it is something that could propel us out of our current Covid funk.
Our survey asks a very simple question: Does Expo 2020 give you a) a great deal more confidence in the UAE economy, b) A little more confidence in the UAE economy or c) Makes no difference to the UAE economy.
Here are the numbers.
The number of respondents thinking the Expo will make NO difference to the economy has plummeted. In both 2018 and 2019 more than two-fifths of the population said they thought the Expo would be an irrelevance to the UAE economy. In 2020 that figure has fallen to less than a fifth, in fact to just 17% of respondents.
Meanwhile the number of respondents saying it gives them a little more confidence in the economy has risen from 43% (35% in 2018) to 49%.
The biggest jump however is amongst those respondents who expect the Expo to have a significant impact the economy, a figure jumping from just 16% last year to 34% in 2020. In other words, the number of respondents thinking the impact will be serious has doubled.
There are probably good reasons for this. When we last took the pulse of the UAE, the $10.2 billion dollars of projects were playing catch in the last mile to delivery. All businesses involved, especially those supplying manpower to build and to construct pavilions, had yet to see a lot of business they had expected or been promised. Delayed business meant, perhaps, a delayed impact on sentiment. Much of this work is now well underway, some completed.
Sentiment is of course, also not entirely rational, and that means believing something does not necessarily result in its actualisation. That said, when it comes to the economy, belief matters a lot. To get the UAE motoring again, investors and consumers need to think things are on the mend and will get better. Only by believing this will they invest and spend. In this sense at the very least, these number should be hugely encouraging...
As with last year, break down the data there is devil in the detail. Residents outside of Dubai continue to be the most bullish when it comes to the impact of the Expo, while the higher the household income, the less of an impact respondents think the Expo will have. Age also makes a big difference. It is truly hard to find someone under the age of 25 that does not think the Expo will have some affect on the UAE economy, and equally hard to find someone over 50 that does.
Covid-19, and other spanners aside, we are now just months away from finding out who is right...