This proposal outlines the following research question: in what ways, positive or negative, will the World Expo 2020 affect Dubai, the surrounding region, and the world in generalThis is an interesting topic for two primary reasons. The first is the personal workplace experience of the author, which involved a position at Dubai Media Incorporated (Dubai TV) conducting analysis about current affairs in the UAE region. The second is the fact that this is a landmark moment in the history of Dubai, the UAE, and the Middle in general, as it is the first time that an international exposition has been held in the region. It is possible that it will lead to the development of new forms of culture; the old may be reformulated and developed in unique ways, but it may also be fused with ideas and institutions from abroad to create novel cultural hybrids.
This idea of bringing regions of the Middle East together with the rest of the world was explicitly supported by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s leader, who argued for the importance of ‘a renewed vision of progress and development based on a shared purpose and commitment’ (Expo 2020 Dubai, UAE, 2013). The possibility that the Expo 2020 will be a crucible for interacting creative forces across the world is, moreover, encapsulated in Dubai’s chosen theme: ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ (Big News Network, 2013).
This research will aim to answer the following questions:
What factors are likely to contribute to the success or failure of the World Expo 2020?
What are the social, economic, and cultural changes that Dubai is a likely to experience?
How will be Dubai’s future in the global stage change as a result of this event?
How might Dubai use the World Expo 2020 as a marketing tool?
How might Dubai use the symbolic economy to aid its cultural and urban regeneration and shape its new urban identity?
Will Expo 2020 commentary and press show Dubai in a positive or negative light?
Due to the very recent nature of the announcement, there is almost no literature dealing directly with the relationship between Dubai and the Expo 2020. However, there has been considerable commentary in the form of political and economic punditry, much of which is academic. Piers Schreiber, Vice President of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at the Jumeirah Group, claimed that ‘the Expo will create up to 270,000 jobs in the region, bringing great economic and social benefits’ (cited in Wilson, 2013). Among these are an injection of roughly ˆ17.7 billion into the economy and a migration of talent from abroad (Wilson, 2013). These estimations are supported by the forecasting group Oxford Economics, which claims that the event will contribute nearly $40 billion to Dubai’s GDP and create 277,000 new jobs over the next seven years (Big News Network, 2013). A similar argument is put forward by Rose and Spiegel (2009), whose work suggests that ‘mega events’ lead to a substantial increase in trade (approx. 30%); however, they also show that ‘unsuccessful bids to host the Olympics have a similar positive impact on exports…trade is attributable to the signal a country sends when bidding to host the games, rather than the act of actually holding a mega-event’ (p1).
Although Sheik Mohammed has claimed that the “Dubai Expo 2020 will breathe new life into the ancient role of the Middle East as a melting pot for cultures and creativity” (Big News Network, 2013), the goal of cultural diversity has been questioned due to the strong emphasis on boosting an ‘Islamic economy’, which suggests continuity more than change (Wilson, 2013).
Based on comparisons with other ‘mega events’, it is often argued that the effects of the Expo 2020 are likely to be negative for Dubai. Rose and Spiegel (2009), for example, stress that much of the evidence for the benefits of mega events is commissioned by groups with biasing agendas (e.g., Humphreys and Plummer, 1995; Fuller and Clinch, 2000, both cited in Rose and Spiegel, 2009). The same is argued by Nitsch and Wendland (2013), who also point to the large initial investment in facilities and infrastructure associated with mega events, which can place a considerable burden on the local or national economy; there tends also to be a dramatic and unpredictable effect on property prices. The conclusion of Nitsch and Wendland (2013) is that mega events tend to have an overwhelmingly negative effect on population growth (i.e., a population decline), as measured relative to a control group.
However, Nitsch and Wendland (2013), and Rose and Spiegel (2009), point to the difficulty of estimating the impact of major events. Problems quantifying the effects, especially on phenomena such as labour markets, are often exacerbated by the fact that many studies are commissioned ex ante by biased groups. Moreover, in conducting analyses such as this, it is difficult to find an adequate sample size due to the infrequency of mega events. Then there are problems with the intangibility of cultural and social spillover effects, as well as the economic multiplier (Rose and Spiegel, 2009).
The effects of the Expo 2020 are best assessed using a variety of methodological approaches, employing both quantitative and qualitative methods. From the quantitative side there will be content analysis-case studies and statistical analyses. From the qualitative, there will be surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. In terms of research philosophy (or methodology, strictly speaking), this research will take both an objectivist and a subjectivist approach (Crotty, 1998).
It would be advantageous to use what Nitsch and Wendland (2013: 4) call a ‘difference-in-differences methodology’. This draws ‘before and after’ comparisons, and in this case would entail looking at the effect of former Expos on host nations and cities and extrapolating about the probable effects on Dubai.
Crotty, M. (1998) The foundation of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in Research Progress. Sage Publications: London
Big News Network (Nov 2013)
Dubai wins right to host Expo 2020
http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/218715287/scat/3a8a80d6f705f8cc/ht/Dubai-wins-right-to-host-Expo-2020 [Retrieved 03/02/2014].
Nitsch, V. and Wendland, N. (2013) The IOC’s Midas Touch: Summer Olympics and City Growth, CESIFO WORKING PAPER NO. 4378, Centre for Economic Studies & Ifo Institute.
Expo 2020 Dubai, UAE (2013) Our Bid http://expo2020dubai.ae/en/our_bid [Retrieved 03/02/2014]
Rose, A. K. and Spiegel, M. M. (2009) The Olympic Effect, NBER Working Paper No. 14854, The National Bureau of Economic Research http://www.nber.org/papers/w14854 [Retrieved 03/02/2014].
Wilson, J. A. J. (Dec 2013) Global Islamic Economy Summit and World Expo 2020 boost Dubai’s Halal credentials, The Huffington
Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jonathan-aj-wilson/global-islamic-economy_b_4366436.html [Retrieved 03/02/2014].