Prepare flexibly for Osaka-Kansai Expo amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over preparations for the Osaka-Kansai world expo scheduled for 2025. It is necessary to respond appropriately to the issue in accordance with the situation.

The plan to hold the Osaka-Kansai expo was approved by the general meeting of the Bureau International des Expositions. With the spread of the coronavirus, the meeting was convened six months behind schedule. It was officially decided that the expo would be held from April to October 2025. Activities to invite other countries will begin in earnest from now on.

The Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition, which is organizing the event, intends to urge 150 countries and 25 international organizations to participate. The government expects 28 million visitors and an economic benefit of ¥2 trillion.

There is no doubt that efforts to invite other countries will be restricted due to the coronavirus crisis. The Dubai expo, which was scheduled to be held in the United Arab Emirates from October to April next year, was forced to be postponed for a year. There may be not a few countries that cannot decide at this point whether to participate in the Osaka-Kansai expo in 2025.

Currently, face-to-face publicity activities are difficult. Methods to extend invitations using the internet or other means should be devised.

Under the theme of “Designing Future Society for Our Lives,” the Osaka-Kansai expo will focus on contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations.

A system should be established so that countries facing such problems as poverty, starvation and environmental pollution can participate without difficulty. The government is reportedly considering providing financial support for participating countries’ exhibitions. It is important to convey the significance of holding the event and share it with other nations.

About 120 countries participated in the 2005 Aichi expo. Shinji Inoue, minister for the World Expo 2025, said, “In the face of various constraints, the whole nation must make every effort to make sure the expo succeeds.”

A world expo is also an opportunity to showcase Japan’s technological prowess and culture both at home and abroad. The government needs to exercise wisdom so that many countries will be able to participate.

The coronavirus has also affected construction work for the venues and their surrounding areas.

The construction costs, previously estimated at ¥125 billion, are expected to greatly increase because of soaring personnel and material costs as well as the need to prevent workers from becoming infected with the virus.

The central government, local governments and the business community will each bear one-third of the construction costs. But the business community will have difficulty shouldering additional costs due to deteriorating business performance. There is no prospect of funding the construction of an extension of the subway line to Yumeshima, the artificial island that will be the site of the event.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the fiscal situation more severe. It is vital to strictly control costs and prevent expenditures from ballooning. The situation has changed drastically since it was decided that Japan would host the expo. The government should not hesitate to revise the initial plan if necessary.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 11, 2020.