Last year, triggered by Covid-19, the world ground to a halt before it learnt to adapt to an unimaginably tough set of circumstances. Over 1.8 million people died, millions fell ill and systems around the world were stretched to breaking point. The working world moved online. Education, aviation, tourism and numerous other sectors faced massive global disruptions. But despite an atmosphere of global bleakness, vaccines were discovered in record time and impressively, even began to be rolled out. People across the world got used to the many changes in their daily lives. The year 2020 reminded us that people can face massive upheavals and still survive. This realisation bodes well at the start of the new year. Hearteningly, in crucial sectors, the foundation work for a return to a functional normality is already in place.
But how does a world that has been so immensely disrupted go about a recovery? The pay-off will lie in a gradual, consistentcy; much like the complicated process of inoculating billions, in the right order – vulnerable and elderly first – against the virus. The UAE has already started vaccinating people throughout the country and this healthy curve is bound to be maintained. Take the Sinopharm vaccine, for example, that can now be availed across the UAE. And the news that Dubai plans to immunise 70 per cent of its population by the end of 2021. All these positive developments were unimaginable until even six months ago.
An economic recovery sits alongside the recovery from the virus. It is too soon to tell how a damaged economy will affect our politics in the future. Multilateralism seems to have done its advocates well last year. Institutions threatened by populism such as the European Union have weathered the storm. Compared to some other nations, the UAE is in an enviable spot – it can claim a remarkable response to Covid-19. Right from the early days of the pandemic, it stressed the necessity of testing, of wearing masks, adherence to sound medical advice like social distancing – all of which have cumulatively helped residents and citizens of the country feel secure and in safe hands. Trust in those overseeing the pandemic response was high and people largely adhered to measures. This is a claim that some of the most advanced nations sadly cannot make.
In the UAE, much hard work has gone into paving the way for 2021. Despite the anxieties of the past year, we have entered 2021 with cautious optimism. There is reason to believe that the country will be able to strike the necessary balance between recovery and reality. In a little over a month, UAE's Hope Probe will reach Mars. Even the pandemic did not get in the way of that launch in July last year. There is no doubt that the February landing will give us something to cheer, a note that one can reasonably envision will offset the more sobering realities of Covid-19.
Despite the obvious hurdles, the UAE has a lot to look forward to this year. Not least of all the Expo in Dubai. Already four new metro stations have opened. Other gradual unveiling of infrastructure progress is expected to continue, both with regard to the Expo as well as the UAE equipping itself for the future. We will throughout the year see evidence of how nation-building has carried on despite all odds.
The effects of the targeted stimulus packages in the UAE will begin to unfold. The country's big reforms too will start to bear fruit. But challenges remain. And while the "bounce back" to financial normality and life as we used to live it will take time, possibly years, we must embark upon the new year with positivity and the clear sightedness that 2021 will be a landmark year in terms of recovery and laying the ground for the decade ahead.