Spain: Exposing the assets of Andalusia. (2 of 2)

Spain: Exposing the assets of Andalusia. (2 of 2) - However, throwing money at problems does not in itself bring solutions. The authorities are attempting to build a technological society on unpromising foundations. Unemployment in Andalusia is the highe

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

However, throwing money at problems does not in itself bring solutions. The authorities are attempting to build a technological society on unpromising foundations. Unemployment in Andalusia is the highest in Spain and the workforce remains, to a large degree, uneducated and unskilled. Various efforts are being made to bridge this gap. Nine specific areas have been identified for special training programmes, including construction, catering and cleaning. All of these have obvious relevance to the running of Expo, but not a great deal to the maintenance of a high-tech culture.

Leaving the technology issue to one side, there is also scant evidence in the local population of commercial aptitude at the level required. Some 200 restaurants and retail concessions will be dotted around the Expo site. In a region which prides itself on its cuisine and which boasts a strong tourist industry, it might have been supposed that indigenous entrepreneurs would leap at such an opportunity. True, local business is not entirely absent, but on the whole, foreign operators have been the first to benefit. The Americans are, as always, well to the fore. "We can learn from them," says Expo official Luis Estrada. "The Sevillians are late - and insecure. I am more or less a consultant to them."

A tremendous effort has already gone into making Expo a success. The site itself is beyond question the most spectacular theme park in Europe. The theme, incidentally, "The Age of Discovery", could not be more apt for the city from which Columbus set sail for the Americas 500 years ago.

Expo has already brought considerable gains to Seville, not least environmentally. Whole forests of trees and plants have been specially cultivated to adorn the site and protect visitors from the blistering Sevillian sun. Open exhibition spaces will have to be air conditioned and a number of experiments on how to achieve this are being carried out in the Bioclimatic Rotonda, located at the Expo office compound.

According to forecasts, no less than 20 million people will visit Seville in the six months of Expo, many of them for the first time. Enthusiasm among the local population is also running high. The important question is whether it fulfils the longer-term expectations which the Spanish authorities have invested in it.

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