2 years ago

Of DITF, shopping spree and the Expos

Visitors crowd the Dhaka International Trade Fair in Purbachal on Friday, Jan 7, 2022	— Photo
Visitors crowd the Dhaka International Trade Fair in Purbachal on Friday, Jan 7, 2022 — Photo

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The 20-acre permanent Bangabandhu Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre has started hosting the DITF from this year, 2022. Opening at Sector-4, Purbachal on the Dhaka outskirts, the 27th Dhaka International Trade Fair will run through the 1st week of January to the 1st week of February. The month-long eagerly awaited trade-related pageant is being held at a new venue since its opening in 1995. The mega fair in the Bangladesh context enters its 28th year. DITF is organised by the Export Promotion Bureau (Bangladesh) and the Ministry of Commerce.

Although a large number of people are expressing their doubt about the visitors' turnout in expected numbers at the trade fair, due to the return of corona restrictions, many others are convinced of the usual pull of crowds to the month-long event. The new fairground, the authorities hope, will attract people for its dust-free, and relatively quiet, atmosphere. Thanks to the fair's permanent venue, the number of participating countries joining the fair with their national products might see a remarkable rise. But with the continued increase in the Covid-19 and the Omicron cases, the final arrival of the fair participants may remain below expectation.

To the common people of Bangladesh with little direct contact with the overseas day-to-day products, leave alone buying them at shopping malls, the annual trade fair offers them a chance to pick their choice items. The overseas objects range from kitchenware, crockery, highly finished plastic products like flowers, vases, toys etc. Besides these fancy and semi-fancy items, woolen wear, blankets, ladies shawls, baby wear etc have occupied a dominant place in the foreign merchandise. All of them are sold at a reduced price. Normally a number of south Asian, eastern and western Asian, and southeast Asian countries like India, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan,  Iran, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia join the fair with their edible products and decorative items. The Afghan carpets and Iranian spices have long proven to be a big draw. People eager to see the chief principle of Bangladesh i.e. striking new trade ties with other countries normally feel dismayed at the petty commercial nature of the DITF. At some point, especially in the concluding days, the spacious fair emerges as an open-air shopping complex witnessing transactions at reduced prices. In many countries, these globally participated fairs have one specific object: entering into medium-scale trade pacts with the private sector entities in other countries. The fairs serve the purpose of being the platforms of business-to-business meets.

Compared to this, the DITF Bangladesh has eventually turned out to be a big market. Apart from the foreign retailers, the fair visitors remain busy with their purchase of products also from the pavilions of local companies. Bangladesh trade experts have been found dead against this trend. It means the DITF is a winter occasion of shopping varied foreign and local products at radically lowered prices. For many others, the trade fair is an event filled with a festive mood. To the regular fair visitors, this year's DITF opening at a new venue is replete with inauspicious features. Due to Covid-19 and Omicron restrictions, the city residents' movement has been widely impeded. Even the neighbourhood people may dread to move outside freely.  

Although, the trade fair is nowadays a common event, it remained unknown to the general people until 1995. But two similar kinds of fair with overseas participation took place in Dhaka --- one in mid-1960s and the other in 1977. Both of them were organised at the Ramna Race Course. The first one with its marvellous presence of foreign trade delegations from different countries, and the multi-colour neon lights and billboard was a completely new spectacle in Dhaka. The centre-piece of the fair was the life-size model of a NASA rocket, placed in the middle of the fair ground. There was also a 'Ford' car placed before the pavilion of the company. The soft drink 'Vita Cola' in yellow colour was handed out for free at certain hours at a stall. The so-called 'exhibition' drew hundreds and thousands of people from across the country. It lasted for nearly a month. The next 'exhibition' witnessed less overseas participation. Stalls also lacked variety. Thanks to these shortcomings, the second exhibition couldn't draw the expected number of people. The socio-political stalemate, natural calamities etc made situations in the country adverse for holding gala events.

Compared to these country-specific expositions, the19th- 20th -21st centuries have been featured by the 'Expos' or world exhibitions being held every 5 years in large cities. Beginning in 1851, these fairs, later known as Expos, are held keeping the socio-economic achievements of the whole world in perspective. In terms of visitors by the hundreds, retail shopping, trading, entertainment and other razzmatazz, the Expos stand out quite distinctively. Normally, the rich and developed countries organised these events, like seen today. Unlike in the past, when Expos were dominated by entertainment and were termed by the radical economists wasteful and mindless adult fun and frolicking, these events today carry messages for global wellbeing. The leitmotif of these themes is pollution-free environment as well as stopping carbon emission. Of late the Covid-19-Delta-Omicron pandemic has made the organisers evidently conscious about the consequences of frenzied amusement. Originally scheduled for opening the event on 20 October, 2020, to run up to April 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a change in the schedule of the Dubai Expo. According to the new schedule, the said Expo is being held from 1 October, 2021 to 31 March, 2022.

According to the official announcement, Dubai Expo 2021-2022 is set to bring together all the progressive thoughts of the world at one venue. The World Expos' duration ranges from 3 to 6 months. The organisers say they offer cutting-edge technology, visually striking architecture and a range of interactive displays. In plain words, the Expos serve as platforms for connecting minds from around the world. They have been recognised as the greatest showcase of human brilliance and achievement. Despite the unexpected postponement, the Dubai Expo 2021-2022 has lately emerged as a global event that links innovation, technology, art and culture to offer an amazing experience. According to the event's patrons, the ongoing Dubai Expo is all about experiencing the world in one place. The whole thing makes it a lifetime experience for everyone. With 60+ shows, 200+ restaurants and hundreds of other entertainments, it stands for a veritable fantasy land. From state-of-the-art technology to green initiatives, the World Expo also presents an extraordinary opportunity to promise a bright and better future. With 191 countries' pavilions, events, attractions and mind-blowing experiences, the Expo in Dubai in particular is a platform that inspires the world to attain sustainability, opportunity and mobility.

In reality, alongside the dazzle, the noble messages for humanity have also added to the basic character of these world fairs.  Almost all the international fairs have stood witness to these aspects of the grand events. The cities which have hosted these events included London, Paris, New York and New Orleans. The yearly Dhaka International Trade Fair is no match for the Expos. But the country can learn a lot on small scale from these festive trade exposures. In order to achieve its humble objectives, it should make small leaps first. Given its strong resolve, Bangladesh can broaden its infrastructural scope and the spheres of courage to join others holding pure international fairs --- if not Expos.


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