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UAE inches towards securing Expo 2020 bid

UAE pledges Dh30.84 billion as part of its bid to host the premier global event

  • A computer imageof the proposedExpo 2020 sitesuperimposed on anaerial view of Dubaiat night.Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
  • Bid results for the World Expo 2020 will be announced in November, a few weeks after thelaunch of scheduled Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
02 Gulf News

Paris: The UAE’s announcement of €150 million (Dh734 million) Expo Live support package for participants from the developing countries and a further €100 million Partnership Fund to spur ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship, is expected to work as a tonic for the UAE’s Expo 2020 bid, officials said.

This is part of the Dh30.84 billion Expo 2020 bill as pledged by the UAE in its bid dossier. Its capital funding requirement of €5.21 billion includes some projects, such as the Dubai Metro extension of Dh5 billion, that are likely to go ahead whether or not the expo bid succeeds.

The fair’s projected €1.25 billion operating costs would be covered by revenues from ticket sales, sponsorship, food and beverage sales, merchandising and other sources, according to the dossier.

The announcement, made by Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the 153rd General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris on Wednesday, virtually guarantees a wider participation for Expo 2020, if held in Dubai.

Princess Haya highlighted, under the bid’s overarching theme, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future; the importance of partnerships, and what the foundation and legacy of Dubai Expo 2020 will be.

She said, building on the bid’s theme of partnership, Expo Live will start to deliver on the promise and power of global collaboration as early as 2014.

“Expo Live will make Dubai Expo 2020 not just a global showcase event, but also a powerful engine of innovation for future progress,” she told the delegates at the BIE General Assembly.

“World Expos have a remarkable ability to bring people together to discuss, engage and innovate. New models are showcased, new ideas are inspired and new partnerships are created. The theme of Dubai Expo 2020, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future is just such a pledge of partnership,” she said.

“It draws on the UAE’s past, our heritage and our successes. It highlights the fact that we are all united in destiny and outcome. This is the spirit in which the UAE was formed. These values laid the foundation for our Nation, and continue to drive our vision for the future.

“As a small country in a challenging region, we recognise only too well both the opportunity and the necessity of being innovative. To succeed we must challenge the conventional norm. We must seek new ways of doing things and of doing them in collaboration.”

Ever since the earliest days of the Federation, the UAE has invited the world to help create its future, she said, adding: “I am proud to say that over the years, we have visited each and every country represented in this hall today. We have learnt from you. We have shared our story. And together we have developed means to strengthen our relationships.

“Together we have delivered some amazing and groundbreaking achievements. Achievements that have brought opportunity and benefits for all that have joined us,” she said.

“In Dubai, we have built a city that has become an incubator for new models and new ideas. There are many examples where partnerships have expanded the realm of all our possibilities.

“Today, we live in a world where our fates are interdependent, and so therefore must be our solutions. Our starting points may be different, but our aspirations - for my children, for your children - remain the same,” she said.

Collectively, these two packages amount to Dh1.22 billion – the highest support package for an Expo, by far.

“I am extremely happy with the quality of the bid presentation by the Dubai team. It’s a powerful and bold move. It’s impressive and Dubai is a very strong contender,” Ferdinand Nagy, President of BIE, told Gulf News after the presentation by all four parties.

Although no other competing official bidders – Izmir of Turkey, Sao Paulo of Brazil and Yekaterinburg of Russia – have announced their support package, which is part of the requirements set by BIE to ensure a wider participation at the World Expo, the €150 million package announced by the UAE came as a surprise to all and needless to say, a shock to its rivals.

“I do not want to limit ourselves with numbers. But it will be a memorable expo, if we are allowed to host it,” Turkish minister for European Union, Egemen Bagis, told Gulf News, when asked about his country’s investment for Izmir in Expo 2020.

The hectic bidding and lobbying process, which started more than a year ago, ends in November this year with a final round of presentation and voting by the 166 member countries, that will determine the fate of the bid.

Although the latest announcement pushes the UAE’s bid for Dubai ahead of the rest as a front-runner for World Expo 2020, whether it “seals the deal”, is to be seen in the coming months. Meanwhile, hectic diplomatic parleys are in progress by the four competing countries behind the scenes to secure maximum number of votes.

The UAE could count on the majority of the Arab World’s 23 countries’ support. However, votes of the rest of the 57 Muslim countries, excluding the Arab World, could be split between UAE and Turkey. Both the UAE and Turkey could also count on a large number of votes outside the Muslim world – the battleground for Brazil and Russia – the two influential BRIC countries.

Diplomatic sources in Paris said, although some countries are giving verbal support due to courtesy, things might change on the day of the voting.

“For example, if we receive a letter of support from a member of the Commonwealth of Independent Countries (CIS), they may not vote for us in the end as we know they are close to Russia who has great influence over CIS countries,” revealed a diplomat, on the condition of anonymity.

Some countries might seek concessions and benefits in exchange of their support, he said. “So, it’s a complex series of negotiations, where you can not be sure till the voting process is over,” he said.

That explains why none of the competing countries could be sure of winning the bid at this stage.

However, the Dh1.22 billion packages could do the needful for the UAE. Firstly, it will ensure a wider participation amongst the 166 voting member countries at the Expo 2020 if it’s held in Dubai.

Many developing countries who do not have the budget for participating in World Expo, will be encouraged by the modest aid package – where all their expenses could be taken care of by the UAE.

Secondly, the participants could also benefit from the €100 million Partnership Fund – in developing innovative ideas that could help develop entrepreneurship on sustainable development projects in their countries – thus creating employment.

Thirdly, the announcement puts a quantifiable and measurable package, part of the Dh30.84 billion Expo 2020 bill. This makes the UAE bid more transparent.

It would be interesting to see how the UAE diplomats and lobbyist translate these twin packages into votes in November and later – by forging partnerships on sustainable development projects.