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UAE Steady Progress towards Winning World EXPO 2020

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

United Arab Emirate has become hub of tourism, events management and expos. Most recently, it bided to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai which would be great landmark. It would have multiplier effects on trade, investments, technology, construction industry and all other related sectors and sub-sectors of the macro-economy. H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, Chairman of National Media Council stated the country has become a hub for specialized exhibition industry due to its strong economy, world class infrastructure and business and investment friendly policies. He said that the UAE under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is achieving tremendous development in all fields.

Artist’s rendering of Al Wasl plaza which will form the centerpiece of the proposed UAE’s 2020 World Expo site, Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali. The site is equidistant from Dubai and Abu Dhabi and adjacent to the Dubai World Central airport.

Rigorous meetings are being carried out at different levels about UAE bid for World Expo 2020. A comprehensive media campaign has already been initiated throughout the UAE and around the globe. EXPO 2020 Eight ambassadors have also been nominated in order to speed up its drive to achieve the bid. They were selected based on the quality of their submission to the recently concluded “Be part of it” competition. Now, the World Expo 2020 master plan has also been finalized and revealed at Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali. The site master plan has been designed by HOK, Populus and Arup.

It strongly shows UAE future directions for winning EXPO 2020. It would further enhance its chances to hold EXPO 2020 in Dubai. Last but not the least it rightly projects the visionary leadership wisdom to establish UAE capabilities as regional hub for foreign direct investments, economic diversification, tourism, technology, alternative energy. It is because of its visionary leadership now, UAE has ideal place for international conferences, seminars, conventions, expos, fairs and exhibitions. Prominent economists, marketing gurus, businessmen, industrialists and entrepreneurs have welcomed UAE drive and systematic campaign for winning the bidding of EXPO 2020. Even, friendly countries and regional states along with international organizations have already pledged their support to UAE for its diversified but integrated efforts to win the bid of EXPO 2020. It has now got momentum.

The World Expo is a unique event which brings socio-economic interaction and prosperity to host country. It has been one of the ideal platforms for achieving global harmony, interfaith peace through gathering world’s brilliant ideas and sharing experiences of sustainable development and qualitative life. It has been one of the easiest ways to bring effective improvements in existing technologies, innovations and even communications. It has also been projecting the importance of social interaction, communication strategies, role of the media and the human diversity.

The World Expo shows the importance of culture diversity, civility and social transformation. It generates new jobs. It accelerates trade & commerce activities. It attracts foreign direct investments. It encourages the use of new advanced technologies. It brings new innovations to excel in the future. It projects the soft power image.

The UAE is bidding to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ If UAE wins the bid of holding EXPO 2020, it would be great achievement and a giant leap because the World Expo has never been held in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia before.

It is one of the largest international events since eighteen century. It takes place every five years in different important and famous cities around the world. It lasts for six months, attracting millions of visitors in the host country. It has multiplier benefits for the host as well as participatory countries and companies. Since world economy is in good shape, the mega events like that of EXPO 2020 would be turning point for its revival. Previously, Germany (2000) profited by US$7.4 billion and China Shanghai (2010) US$2 billion in revenues for the hosting World Expos. It raised Shanghai’s profile in Asia and across the world, as tourism arrivals rose by 13 per cent, attracting more than 73 million visitors.

Dubai has all the financial resources, human expertise and leadership vision to win the said bid of the World EXPO 2020. It has world class infrastructure, technologies and transportation systems to host the World EXPO 2020. One of the sub-themes of the UAE bid to host World Expo 2020 in Dubai has been the focus on economic development.

The other competing countries are Ayutthaya (Thailand); Ekaterinburg (Russia); Izmir (Turkey); and Sao Paulo (Brazil). UAE strategic location, world class infrastructure, sustainable development, hub of alternative energy and star performer in the fields of banking and finances has made it hot cake for winning the World EXPO 2020. It has rich experience of holding international conferences and events such as the World Energy Forum 2012 and many others have helped it to win the bid. According to Ahmed Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, the UAE has a proven track record in organising mega events since the nineties, backed by the country’s world-class infrastructure, especially following the stupendous success in organising the World Energy Forum 2012 in Dubai attended by some prominent heads of state.

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group is the Chairman of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo in Dubai. He made a final inspection of the UAE pavilion. It is the state-of-the-art model. The exhibition is part of the effort to win the votes of the 161 member states in the amalgamation. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a decree to form the Higher Committee in May 2012. The said higher committee coordinated with other related committees and submits its regular reports directly to Sheikh Mohammed. It rigorously works on the outcomes of different ongoing diversified but integrated efforts about World EXPO 2020. It submits prospects and constraints towards achieving World Expo 2020. It suggests solutions, proposals and recommendations for the winning of World Expo 2020.

Proposed site of World EXPO 2020, Dubai

The final decision of winning country/city will be announced in November and the 160 members countries of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris will cast their votes. The BIE is responsible for overseeing the bidding, selection and organisation of World Expos. All five of the cities/countries bidding for the World EXPO 202 gave 20 minute presentations at the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Dubai’s presentation was delivered by Reem Al Hashemi, the Minister of State. The UAE delegation to the IEB was led by Sheikh Ahmed. The delegation highlighted the UAE and Dubai strategic location and its immense socio-economic transformation in the recent years. It reflects that two-thirds of the world’s population lives within eight hours of Dubai. Twenty-five million visitors are expected to attend, with 70 per cent of those attending coming from outside the UAE.

Most recently, the government of Dubai has initiated many mega projects throughout the city which may further enhance its chances for winning of the bid i.e. a subway system for the exhibition area. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is also the founder and co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private foundation has also appreciated Dubai efforts to hold World EXPO 2020.

Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), who was also at the presentation, said Dubai also has infrastructure plans that include air, sea and land transport. Those plans include extending the Dubai Metro to the Al Maktoum Airport. Al Tayer said he hopes any legacy left behind by the World Expo would extend to more than just business.

Dubai is going to submit its complete project brief of World EXPO 202 in December 3, 2012. It would include budgetary allocations, facilitations and mechanism about the World EXPO 2020. It would also show infrastructure competency, plans and exhibition site too. Two more presentations are scheduled before the announcement of the winner, which is likely to happen in October 2013.

The proposed World EXPO 2020 will be held in Dubai on 438 hectares of land. The focal point of the exhibition will be a central pavilion called Al Wasl, which means “The Connection” in Arabic. It is hoped that the said site would integrate the UAE’s unique architectural heritage and environment of vibrancy and trade. Smaller buildings will be located near the centre of the exhibition with larger buildings on the outside. To comply with its sub-theme of mobility, Dubai said it plans build an underground railway system to connect the Al Wasl with the outer pavilions.

Since UAE and Dubai is the leaders in alternative energy technologies and resources, the proposed exhibition site will also be covered by a canopy of photovoltaic material, which should produce enough solar power to cover 50 per cent of the Expo’s electricity needs. At night, the underside of the canopy will act as a screen for video presentations and light shows. To make it productive the pavilion grounds will be turned into a research and development centre or a university.

UAE leads the region in many fields not confined only to foreign direct investments, tourism, alternative energy and diversification of economy. It also leads the region as well as world on the fronts of human development index, qualitative life, social nets, infrastructure, and financial hub. In this regards, Dubai has become ideal destination for FDIs, international brands, joint ventures, service sector and banking & financial activities. It is hoped that all the regional and international recognitions would be beneficial for it for winning the said bid of World EXPO 2020.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, MENA and Arab League have already extended their support to UAE to win the bidding of World EXPO 2020. Over 180 firms from the UAE and around the world have reaffirmed to help raise awareness of the country’s bid to host the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.

The Committee has already established world-class website. It has initiated the “Support the bid” programme. It provides corporate visitors with an application form to become Expo 2020 bid supporters. It gives access to campaign resources, including Expo brand guidelines, fact sheets, posters and high-resolution logos for company banners and email signatures to common people and corporate gurus alike. It offers visitors background information on the history of World Expos. It highlights the UAE’s strategic advantages as potential host of this truly global event. Visitors can also learn more about the many benefits that hosting the Expo would provide the UAE, and how supporting the bid can help create new opportunities for companies across the region and around the world. So far, companies from 14 different countries have pledged to support the UAE’s Expo 2020 bid, including firms from across the Middle East, Australia, Canada, India, the UK and the US.

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has already been named a lead sponsor for the UAE’s bid to host the Expo in Dubai. DTCM and the Expo team will work together to raise awareness about the country’s bid campaign through a series of ongoing diversified but integrated efforts which include hosting conventions, branding, and distributing informational brochures throughout the city.

May regional and international organization recent reports make UAE an ideal country to host the World EXPO 2020. The most recently published report by the World Economic (November 2012) titled “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13” the UAE has been ranked 24th out of 144 countries globally. It shows that the UAE is the economy based on factor Driven, efficiency driven; and innovation driven. Now, it has been ranked ahead of New Zealand, Australia, Italy and Spain. It is regional leaders in innovation and knowledge-based economy. It has zero-deficit budget which shows its fiscal strength. It has highest literacy rates for women in the region. It is one of the most business and investment friendly country in the world. Its labour laws are friendly and flexible.

Reem Al Hashimi, Minister of State and Chairperson of the Emirates Competitiveness Council said the UAE’s competiveness index regarding the labour market efficiency surged by 21 points to seventh globally, reiterating that the UAE would score better results in the next global competiveness reports. Moreover, UAE topped the list of Arab countries and ranked 5th globally in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for ease of trading across borders. In addition to this it ranked 1st among Arab countries and 17th worldwide on the UN’s recent World Happiness Report and 16th internationally in the IMD s World Competitiveness Yearbook.

All the regional and international acknowledgements show that UAE is the most suitable country to hold World EXPO 2020. It is hoped that under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the 2020 World Expo in Dubai will serve as a “global hub for ideas and a springboard for creativity. UAE has state of the art infrastructure in terms of airports, airlines, marketing companies, soft image companies and vibrant media would be helpful in winning and hosting World EXPO 2020. It is hoped that by connecting people, which lies at the heart of UAE strategic vision as a cosmopolitan nation, UAE can foster greater cooperation and understanding between people and cultures.

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