Tausif Ur Rehman
As the Final countdown begins for the right to host World Expo 2020, the diplomatic players of respective countries have also become active behind the stage and are making extensive efforts to get maximum support in the form of votes, and the host will be decided in November 2013. All the four most potential candidate cities i.e. Dubai (UAE), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Yekaterinburg (Russia) and Izmir (Turkey) have already submitted their final presentations/proposals to Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) whereas Thailand has been disqualified.
The UAE’s strategic position as a bridge between East and West, and North and South, provides a powerful platform for the world to come together and unlock the potential of the future. Dubai 2020 would be the first Expo to be held in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region, giving these vibrant and dynamic economies access to unlimited new opportunities on the world stage. Keeping in view all the important socio-economic-political indicators i.e. country risk, political risk, management risk, credit risk, economy and the last but not the least, ability to host it successfully, it appears that United Arab Emirates (UAE) is ahead in the race. It is inching towards its final official nomination every passing day.
Comparative study of the candidate cities reveals that in real socio-economic-political sense, the UAE has the brightest chance for winning the World Expo 2020. One of the competing countries, Brazil is currently confronting the massive public protests and processions in its many small and big cities. Levels of anger, frustration and agony are on the rise despite some cosmetic arrangements pledged by the Brazilian government. Moreover, miracle of BRICS is fading day by day. Russia, another important country’s macro-economy is not so stable and sustainable, that is why its president has recently reshuffled his entire economic team. Turkey, one of the most important countries in the race of hosting World Expo 2020 is now sieged with many Taskim square series which has already produced serious dints in its national economy. Rations of international tourists have been reduced due to poor law and order situation in the country. Moreover, since Turkey has been indulged with Kurds conflict for so many years due to which the chances of any deadly terrorist incident is imminent anytime, anywhere.
In his televised address to 3rd Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES) in Dubai, the US President Barack Obama highly appreciated the UAE leadership and its people to achieve high standard of development. French President also pledged his country’s support to UAE for hosting World Expo 2020 in Dubai. Even UK extended its support to vote for UAE in World Expo 2020. Admirations from the world leaders would be helpful for Dubai to win the race of World Expo 2020 in the days to come. On the contrary, in recent times Turkey faced tough time from the European Union (EU_ especially from Germany and France on the issue of its succession with EU. So, road from Ankara to Brussels to get support from the EU on the issue of World Expo 2020 has already been marginalized for Turkey.
On the other hand, UAE’s stable and sustainable macro-economic indicators, fiscal surplus, booming external accounts, high ratios of GDP, stable foreign currency reserves, booming exports ratios and above all qualitative infrastructure automatically makes it the most suitable country to host the World Expo 2020. Its country risk is zero. There is no fear of political uncertainty or social unrest in the country in short, medium or long term period.
On economic fronts, the latest published report of the World Bank has ranked UAE 28th worldwide among the largest economies of the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). According to the World Bank’s estimates, the UAE’s gross domestic product stood at US$360.25 billion (Dhs1.32 trillion) in 2011. The A T Kearney Index report (2013) titled “Retail Trade Growth in 2013” has rated the UAE 5th, which again shows the strength of its sustained macro-economy. The World Economic Forum for Global Development (2011) awarded 5th position to the UAE for its financial stability in the standard index. It was also classified 25th among the best world financial systems. The UAE was also ranked first among the Arab countries and 19th globally in the Global Enabling Trade Report for 2012, issued by the World Economic Forum. All these reports of international agencies and institutions clearly uphold the strong indicators of UAE economy which is on the way of further prosperity, productivity and diversification.
The World Bank (October 2012) report titled “Doing Business Report for 2013” again rated the UAE first among the Arab countries and 26th globally out of 183 countries. Kuwaiti-based inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation (IAIGC), a key Arab League organization recently classified UAE among the top 10 countries in the field for efficient import and export procedures and physical security. It has also been on the ideal destination of FDIs.
According to international FDI magazine (2013), foreign investors pumped nearly $9.6 billion capital in the UAE in 2012, allowing the country to maintain its position as the second largest Arab recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) after Saudi Arabia. Moreover, according to Mercer the UAE is the world’s 7th most popular destination for international assignments. And the last but not the least, Brand Finance, an independent intangible assets and brand valuation consultancy said that the UAE has 15 brands out of the top 50 brands in Mena region in 2013, with a brand value touching $14.48 billion. According to the study, the value of UAE brands constitutes 37 per cent of the total value of $39.33 billion of the top 50 Mena brands. The comparative study of these reports and figures strongly indicate the healthy and progressive nature of the UAE economy which has rightly projected it as the most ideal country for hosting World Expo 2020.
The country is also well prepared against any unseen threats from the nature. UAE is one ideal destination for international tourism. Official data shows that more than 60 million people travel through the emirate in 2012 while 10 million visit the city of Dubai every year due to a world-class airport and a global airline.
It has become hub of all kinds of regional and international expos, conferences, seminars and exhibitions. Successful holding of Dubai Air Show, International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), Gitex (Middle East’s largest consumer IT and electronics show) and more than 200 other trade shows as well as international sporting events, for World Expo 2020 are the prime examples of its preparedness.
Its infrastructure has comparative advantage on other competitors. Its hoteliers have international standards of accommodation and hospitality. According to World Travel and Tourism Council report (2013) the UAE’s hospitality market is geared up to record 67 per cent growth in revenue to US$7.5 billion by 2016 up from US$4.5 billion in 2011. Hotel supply is expected to increase from the current 96,992 hotel rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to a total of 125,383 hotel rooms by 2016. Last year, the UAE drew an estimated 10 million tourists. Furthermore, the report says that the UAE accounts for 41 per cent of total investment in the travel and tourism sector in Middle East. The UAE now has more hotels per head of population than any other country in the world. With the UAE’s tourism map now incredibly diverse, Dubai Expo 2020 would offer an opportunity for millions of transit passengers to visit the Expo.