Sri Lanka risks missing Dubai Expo 2020

– Preparations months behind schedule

– Delay in approvals, fund allocation

Sri Lanka’s participation in the Dubai Expo 2020, the world’s largest exhibition, hangs in balance due to bureaucratic delays and the absence of required funds, The Sunday Morning Business learns.
Of primary concern are the delays in setting up a Dubai Expo local secretariat and the selection of an event management company (EMC).
While the necessary proposals and documentation were submitted to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MoDSIT) prior to the presidential election in November last year and a presentation made to the current Minister of Industrial Export and Investment Promotion Prasanna Ranatunga after the election, funds are yet to be allocated for these crucial proposals.
When contacted, the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), one of the institutions driving this initiative, said that Sri Lanka is already at least six months behind schedule while most of the other participant countries have been preparing two years in advance to take part in the Dubai Expo 2020.
“Deadline? What deadline? Deadline is already dead now,” NCE Secretary General Shiham Marikar retorted.
Marikar added that the direction and funds have to be provided by the Ministry of Industrial Export and Investment Promotion within the next two weeks at the very least, while an EMC is to be finalised before the end of February if Sri Lanka is to have a realistic chance of taking part in the Dubai Expo 2020.
The Sunday Morning Business reliably learns that the Terms of Reference (ToR) to call for bids for an EMC had been sent to the relevant Ministry last year before the election and as of Friday (24), the Ministry is yet to initiate a move.
In addition to this, the Ministry also has to provide directives to the relevant institutions to appoint subcommittees both in Sri Lanka and Dubai and a commissioner to overlook and plan Sri Lanka’s participation in the Expo. Further, interviewing suitable persons for these committees would also take a considerable amount of time.
However, the NCE is optimistic of completing the pending requirements and getting the funds allocated before the stipulated timeline. According to Marikar, the Export Development Board (EDB) has already contributed its part of the entire cost for the Expo, which is Rs. 580 million, while the Treasury’s allocation is yet to be confirmed.
We reliably learnt that even though fund allocation for the Expo was approved by the Ministry before the presidential election, the new Ministry is withholding the funds until the proposal is studied and evaluated once more.
A tender committee was expected to be appointed in September and an EMC was to be finalised in October last year, but the interim period before and after the presidential election, and subsequent changes in the managements of relevant institutions and ministries, led to a long delay.
Even the plan to call bids in September itself was after a delay, as an EMC was supposed to be finalised in August. The delay here was due to the insufficient number of proposals received from the export sector to take part in the Expo.
Dubai Expo 2020 is an initiative that is undertaken by the EDB. When contacted for clarifications, a senior official at the EDB refused to comment on the Expo and recommended we speak to Director General Jeevani Siriwardena. However, all attempts to reach Siriwardena proved futile.
The Expo will be held for a period of six months from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021. The Dubai Expo is one of the largest international events, and takes place once every five years, and this time, Dubai has been selected as the venue. It will mainly focus on tourism, investment promotion, and trade.
The Expo will be held under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. The three subthemes are opportunity, mobility, and sustainability, based on which the master floor plan differs.
Sri Lanka’s pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 will be located in the opportunity district which consists of 212 square metres of exhibit area on the ground floor and 172 square metres of office space on the first floor. The Sri Lankan pavilion will be organised under the title “Island of Ingenuity”.
Young professionals have been given the opportunity to get involved with the design of Sri Lanka’s pavilion.
Accordingly, teams from the Department of Integrated Design of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Moratuwa have done their design concept under the theme “water” and the pavilion will be designed to depict this.
Dubai Expo 2020 is expected to attract over 25 million visitors, of which 70% will be international visitors. It is also expected that there will be more than 200 participants during the span of six months, to showcase their countries.
The Government expects Dubai Expo 2020 to contribute towards the achievement of Sri Lanka’s Vision 2025 by supporting the growth of tourism, stimulating the development of innovative businesses, and enhancing the country’s international reputation as an ideal location to do business.