FI­NAN­CIAL WOES DE­LAY BUILD­ING OF US PAV­IL­ION

▶ Con­sul gen­eral be­lieves fund­ing for Expo struc­ture will come through

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - RAMOLA TAL­WAR BADAM

The US has yet to se­cure fund­ing to be­gin con­struc­tion of its $60 mil­lion (Dh220m) pav­il­ion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site, but one of the coun­try’s top diplo­mats is con­fi­dent the build­ing will be com­pleted in time.

Philip Frayne, US Con­sul Gen­eral in Dubai, said a bill was pre­sented to the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last week to au­tho­rise the US sec­re­tary of state to fund the struc­ture.

Plans for the fu­tur­is­tic pav­il­ion were re­vealed last year but con­struc­tion was de­layed af­ter a pri­vate con­sor­tium failed to raise the money needed.

Un­like other coun­tries where gov­ern­ments bear the cost of build­ing pavil­ions, public funds in the US can­not be used for expo struc­tures without con­gres­sional ap­proval.

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion oc­curred in 2014 when an­other group of US com­pa­nies strug­gled to source pri­vate spon­sor­ship for the Mi­lan Expo.

“With time run­ning out this sum­mer we de­cided we can’t wait for the pri­vate con­sor­tium to come up with the funds,” Mr Frayne told The Na­tional.

“They tried quite hard over the past year to raise that money and were not able to do it, so that’s why the bill is in Congress to al­low us to use public funds.”

It is un­clear how long the process will take but Mr Frayne said US sen­a­tors were aware of how press­ing the mat­ter was.

Sev­eral coun­tries have al­ready be­gun work at the Dubai South site. The US was due to break ground on the pav­il­ion be­fore the end of the year.

“We are push­ing very hard to have quick ac­tion on this. My sense is that all the con­gress­men and sen­a­tors we have spo­ken to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Expo,” Mr Frayne said.

“They un­der­stand that … there is not enough time left to raise that kind of money in the pri­vate sec­tor. My sense is that they are all go­ing to sup­port this bill that would al­low us to use public money.”

The bill will be discussed and voted on by the House For­eign

Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. It will then go to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and then the Se­nate.

If it is passed in both, it will be sent to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his sig­na­ture.

But con­gres­sional breaks are sched­uled for Thanks­giv­ing next month and the bill could be side­lined by more press­ing is­sues, such as fund­ing for dis­as­ter re­lief pro­grammes or pay­ments for farm­ers.

“It could be in two weeks, it could be in two months. We don’t know,” Mr Frayne said.

He said that the US Expo team is work­ing to re­duce the $60m es­ti­mate by scaling back the ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign.

Though the new cost of the pav­il­ion is still to be de­ter­mined, the use of dif­fer­ent con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als and a new de­sign will save “a con­sid­er­able amount of money”, Mr Frayne said.

“It may not look like the de­sign we un­veiled last year, it may have a dif­fer­ent shape but it will still be a very nice de­sign,” he said.

“What is more im­por­tant is what is in­side it and we have gone ahead plan­ning that.”

A US law passed in the 1990s pre­vented fed­eral funds from be­ing used without spe­cial ap­proval from Congress.

The de­bate over us­ing public funds dates back to the 1992 expo in Seville, when Congress blocked the use of tax­pay­ers’ money for the coun­try’s pav­il­ion at the event.

The US In­for­ma­tion Agency, which ran the coun­try’s public diplo­macy ef­forts and was re­spon­si­ble for US pavil­ions over­seas, was dis­banded in 1999 – ef­fec­tively end­ing public sec­tor sup­port.

Since then, pav­il­ion projects have strug­gled to draw cor­po­rate spon­sors.

There was no US pav­il­ion at the 2000 Expo in Han­nover be­cause of a lack of pri­vate sec­tor fund­ing.

US me­dia re­ported that a non-profit group of com­pa­nies se­lected to run the pav­il­ion at the 2015 Mi­lan Expo ran into fi­nan­cial losses.

The pav­il­ion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo also strug­gled for spon­sors dur­ing a global re­ces­sion.

USA Expo

The US is try­ing to re­duce its $60-mil­lion pav­il­ion bud­get af­ter a pri­vate con­sor­tium strug­gled to raise the funds

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