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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has directed Ministry of Commerce (MoC) and provincial governments to prepare comprehensive strategies for Expo 2020 Dubai with the objective of offering trade and investment opportunities to attract international investors.

Pakistan is participating in the upcoming Expo 2020 to be hosted by Dubai from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 under the theme "connecting minds, creating the future" and sub-themes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability, originally scheduled from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021.

Well informed sources told Business Recorder that initially, Prime Minister Imran Khan was not ready to spend a huge amount on the Expo, but later on, he agreed on the proposal, after Pakistani ambassador to the UAE brought to the notice of the government that the UAE rulers are unhappy with Pakistan's decision. The ambassador also assured the government that he would generate investment of millions of dollars from the UAE-based Pakistani businessmen, after which the PM gave his consent.

According to a letter written by Secretary to Prime Minister, Azam Khan, to Ministry of Commerce, Chief Minister, Secretary, BoI, CEO, TDAP, Chairman STZA(PM Office), Chairman Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority, Chairman CDA, Chairman, Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) and Chairman Central Business District, Walton Lahore, the Prime Minister desired that in order to maximize opportunities offered by the event, Ministry of Commerce and provincial governments shall ensure full preparedness for the events with a clear strategy and meticulous planning, covering following aspects among others: (i) what goal to be achieved ;(ii) what comparative advantages to be highlighted ;(iii) what sectors to be showcased ;(iv) what opportunities/ projects (bankable/ feasible) within each sector need to be presented ;(v) specific list of potential investors/ trade partners for each sector to be targeted and ;(vi) how to market Pakistan's Pavilion to those potential investors/ trade partners .

Expo in Dubai: Need to highlight investment opportunities in Pakistan underlined

Official sources told Business Recorder that estimated financial implication on Pakistani side including all programming throughout six months is almost $16 million, of which GoP paid $ 5 million, Export Development Fund (EDF) from exporters almost the same amount.

The sources maintained that donations/ specific sponsorships from businesses almost $ 6 million was generated and spent through a trust of private persons. Initial cost of Pakistan's participation in the Expo 2020 was estimated to be $27 million, which was revised down by the UAE government to $16 million.

Prime Minister Advisor on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak was in Dubai to examine the preparedness of Pakistan's Pavilion and other related activities.

Insiders claim spending millions of dollars through private persons will attract an investigation and those who took decisions will be held accountable.

The sources said the Commerce Division had approached the federal cabinet to get $5 million supplementary grant for Dubai Expo 2020 for Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) after the Finance Division refused to release funds without cabinet's approval.

Dubai Expo 2020: HBL to be supporting partner of Pakistan Pavilion

Estimated visitors for the Expo are 25 million, 70 per cent projected as foreigners.

The sources said that the PM had designated Pakistan's ambassador to UAE as Pakistan's Section Commissioner General and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan as the reasonable national authority to organise participation of Pakistan in the Expo 2020 Dubai as per requirements of the Expo authorities.

According to sources, Pakistan's ambassador to UAE signed the contract of participation in Expo 2020 Dubai on October 28, 2018 during the visit of Dawood and his meeting with Minister for Trade and Economy of UAE, reserving a large sized plot of 3450 square metre for construction of Pakistan Pavilion which will be depicting theme of "Emerging Pakistan" as already approved by the PM.

According to sources, Punjab government is planning to send dozens of officials on a "leisure" trip to Dubai in the name of pre-Expo visit. The expenditure on the visit will be incurred by the provincial government. Similarly, other provincial governments will also dispatch their officials to witness the pre-Expo activities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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