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Mon 30 Dec 2019 04:41 PM

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Danish Expo 2020 pavilion to go ahead, despite no gov't funding

Danish Business Pavilion has raised the bulk of the money from Danish SMEs based in the region

Danish Expo 2020 pavilion to go ahead, despite no gov't funding
Groundbreaking ceremony for the Danish Business Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Denmark’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai could be completely funded by private investment after the new Danish government was forced to pull its financing for the project. 

The Dubai-based organiser behind the pavilion said it is hopeful Copenhagen’s new administration can be persuaded to come back on board in early 2020, once it recognises the importance of the project for Danish trade and business in the region.

“The status is that we have done our groundbreaking ceremony and that we are in the process of plot procession. We are fully funded for the first element of the building, the main building, and basically we are mobilised,” Jens Lund, founder of the Danish Business Council (DBC) in Dubai and the director of the Danish Business Pavilion, told Arabian Business in an interview on Monday.

“Everything is privately funded by Danish companies small, medium and big. I would say between two thirds and three quarters [of the investors] have a representation in the UAE. But there's also a number of companies that do not have representation here that have come in to support us, but still nothing from the government,” he added.

New government

In early 2018, plans for the Danish participation in Expo 2020 were announced and the then government promised to finance 50 percent of the $3 million cost of the construction of the pavilion, as long as the other 50 percent was sourced from the private sector. Due to a lack of funding from the private sector side, the new government, which came into power after the Danish general election in June 2019, reallocated the funds to other government projects.

“It wasn't so much withdrawn, I'm officially frustrated with the lack of understanding of how important this is for Denmark… The challenge was that the way it was sold was with a distinct lack of understanding… It was sold as a few people had to give a lot of money, rather than many people giving not so much money,” Lund said.

So far, Lund said around half of the $3m needed for the pavilion has been raised from private investors over the last couple of months, meaning that the majority of the original plans can be carried out, but the design (below) will have to be adjusted if the government does not come on board.

Core building

“There are two elements to the building. The core building, the main building, is funded. The secondary buildings, we call it the climate building, the CO2 building, that is an homage to the new Danish government, who basically announced the strictest reduction of CO2 ever announced by any country achievable by 2030. That element is not funded unless the government comes in to fund it.

“Everything we are doing is to try and entice the government to come in and join us. So everything that's been done, with the huge support from Expo 2020, not to mention the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, everyone is pushing… it's a process and it doesn't change a government’s mindset overnight. Everything being done is towards that aim,” Lund said.

At present around 50 Danish companies have signed up to invest in the pavilion, with about another 50 likely to take part. While time is ticking down to the start of the Expo 2020 Dubai in October 2020, Lund said the door is always open for new Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to change her mind and award funding.

Never too late

“You know it's never too late for the government to join. But I will say we would like to have that done by the first six months of 2020, it is never going to be too late. I think it's really important for them to understand this and I'm not going to give up just because it takes longer… There's no deadline,” Lund said.

Expo 2020 Dubai will run from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021 and it is estimated the event will attract 25 million visits, with around 70 percent coming from overseas.

Lund was also keen to point out that the pavilion will be 100 percent sustainable and will be reused as a plant nursery once the event ends in 2021.

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