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No major Expo woes seen from downturn

THE global financial crisis will have only limited effects on the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, an event that will cost nearly twice as much as the Beijing Olympics, top officials said yesterday in the capital.

Although some of the participants are facing difficulties raising funds, no country or organization has pulled out of the event, Wan Jifei, vice director of the Shanghai World Expo Executive Committee and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said on the sidelines of the advisory body's annual meeting.

"I think all the participating countries are willing to use the Shanghai Expo as an opportunity to boost their national images," Wan said. "China is willing to offer assistance to help them cut costs and increase efficiencies."

Late last month, Poland said it was cutting the budget for its pavilion by at least 70 percent.

Zhou Hanmin, also a vice director of the executive committee, said the organizers of the Expo have set up a special US$100 million fund to help developing countries participate.

One country that needs aid of another kind is the United States. The Expo executive committee yesterday called on the Obama administration to help ensure the presence of a US Pavilion.

"The problem (of fund raising) will be solved if the Obama administration gives enough attention and attaches importance to it," Wan said.

He said the US team earlier made an oral commitment to participate in the Expo but has not followed up with written confirmation.

A US law prohibits the government from funding an Expo pavilion, so it must be built with private investment. US organizers admitted they are having trouble raising the needed US$60 million.

Franklin L. Lavin, co-chairman of the steering committee for the US Pavilion, said last month the process was on "the path of success" but admitted it was not possible to guarantee a positive resolution.

It was not clear from Wan's remarks exactly how he believed the US president might be able to help out.

The overall budget for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo totals 28.6 billion yuan (US$4.18 billion), Zhou said.

The budget includes 18 billion yuan for the construction of the 5.28-square-kilometer Expo site and 10.6 billion yuan for daily operations of the May-to-October event.

The funds will come from the central government, Expo construction bonds, ticket income and sponsorships.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics cost US$2.3 billion, including US$1.9 billion for construction of Olympic venues. The event reportedly turned a profit of US$16 million.

The Expo is expected to at least break even, Zhou said.

Zhou said the central government has ensured that enough money will be allocated for the event. In 2005, China's top planning body authorized the organizer to sell 8 billion yuan worth of bonds across the country.

Income from the 62 million tickets to be sold is expected to reach 6 billion yuan.


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