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Dubai will be under the world spotlight next year when the city hosts the 58th Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

  Between 16,000 and 20,000 people are expected to attend the meetings, including over 300 Ministers of Finance and Heads of Central Banks from 183 member countries and a number of Heads of State.

   Preparations are already well underway with a state-of-the-art conference centre currently being constructed next to the Dubai World Trade Centre which will be the venue for the meetings taking place from September 23–24, with a number of related meetings also scheduled for the preceding days.

   For Dubai to be chosen as the host city is a major coup for the emirate and the UAE as a whole, and government officials are keen to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the preparations to make sure the event is an overwhelming success.

   Dubai Municipality Finance Director Ibrahim Belselah, who has been appointed general coordinator of Dubai 2003, said: “This is the biggest meeting our country has ever hosted. It is a one time opportunity that we cannot miss and we have to get it right.”

   The World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund have annual joint meetings of their Boards of Governors in a three-year cycle. They are held in Washington for two consecutive years and in another member country in the third year. Dubai was selected as the host country for 2003 ahead of Singapore and has been preparing for the event since 1999.

   “The first stage was to establish the organisation structure and set up the different committees and look at the resources and budget requirements,” Mr. Belselah said. “Then our attentions turned to the feasibility study for the convention centre and its construction. We also looked at the logistics required in terms of hotels, airlines and transport and then our focus shifted to looking at how best to capitalise on the meetings to raise the profile of Dubai.”

   Dubai sees the meetings as an opportunity to prove its ability to host such a major world event, but also to showcase the city’s tourism infrastructure and use the period in the lead-up to the event to provide greater information about the UAE to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

   It is also an opportunity to attract greater foreign investment into the UAE and increase awareness about the potential for investment in Arab countries, and also offers the chance to take advantage of the large numbers of influential people attending the meetings to exchange experiences and ideas as part of Dubai’s ambition to become one of the financial centres of the world.

   “The total number of participants we are expecting is 16-20,000,” Mr. Belseleh said. “But it’s not just the number of people that’s important, it’s also the caliber of people. You will have the Ministers of Finance from all 183-member countries and all the Governors of Central Banks. Usually there are around 12 Heads of State attending, but the number here will probably be more, as this is the first time the meetings have been held in the region. We are gearing ourselves up for about 20 Heads of State to come.

   “In addition to that you have representatives from the private sector, so basically you have the chairmen and managing directors of all the major banks and financial institutions in the world. There will also be approximately 2,000-2,500 media people who will be focusing on the meetings and Dubai. During these five days, Dubai will be the capital of the financial world so it’s a tremendous opportunity as the eyes of the world will be focused on the UAE and Dubai. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase our city and our country to the outside world.”

   Hosting the meetings comes at a price, but the cost is far outweighed by the benefits to local businesses and the marketing of Dubai, according to Mr. Belsalah.

   “At this stage we are putting a Dhs. 1billion figure on the direct cost but there are direct benefits for hotels, car hire companies, airlines and other related industries such as public relations, event management and hospitality companies. There are also indirect benefits – the eyes of the world will be on Dubai and if you quantify the coverage that Dubai will get in the international media and tried to put a figure on it, it would run into billions of dollars.”

   A major cost is the construction of the 4,250-seat convention centre being built to host the meetings, which is set to become another asset for Dubai, and has been designed to attract more conventions and functions in the future.

   “It is a state-of-the-art convention center that will be the best in the whole region,” Mr. Belseleh said. “As part of the design process, we looked at different convention centers around the world and the trends in the convention business as it has to be viable as a business and a money-making project. All the major cities in the world have convention centers so it is very important for Dubai to have one too, especially as studies show that one third of the hotel business in the United States comes from conventions.

   “The capacity of the building for conventions is 4,250 seats, which can be increased to 6,000, and you can easily change it at little cost to stage a tennis tournament, boxing, an opera or ballet, so it’s a multi-purpose facility. In the future we will see a lot of conventions taking place there, from regional government meetings to private meetings.”

   The conference centre is due to be completed by January 7 next year, with additional facilities such as a car park, office tower and access roads scheduled for completion by April 2003.

   “We want to test the convention center and have three conventions booked for before the meetings which we will use as a soft opening to check that everything is working properly and give ourselves some lead-time,” Mr. Belseleh said.

   Another major consideration is security, especially as previous meetings of the World Bank, along with meetings of the World Trade Organisation, in Prague, Genoa, Seattle and Washington have attracted violent anti-globalisation and anti-capitalism protests.

   “This is a concern, but we have a security committee which has looked at this way in advance and, if it happens, it will be dealt with in the proper way,” Mr. Belseleh said. “However, I don’t envisage a big number of protesters like were seen in Prague or Washington and some other places because the cultures are completely different. Here there are people from lots of different nationalities living in harmony and we don’t see the problems you get in other places. However, this is a free city and we want people to come and express their opinions peacefully and see what we have accomplished here, but we have to be ready for any problems and be prepared to deal with them if they happen.”

The World Bank Group

   The World Bank Group was founded in 1944 and is one of the world's largest sources of development assistance, having provided US$17.3 billion in loans to its client countries in the last fiscal year.

   It is owned by its 183 member countries, whose views and interests are represented by a Board of Governors and a Washington-based Board of Directors, although member countries are shareholders who carry the ultimate decision-making power.

   The bank is currently working in more than 100 developing economies, bringing a mix of finance and ideas to improve living standards and eliminate the worst forms of poverty. For each of its clients, the bank works with government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector to formulate assistance strategies, while its country offices worldwide deliver the bank's program, liaise with governments and civil society, and work to increase understanding of development issues.

   A World Bank spokesman said: “The global fight against poverty is aimed at ensuring that people everywhere in this world have a chance for a better life for themselves and for their children. Over the past generation, more progress has been made in reducing poverty and raising living standards than during any other period in history. In developing countries, life expectancy has increased from 55 to 65 years, the number of literate adults has doubled, the total number of children in primary school has risen from 411 million to 681 million and infant mortality has been reduced by 50 per cent.

   “But despite these successes, massive development challenges remain. Of the 4.7 billion people who live in the 100 countries that are World Bank clients, three billion live on less than $2 a day and 1.2 billion on less than $1 a day, nearly three million children in developing countries die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases, 113 million children are not in school and 1.5 billion do not have clean water to drink.”

   The World Bank raises money for its development programs by tapping the world's capital markets, and through contributions from wealthier member governments.


   The International Monetary Fund is an international organisation of 183 member countries which was established to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to foster economic growth and high levels of employment; and to provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment.

   Since the IMF was established in 1946, its purposes have remained unchanged but its operations — which involve surveillance, financial assistance, and technical assistance — have developed to meet the changing needs of its member countries in an evolving world economy.


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