By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Davis administration approved up to $1m to support The Bahamas Pavilion and a Bahamian "presence" in Dubai, according to Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Latrae Rahming.
In a press statement released Friday, Mr Rahming said this was less than the $1.7m approved by the Cabinet of the previous administration.
There was also funding from the private sector in the amount of $500,000 and the United Arab Emirates spent $3.5m, Mr Rahming said.
Additionally, he confirmed that not only was Shaback, a choir led by Press Secretary Clint Watson a part of the host of Bahamian performers, but the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, a Junkanoo group and the Bahamas All-Stars also made the trip.
The statement came amid backlash over the trip. Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said Bahamian contractors should have been paid instead of spending public funds on travel. He said there was a moratorium on travel under his leadership.
However, the statement noted that the previous government had agreed to support Bahamian participation at the Expo 2020 in Dubai, including by a public-private partnership with Expo Organizers Janet Johnson, Ambassador Tony Joudi, and Michael Diggiss.
In an April 2019 letter expressing the support of the government for Bahamian participation, the Director of Investments of the Bahamas Investment Authority recognised the opportunity to merge trade and investment promotions and to increase foreign direct investment, the statement went on to note.
Therefore, as part of the FNM government’s support for Bahamian participation in the Expo, former FNM Ministers Ellsworth Johnson, Lanisha Rolle, and Darren Henfield made several visits to Dubai, with large delegations in support.
Prime Minister Philip "Brave" Davis left the country on Friday to attend the world expo and bilateral meetings in Dubai.
"For the first time, The Bahamas will be participating in the world expo, showcasing its rich cultural history, exploring a sustainability-driven future, and highlighting its natural wonders," the statement said. "The nation’s pavilion, designed by Bahamian architects and cultural practitioners, is situated in the sustainability district, leaving the country well-positioned to attract viable developments in its blue, green, and orange economies.
"While the first floor of the pavilion displays the beauty of Bahamian culture and navigates sustainable futures for the island nation, the second floor’s Embassy for Business is primarily concerned with cultivating opportunities for international investment and partnerships. Hundreds of commercial representatives have already expressed interest in doing business in The Bahamas, a welcome result as the Prime Minister engages in high-level talks with diplomatic officials and investors in the coming days.
"In only the first month of Expo, The Bahamas saw over a quarter of a million visitors to its pavilion, with over 10 million more anticipated to follow over the course of the Expo’s six-month run."
Regarding the cost, Mr Rahming said: "The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) generously supported the presence of The Bahamas pavilion with $3.5 million.
"The private sector also offered support, with donations from private donors totaling half a million dollars. When the Expo opened in October 2021, the Expo organizers approached the new government requesting funds to support both the opening of The Bahamas Pavilion and Bahamas National Day which is set to take place on Monday, January 17, 2022.
"Because of the millions invested to date, in order to ensure that The Bahamas’ reputation was protected and promoted, and in order to maintain good relations with the government of the UAE, Cabinet agreed to support the country’s presence at Expo up to a maximum of $1 million. This figure is budgeted to cover expenditure for the duration of Expo, from October 2021 to March 2022.
"This represents a substantial reduction from the $1.7 million approved by the prior FNM government’s Cabinet.
"Because our New Day Administration recognises the significance of a number of potential investor relationships, and the potential mutual cooperation between our two countries in relation to climate change and sustainability, Prime Minister Davis accepted an invitation from the Royal Family and the Prime Minister of the UAE to attend Bahamas National Day at Expo in Dubai.
"PM Davis is especially grateful that the government of the UAE for offering to cover the costs of his delegation."
While visiting Dubai, Mr Davis has arranged a number of crucial meetings to secure some key investments and opportunities for The Bahamas.
These include meetings with:
• Khalid Al Mulla, owner of Sheraton Creek, Ritz Carlton, Crowne Plaza, Ramada and Holiday Inn Express hotels; owner of The American Hospital; owner of Almulla Plaza Shopping & Residential Complex
• Jetex (owner of one of the biggest private aviation companies in the Middle East).
• Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group
• The UAE Minister of The Interior
Negotiations on two ‘Memoranda of Agreements’ will also be conducted and Prime Minister Davis will report on the meetings after he leaves Dubai on Tuesday, January 18.
In addition to the bilateral and trade meetings, Mr Davis will be supporting the cultural delegation, who will be showcasing Bahamian talent on Bahamas National Day, which is expected to enhance the country’s profile while at the same time providing an opportunity for international exposure for local artists.