Shanghai to Spend US$45 Billion for Expo

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SHANGHAI, May 31 – Shanghai is sparing no expense to make next year’s World Expo the most expensive one yet at US$45 billion, more than the money spent for the Beijing Olympics.

The city is pushing through plans to upgrade infrastructure and build new transportation links despite the ongoing credit crisis. It will be an excuse to shape the city even further and boost local economy.

The changes will happen quickly. By May, Shanghai will be showing off two new airport terminals, an expanded subway system and a promenade worth US$700 million built in its riverfront district. The city will also add new parks, roads and bridges to the mix.

The World Expo is a platform used to showcase new inventions, facilitate cultural exchange and strengthen national branding.
Currently,185 countries have confirmed participation in the six-month international exhibition although budget constraints due to the crisis have led several countries to downsize plans.

City officials have been worried that the United States may not be able to join the event due to lack of funding for the pavilion. A 1993 U.S. federal law prohibits federal funding for such events. U.S. participation will then depend on corporate sponsors and donations to raise US$61 million for the pavilion. So far only US$6 million dollars have been raised with the event less than a year away.

Franklin L. Lavin, the chairman of the committee charged with financing the pavilion, told the The New York Times in an email: “We have about $36 million under negotiation and we are on schedule to reach our target.”

The World Expo is forecast to attract 70 million visitors, most of them coming from nearby provinces. In comparison, the Beijing Olympics welcomed 6.52 million tourists in the city with 382,000 of them coming from overseas. Even if most visitors will be from the mainland, Shanghai is rising to the occasion to impress.

The government had to relocate an estimated 18,000 families and 270 factories to make the Expo site available. Shanghai will even be campaigning for residents to learn English and etiquette in addition to rules that will ban smoking in public places and lessen pollution.

Given the state of the global economy, all this money and effort seems too effusive for an event not considered to be as high-profile as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Each national pavilion will cost millions of dollars to be built only to be dismantled after six months.  It is not clear what tangible economic benefits participating countries will get from the event and if these benefits outweigh costs.

Further Reading
The complete Shanghai Expo 2010 series