ABU DHABI // The Birmingham city council hopes the tie-up with Abu Dhabi's Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) will provide the spark to reignite the debt-saddled city's economic growth.
Birmingham's administration is groaning under a debt burden that reached £2.4 billion (Dh14.15bn) in September last year, with almost 20 per cent of its revenue going towards servicing it.
The council's leader, Mike Whitby, will make an official visit to the capital in February with a group of Birmingham's business leaders. The city is under pressure to save £75 million in the next year under wide-ranging budget cuts, and is desperately seeking investment.
The continuing exchange of planning and development ideas between the two cities has given Mr Whitby a vital foot in the investment door.
"We've got scores of influential international organisations who have contacted us to ask us whether we can leverage that relationship," he said. "We are the only city to have this kind of link with Abu Dhabi. What happens next depends on how we use that opportunity."
The relationship would potentially allow Abu Dhabi investors to "be in partnership" with assets such as the National Exhibition Centre and the Symphony Hall, Mr Whitby was reported to have said in September. The story sparked a retraction from the council.
However, Mr Whitby said last week that a wide range of options remained on the table.
"We don't want to rule anything out at this stage," he said. "We are open to sophisticated public-private partnerships. We own a whole range of assets."
An official from the DMA said the authority would do its best to introduce the delegation to investors. The Birmingham-based lawyer Noor Siddiqi, who was involved in the tie-up negotiations and is accompanying Mr Whitby in February, said: "We need to start to champion the cause of the city in the right circles."