The world’s top oil exporter has revealed its plans to build an ultramodern megacity that will be based on more liberal economic values, the latest tech, and almost half of a trillion dollars.
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose rise was dazzling, took the reins of Saudi Arabia, he seems adamant on giving a big kick to the perception that Saudi Arabia is an ultra-conservative, oil-dependent nation.
To win the Saudi “Game of Thrones” and push towards his vision of a modern country, the 31-year-old Crown Prince launched an “anti-corruption” campaign that resulted in mass arrests, including princes from the royal family, state officials, and even top local and foreign investors, albeit in a 5-star detention center.NEOM, Saudi Arabia's nearly $500bn utopian city. Click To Tweet
The Prince’s purge, which gained U.S President Donald J. Trump’s approval, came a couple of days after the announcement of the NEOM megacity. Billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal seemingly leads the opposition to invest in this project.
Overhauling Saudi Arabia’s Economy and Ideology
Between societal reforms and authoritarian measures, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to improve his country’s perception in the eyes of foreign powers and foreign investors.
The prince was the show stealer during the “Davos in the desert”, officially the Future Investment Initiative Conference, on Oct. 24th in Riyadh.
He pledged for a modern and open Saudi Arabia and a more moderate regime.
“We only want to go back to what we were — the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions . . . 70% of the Saudi people are less than 30 years old, and quite frankly we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas.” Mohammed bin Salman told thousands of global politicians and investors at the FII’s opening ceremony. “We will destroy them today and at once.”
“Only dreamers are welcome,” said the prince as he unveiled his project called NEOM.
Saudi Arabia is a kingdom with stark contrasts, where the old world and the modern world are openly at odds. In a country where women have just been authorized to drive, Salman’s NEOM futuristic project may be the ground to sow the seeds of change.
NEOM, the $500 Billion USD Saudi Post-oil Utopia
NEOM comes from “neo” for new, and “m” the first letter in “mustaqbal” the Arabic word for future.
This is the name chosen for the megalopolis 33 times the size of New York City that will be built by Saudi Arabia on the shores of the Red Sea.
Stretching over 10,230 square miles, NEOM is presented, as a “start-up”, near the size of a country. Most surprisingly, it will be the first truly independent economic zone with its own regulations, laws, and taxes, devoid of restrictions on who can invest and where from they can invest.
In fact, foreign investors will be able to take a greater than 10% share in Saudi companies.
The smart city that would help the kingdom throw off the shackles of oil dependency and archaism, will be a cultural and tech hub open to people from around the world.
Taking advantage of its location, NEOM will be completely powered by renewable energies, and will seek to be at the forefront of innovation in nine key sectors: energies, water, mobility, biotech, food, digital technologies, media, entertainment and new manufacturing.
NEOM would receive $500 billion in investments from a Saudi public investment fund, as well as from international investors. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by 2025, and the hope is that by five years later, in 2030, the city’s GDP would reach $100 billion annually.