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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Saudi Arabia plans 26k sqm economic zone with Egypt and Jordan

Saudi Arabia plans 26k sqm economic zone with Egypt and Jordan, models it on Westworld as MbS plans to Out-Dubai Dubai: Saudi Arabia is constructing a 26,000 sq km new economic zone, called Neom, in which it sees that robots might one day outnumber humans. The USD 500 bn creation will run along 486 km of the Red Sea coast and border Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. “A map published on the project’s website shows that the new economic zone would include the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir,” The Financial Times reports (paywall). The official statement from the Saudi Press Agency says Neom would be developed to be “independent of the kingdom’s existing governmental framework, excluding sovereignty.” The WSJ also has coverage.

“Neom will be constructed from the ground-up, on greenfield sites, allowing it a unique opportunity to be distinguished from all other places that have been developed and constructed over hundreds of years and we will use this opportunity to build a new way of life with excellent economic prospects,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said. “The Neom project will focus on nine different investment sectors including energy, water, biotech and robotics … robots might outnumber people in the city.” Klaus-Christian Kleinfeld, former Chairman and CEO Arconic and Alcoa, is the CEO of the Neom Project. The Washington Times calls Neom “a mecca for robots” in its coverage.

“The plan will likely be met with the same mixture of optimism and doubt that has greeted [bin Salman’s] previous headline-grabbing announcements. His supporters can be expected to cheer what they see as a bold drive to transform the kingdom, while others will point to past failed attempts to overhaul the Saudi economy that also included industrial cities in the desert,” Bloomberg’s Glen Carey and Alaa Shahine commented. Reuters says “Saudi Arabia will need huge financial and technical resources to build NEOM on the scale it envisages. Past experience suggests this may be difficult.”

Neom is billing itself as “the world’s most ambitious project: an entirely new land, purpose-built for a new way of living.” You can check out the official Neom website here.

Saudi Arabia has “poor form when it comes to implementing mega-projects,” Capital Economics warns in a note published yesterday (pdf). The report cites other projects that came to naught, such as the King Abdullah Economic City, as it asks whether Saudi is repeating past mistakes.

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