Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz did not mince words in declaring a new reality for the kingdom, hours after announcing the launch of an independent $500 billion mega city – with ‘separate regulation’ – along the Red Sea coastline. The 26,500sqkm project, dubbed Neom, includes a business and industrial zone extending into Jordan and Egypt.
“We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness,” he told international investors gathered at an economic forum in Riyadh.
“Seventy per cent of the Saudi population is under 30, and honestly we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once,” the Crown Prince said.
“We will end extremism very soon.”
Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, said he would see to it his country moved past 1979, a reference to the rise of political Islam in the years following the assassination of King Faisal in 1975.
“We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions, traditions and people around the globe,” he said.
Here is a fact sheet of ten things to know about Neom listed by HT:
1. Neom is a one-of-its-kind industrial zone which will span three countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. It will be adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal.
2. The 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) zone is more than 33 times the land area of New York City, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment.
3. Neom will be powered entirely by wind and solar energy.
4. The Saudi government, the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and local and international investors are expected to put more than half a trillion dollars into the zone in coming years, Prince Mohammed said.
5. In advertisements for Neom, women are shown working along side men and running in crop tops in the open, a stark departure from rules governing how women should dress in the Islamic kingdom.
6. Prince Mohammed appointed Klaus Kleinfeld, a former chief executive of Siemens AG and Alcoa Inc, to run the Neom project.
7. Neom’s high-tech world imagines repetitive tasks being outsourced to robots or fully automated.
8. Neom is developed to be independent of the Kingdom’s existing governmental framework, excluding sovereignty.
9. The industrial and scientific zone’s strategic location will ensure it emerges as a global hub connecting Asia, Europe and Africa.
10. Riyadh said it was in contact with potential investors and the project’s first phase would be completed by 2025.