NEOM, described as the world's most ambitious project, was first announced on October 24, 2017 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a future development conference in Riyadh. The pioneering project will be led by Klaus Kleinfeld, a highly experienced executive with the proven track record of being a former CEO of Arconic, Alcoa and Siemens.
Construction of some critical infrastructure in this milestone project, "a new blueprint for sustainable life," has already commenced. It is hoped that the first stage will be completed by 2025.
"Wes Schwalje, COO of Dubai-based research and strategy center Tahseen Consulting, said: 'Neom is bringing the same level of disruption to urban planning and economic development as Uber has brought to the technology sector. Investment is strongly influenced by stability, openness, and institutional quality..."
" '…Saudi Arabia is communicating to the world that the Kingdom is open for business.' "
Saudi Arabia announces $500 billion city of robots and renewables
Nine key economic sectors have been announced all with a strong emphasis on the future:
Energy & Water
Technology & Digital Sciences
Media & Media Production
Living as NEOM's Foundation
As if to provide a hint into the mindset and vision of the planners of NEOM Zone, a press release from DiscoverNEOM predicted that robots may outnumber the human population in the metropolis:
"A new concept for the workforce will be implemented, based on attracting high-caliber human resources with unique competencies for full-time innovation, decision making and business leadership. Repetitive and arduous tasks will be fully automated and handled by robots, which may exceed the population, likely making the NEOM's GDP per capita the highest in the world."
(PDF – Press Release Oct 2017 – Official NEOM Site)
NEOM has already been broadly endorsed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who recognize the importance of regional cooperation and investment to foster job creation. The IMF's Middle East Department head Jihad Azour said:
"…the plan… could stimulate trade and allow the Middle East to capitalize on its location as a bridge between Asia and Europe, Azour said in an interview."
"NEOM could fit in with two other international economic schemes, Azour said: the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing's drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe, and the G20 Compact with Africa…"
IMF endorses Saudi plan for $500-billion business zone
The scope of NEOM is immense. Saudi Arabia is extremely serious about building a prosperous and harmonious society while moving into an uncertain future where the world's dependence on oil will decline. Business as usual will not guarantee future prosperity.
Public support will be a key factor and the perception of fairness implicit in anti-corruption activities gives reason for optimism. There is a genuine will to match or surpass any other global centers of innovation and fine lifestyle in the grand quest to create a truly unique destination.
The zone will form an integral part of a nation wide reform scheme known as the National Transformation Program.
"Each ministry has been given corporate-style Key Performance Indicator targets to redefine their work. Teams of elite consultants and bureaucrats, some international and some from Mohammed bin Salman's circle, have been planted in government offices to reach the targets."
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The NEOM Zone is being viewed favourably by some in the Gulf Region. Jordan's Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said that Jordan considers investment as highly important and that NEOM will contribute to economic growth.
"The ASEZA [Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority] chief [Nasser Shraideh] pointed out that as soon as the project is launched, it will stimulate economic activity in Aqaba in particular, and in Jordan in general, adding that more meetings and consultations will take place between the Jordanian and Saudi sides, to develop detailed programmes and timetables."
Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project good news for Jordan, region – officials
Egypt (and Jordan) will have important stakes in NEOM. For example, some ports will be located on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea.
"Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated Wednesday that NEOM which is an economic zone overlooking the Red Sea will have many ports, 'some of them in Saudi Arabia and some of them in Egypt.' "
NEOM investment zone to have many ports in Egypt: Saudi Prince
NEOM appears set to include the Tiran and Sanafir islands. Since Egypt is a partner in NEOM, the plan should help to defuse any remaining controversy over control over the islands between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The islands were previously transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and ultimately approved by Parliament. Tiran and Sanafir may well emerge as important destinations or resorts, to the benefit of both nations.
"The two Red Sea islands, where the economic zone is to be established, were the subject of controversy and an ensuing legal battle after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed an agreement ceding Egypt's sovereignty over them to Saudi in April 2016."
Saudi economic zone planned for Tiran and Sanafir islands
At the 2017 World Youth Forum held in South Sinai the President of Egypt spoke of his nation's enthusiasm to "integrate with Saudi Arabia" on mutually beneficial projects. Egypt currently has a major focus on development of the Eastern Suez Canal.
"Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made the first high-level remark affirming Cairo's full support for integration with Saudi Arabia in 'Neom'. "
Sisi Says Egypt Is Keen on Integration with Saudi Arabia in 'Neom'
Bahrain believes the zone will benefit the broad Gulf region. His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain congratulated Saudi Arabia for the NEOM announcement and commended the close relationship and cooperation between "the two brotherly countries".
"HRH the Premier congratulated King Salman on the unprecedented mega economic development and investment project which, he said, will usher in a more prosperous future for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the whole region."
HRH Premier congratulates Saudi leadership on NEOM project
Turkey has also commended NEOM, believing it will attract more capital to the region as a whole and have far-reaching benefits. Both nations hope that in close association with the private sector, trade and joint ventures will grow.
"Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci hailed the huge development projects launched by Saudi Arabia, especially NEOM project, which would turn the Kingdom into a leading model in various aspects of life and create more investment opportunities."
"Saudi Commerce and Investment Minister Majid al-Qasabi stressed the depth of the historic relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey is an important strategic partner of the Kingdom at all levels…"
Turkey Lauds NEOM, Saudi Development Projects
Israel is likely to play a significant role in helping build the NEOM futuristic city. Erel Margalit, a former member of the Israeli parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, cited the assistance Israeli cybersecurity firms had given to Saudi Aramco in the wake of a severe cyber-attack in 2012. This is an interesting precedent. Politics aside, it would make commercial sense for the two nations with very different skill and resource sets to collaborate more closely for their mutual benefit.
"Over the last decade, intelligence and commercial ties between Israel and the Gulf countries have been on the rise…"
"Last week, Saudi-owned London-based news site Elaph published a first of its kind interview with Israel's army chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot, citing Lt. Gen. Eizenkot as saying Israel is willing to collaborate with Saudi against Iran."
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The long-term plan is for NEOM to be floated in the markets with the zone conceptualized as some kind of unique, giant corporation. The pioneering listing could be one of the few in the same lofty league as the Aramco float. With an area of 26,500 sq km, and a massive half trillion dollar plus investment, the project may prove to be very significant. It will not happen until the concept is "mature" – likely to be somewhere around the year 2030.
" 'The first capitalist city in the world... this is the unique thing that will be revolutionary,' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said."
" 'Without a doubt, at the end of the day, NEOM will be floated in the markets. The first zone floated in the public markets. It's as if you float the city of New York.' "
Saudi Future Megacity 'NEOM' Will Be Listed Publicly, Crown Prince Says
Peace and Prosperity
The Middle East has had a long and deeply troubled history. NEOM is a major initiative that may offer a hopeful beacon of stability, prosperity, education, fairness, opportunity, culture and jobs in the region. These things can form an antidote to extremism.
In concert with other progressive nations, the benefits should spread beyond the borders. It can only be hoped that other regional players and indeed the world rise to the challenge and support the King and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in this noble plan.
" 'What I think I see is that the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia now are really coming together and lead by purpose in this region, which I believe is a blessing for the whole world. That's a big benefit. On the global scale if there's a shaky Middle East, there's a shaky world,' the chief executive [Joe Kaeser, Siemens global CEO] said."
Exclusive: Siemens eyes role in development of Saudi Arabia's $500bn Neom mega city
The National (United Arab Emirates)