The dramatic concept of NEOM grew from Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 – a plan to develop the Kingdom into a model of excellence and underline its future prosperity. Vision 2030 contains three pillars:
A Vibrant Society
A Thriving Economy
An Ambitious Nation
The scale and ambition of this special transnational zone is enormous by any measure. The foundation investment will exceed $500 billion and be provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (who will own it) and independent investors. In its official announcement by HRH the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the grand project was titled:
NEOM – The Destination for the Future
The Kingdom will supervise NEOM via an Authority to be chaired by the Crown Prince. NEOM will become a strategic global hub connecting Arabia with the greatest endeavours of the world. Major global companies and investors will be invited to participate. The Kingdom hopes to receive widespread international support for this amazing opportunity. An invitation is extended to participate in an exciting future.
"With the ambition of becoming one of the world's future economic and scientific capitals, in addition to being the future commerce capital of Saudi Arabia, NEOM is set to attract new foreign direct investment that will contribute to PIF's [Public Investment Fund's] long-term growth strategy aimed at strengthening the Saudi Arabian economy."
(PDF – Press Release Oct 2017 – Official NEOM Site)
NEOM Zone will operate as an autonomous region with its own judicial system, labor laws, tax system and governing framework (to the exclusion of sovereign laws such as foreign policy and military strategy). Commercial laws will be based on the finest global standards. This will provide a fair and effective system of governance.
The initiative is aimed at securing a grand and sustainable future for the Kingdom by creating value far beyond its current oil revenue based economy and diversifying into new industries and technology. Moreover, it is expected to provide significant investment opportunities within Saudi Arabia, in turn reducing GDP exodus.
It is hoped that NEOM with its intense focus on the best possible human resources and technologies could ultimately generate the world's highest GDP per capita.
A regulatory framework will be designed with deep consultation to provide the highest possible levels of livability for residents and fair opportunities and practice for investors. The finest possible built environment will be created for residents and workers. These factors will combine to attract some of the world's finest talent.
Saudi Arabia is highly focused on creating an honest business and social environment and a level playing field. Such an environment is seen as essential to the future success of NEOM.
"The King and the Crown Prince want to simultaneously advance economic reforms and social reforms."
H.E. Nicolas Sarkozy
Former President, Republic of France
Future Investment Initiative: Video Highlights
Steffen Hertog, a professor at the London School of Economics has pointed out the similarities with Dubai.
"Hertog said investors will want to see whether 'circumventing some of the slow mainline bureaucracy and general social restrictions in Saudi Arabia in a special zone' can work. 'If this is to be an international hub, it needs to offer something better than Dubai, which is a high bar to cross,' he said."
Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion
In early November 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a powerful anti-corruption decree to form a new supreme committee led by the Crown Prince. The committee has far reaching powers. The decree includes the statement: "…what we have noticed of exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money…"
Numerous princes, sitting and former ministers were arrested. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has previously stated that no one is above the law, including princes. The Kingdom regards it as essential to the future of the homeland for any corruption to be eliminated. The crackdown is expected to recover up to $100 billion.
A fair and equal justice system could be seen to represent one of the essential pillars needed to underpin the success of NEOM.
"It may take whatever measures deemed necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases and take what it considers to be the right of persons, entities, funds, fixed and movable assets, at home and abroad, return funds to the state treasury and register property and assets in the name of state property."
Saudi Crown Prince to head new committee to combat corruption
In an excellent contemporary western report on the current transformation and excitement in Saudi Arabia, Thomas L. Friedman wrote (in the New York Times) about a trip to the Kingdom in 2017 and a long interview with the Crown Prince himself. The King and Crown Prince had recognized that previous attempts to curtail corruption were ineffective primarily because they had started from the bottom rather than the top. They also recognized its clear and present danger to the Kingdom's future prosperity.
This time – it would be very different, and public support appears to be extremely high.
" 'The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom..."
" 'My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption – at the top.' "
HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at Last
These genuine and significant efforts to stifle corruption, in tandem with the creation of world-class regulations in NEOM, should go far to improve the work culture in Saudi Arabia and inspire motivation. As briefly described on the Live page, the Kingdom had moved towards Conservatism since about 1979. Now is seen as the time and the place to leap into the future. For the project to succeed, society and the bureaucracy will need a revolution from within – and Prince Mohammed bin Salman may just be the person with the ambition, power and vision to oversee it.
"The message was clear to all: For three decades, the state has worked assiduously to avoid offending the conservative religious elite, stalling the trappings of modernity that have catapulted development in cities such as neighboring Dubai. This conference [Future Investment Initiative] was meant to seal that chapter and set out a new, aspirational end point."
"...Mohammed bin Salman is signaling to Saudis that they are embarking on a momentous reform project from which there is no turning back."
Saudi Arabia Is Betting Its Future on a Desert Megacity
The foundation for a creative culture where the best voices in the Arts and Sciences can intersect and merge will be established. It will be an aspirational society. It will be known as one of the world's most livable cities. It will be a favoured destination for entrepreneurs and dreamers. It will be a society where progress is nurtured and knowledge pursued.
"HUMAN BEINGS AS A TOP PRIORITY: NEOM provides its residents with comfortable living conditions set within an idyllic society that promotes inclusion and encourages personal growth and lives by world-class social norms."
(One of the Six Pillars of NEOM's futuristic vision.)
(PDF – Fact Sheet – Official NEOM Site)
Saudi Arabia already has a base of female technology experts, and with a high percentage of young people, women and young people are tipped to lead the drive to the Kingdom's digital future.
There is an atmosphere of excitement and a desire for progress and participation in the knowledge economy and digital transformation. Local young entrepreneurs and tech startups will be strongly supported.
" 'There couldn't be a much better time in terms of unprecedented change,' said Alswaha [Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha]. 'The rate of change right now is giving us a unique and a big window to leapfrog into the future.' "
" 'The excitement and embracing of change is so palpable here,' said Diane Greene, chief executive of Google Cloud. 'I'm very optimistic about what's possible here.' "
Women and youth "will drive Saudi Arabia's digital future"
Misk Global Forum
NEOM's inspiring logo, which can be seen at Discover NEOM, symbolizes its values & vision. Five beautiful curved shapes go around in a rounded pentagon slightly like a flower or a starfish. Each section reflects one of the core pillars: technology, nature, community, sustainability and livability.