RIYADH, October 25, 2017 – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has officially announced a $500-billion plan for a major industrial and business zone named NEOM, calling it a very lucrative investment opportunity under the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan for the future.
Following the announcement that a 26,500 km2 piece of land in Saudi Arabia’s northwest corner will be transformed into a revolutionary project of sustainable cities, villages and communities run by solar and wind power that is also home to state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, the Crown Prince joined on Tuesday a panel discussion with partners in the project at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in the capital Riyadh.
The Crown Prince addressed the conference panel entitled “Pulse of Change” following the signing ceremony for the contract establishing NEOM with a number of foreign companies seeking to invest in the Kingdom, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Over the coming years, the project is expected to attract more than $500 billion, from both local and international investors, including the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), SPA reported. NEOM’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP is projected to reach at least $100 billion by 2030.
“We have almost fantastic opportunities, huge Saudi demand of up to $100 billion and a very large investment capacity of $500 billion,” the Crown Prince said, adding that “we have a unique location linking three continents and the most important air and sea transport routes”.
The Crown Prince is the architect of Vision 2030, the ambitious plan to wean the economy off oil dependency and attract billions in foreign investment. His responsibilities include those of the First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, President of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs and Chairman of PIF.
“This is a project that is not a place for any traditional investor or company,” the Crown Prince said. “It is a site and a place for dreamers to create something new in this world.”
NEOM – set to include territory from within the Egyptian and Jordanian borders – will provide several unique development opportunities. It will focus on different sectors and industries, including energy, manufacturing, water, biotech, food, and entertainment.
The project was launched to achieve Vision of 2030, which aims to develop the Kingdom and transform it into a pioneering and prosperous model of excellence, SPA said.
Praised by moderator Maria Bartiromo of Fox News — and panelists Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of Blackstone; Marc Raibert, CEO, Boston Dynamics; Klaus Kleinfeld, former Chairman and CEO, Arconic; and Masayoshi Son, CEO, Softbank — for his vision and passion, the Crown Prince deflected the compliments and, instead, referred to “the Saudi people and Saudi human power” as the greatest assets.
He said 70 percent of the Kingdom’s population were below the age of 30, and expressed confidence in the youth. “They will achieve the dream alongside their leadership who hold thousands of dreams,” he said.
“I am one of the 20 million youths. They are motivating me. They are the engine pushing me forward. If they work and follow the appropriate direction, they will create another country. Seventy percent of the Saudis have passion, accuracy and cleverness to achieve the unattainable,” he said.
“The project is considered a promising one, containing regulations that stimulate businessmen and giant companies at home and abroad to invest. We are under pressure to make something new in a short time. We do not want to see ourselves after 15 years to have missed any opportunity. For my part, this is what is bothering me. This is a challenge. With action and participation of many partners of the world and from inside, we will fulfill our aspirations,” he added.
The area designated for the massive development includes 500 km of beachfront and comprises desert, islands and mountains rising to a height of 2,500 meters. Significantly, wind is a constant across the terrain as is the sun, making it optimal to harness the power of both to produce electricity. The ground also holds oil and natural gas.
The Crown Prince, speaking on the first day of the October 24-26 FII conference grouping more than 2,500 delegates from more than 60 countries, and hosted by PIF, said the Kingdom was well placed to attract foreign investment.
“We have strong political will, desire, strong popular will and all elements of success do exist to create something greater within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out.
“The most important element we have is the Saudi people,” the Crown Prince said, to thunderous applause from the crowded room.
NEOM will be located in an area that enjoys a temperate climate and diverse terrain including more than 460 kilometers of pristine coastline and several spectacular islands. It also has scenic mountains, with views across the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.
The Crown Prince also spoke about the philosophy behind the futuristic NEOM. “There is an opportunity to start from scratch . . . No other city in the world can change to become a NEOM in the future,” he said.
“Given all these opportunities and fundamentals and a semi-empty land, we started to think about why not to abandon building traditional cities. We have the opportunity to move to a new generation of lifestyle, to cities of technologies in terms of health and services,” he said.
He stressed the need to work with many companies, investors and entrepreneurs to adopt these ideas and exploit the enormous capacity to create something new for the world and to push the world to a new location.
“Today we have friends with whom we have worked on this project, investors who have a dream to build the world’s largest solar panels in the NEOM project, to build something even greater than the Great Wall in the form of solar panels,” he stated.
“The world wants to have a chance in a project that serves the way of human life differently,” he said.
The Crown Prince stressed that the Kingdom will not waste years dealing with extremist ideas, “because we want a life that translates our tolerant religion and we took steps in the past in order to make that clear”, pledging to eradicate the remnants of extremism.
NEOM: A GREAT SUCCESS
The NEOM plan won praise from other members of the afternoon panel.
“NEOM will be a great success,” said Son of SoftBank, adding that the world’s largest solar system will be built at NEOM, confirming the ability of the leadership to achieve its goals and ambitions through this project.
“We have to create a dramatically different next-century city . . . We can make it happen with high-tech.”
Kleinfeld, also a former CEO of Siemens AG and Alcoa who was appointed by the Crown Prince to run the NEOM project, lauded Vision 2030 and said this project will grant opportunities for the global companies which seek to “develop and recruit distinctive minds”.
“With NEOM, we can create something with fully regenerative power and a zero-carbon footprint,” he said. “We have a liberty here to write a regulatory system that is in tune with NEOM.”
Meanwhile, Blackstone’s Schwarzman told the panel that the opportunity to create this new city and attract people from around the world really is an enormous possibility.
“Great leaders create great outcomes,” he said.
“Success has a transformation impact. When people see that some things can be done, they come to believe that others will be done.”
Asked about the potential risks, Schwarzman said: “The only downside is time. How fast do you realize your dream?”
Raibert of Boston Dynamics noted: “I think big dreams is the most important ingredient for making big progress.”