DHARI ALDURAIBI WRITES – When people talk about Saudi Arabia, they often focus on the country’s conservative elements, such as restrictions on women’s rights and the ongoing military campaign in Yemen. Now, though, a series of political, social, and economic reforms aimed at liberalizing the Saudi economy and society are making the news.
One example is NEOM, an entire new city being built in the desert, in partnership with many international companies and in collaboration with Saudi neighbors Egypt and Jordan. Neom, “a city of the future”, will help to harness the potential of its youth and earn more foreign currency income while successfully diversifying from its current oil and petrochemical industrial dependency. The main purpose of the ambitious new NEOM is not simply to attract investments, but to create a society in which the power of technology can make people’s lives easier without constraints on those who use it, by utilizing the best ideas in healthcare, energy, and governance.
The planned city is planted on the Red Sea coast, in the northwestern part of the country. Most remarkably, thus far the area is completely barren desert; but advances in technology which will allow for cloud seeding, which will in turn create more rain. The city will then have more bearable if not always entirely comfortable temperatures.
NEOM will also be the site of the application of major breakthroughs in science and genetics. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it will implement a planned system of genetic mutations to enhance strength and I.Q. The plan will be carried out by the Japanese tech giant Softbank. This could provide a useful worldwide window to genetic engineering.
The project will be completed in stages. To fully execute the project, his Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has dedicated $500 billion; but the high price tag should pay off, as NEOM is expected to have the single highest GDP of any city in the world, according to the previously cited WSJ article. The CEO of the city recently announced that the first phase of the city’s construction has been completed and that the second phase strategy should be completed by the end of this year, with finalization by 2030. This extraordinarily ambitious and futuristic enterprise should make Saudis proud – and offer the world many corollary benefits.