Saudi Arabia announces $800 billion plan to turn Riyadh into a social and cultural hub

The project is part of the Vision 2030 programme to diversify the kingdom's economy away from oil

People sit at Al Futah Park, after the government lifted coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia July 5, 2020. Reuters
People sit at Al Futah Park, after the government lifted coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia July 5, 2020. Reuters

Saudi Arabia has announced an $800 billion plan to turn its capital Riyadh into an economic, cultural and social hub within the next decade.

The project is expected to double the population of the city to 15 million and is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 programme that aims to diversify the economy away from oil.

It will see the creation of a “mega industrial zone” which will focus on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics.

"With vision 2030, we have set our aspirations very high. With 18 mega projects throughout the city, we aim to double our city’s population and the size of its economy over the next ten years," Fahd Al Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, told The National.

A key feature of the project is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

"Of course, we embrace the U20’s core principles of inclusivity, sustainability, and carbon-neutrality, so we are making sure that this ambition is achieved with these principles in mind," Mr Al Rasheed said.

He confirmed that 18 projects have already been launched in the capital that are worth more than $250bn.

"To achieve inclusivity we are ensuring that our city’s economic vibrancy and job creation engines are super charged with a focus on the development of new industries such as tourism, financial services, biotechnology, aquaponics and others," he said.

Mr Al Rasheed gave the example of The Green Riyadh project that aims to "sustainably use treated water to plant more than seven million trees throughout our city, a tree for every resident."

The project will make Riyadh "one of the greenest cities in the world," he said.

Under the directives of the Riyadh Art project the Saudi capital will transform in to an art hub for the region.

The project "will bring more than 1,000 pieces of public art to the streets and neighborhoods of our City".

"This project is set to meld cutting edge international art with the proud and diverse cultures of Saudi Arabia," Mr Al Rasheed said.

"I believe it is one of the world’s most ambitious public arts programmes."

Mr Al Rasheed said that Riyadh's economy represents the 18th largest city economy in the world and 50 per cent of the kingdom’s non-oil profits.

"This makes it vital for our country’s economic diversification efforts," he said.

It follows plans made by Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya Investment Company, which is backed by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, to award at least 10 billion riyals worth of contracts to different companies to speed up the construction of a mega entertainment and sports project in the capital Riyadh.

The project is being constructed on a 334 square kilometre site close to the capital and is also part of the Saudi Vision 2030 programme. It will include the American theme park Six Flags and will have more than 300 recreational and educational facilities.

Tourism is expected to contribute more than 10 per cent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030 – up from 3 per cent currently – and provide one million jobs.

The country recently set up a $4bn fund to develop the tourism industry

Updated: July 7, 2020 02:19 PM


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